Jaguar Land Rover

Are Brits proud enough of Jaguar Land Rover?

Juergen StackmannDuring an enlightening round table with Volkswagen brand CEO Juergen Stackmann at the Geneva Motor Show, he made an interesting observation: the turnaround of Jaguar Land Rover over recent years has been remarkable, with the firm becoming a genuine premium market player with world-class products in just a single model cycle – an outstanding performance.

“You must be very proud, no?”

It struck me: are we? Do we really appreciate just what the home brand has achieved following the unshackling from Ford into a standalone group, which happened just as the 2008 recession struck?

Maybe with Land Rover, the profitable side of the group, we do – although few could have expected the smash-hit Range Rover Evoque, the margin-rich continuation of the Range Rover Sport and the sheer brilliance of the latest Range Rover. But then, Land Rover’s always done well: in a world now besotted by SUVs, it would almost be a surprise if it wasn’t thriving.

Jaguar, though – there’s the real story. Back in 2008, it was making the elderly XJ, the low volume XK and had just launched the breakout XF – a car that, for all its wonderful style and beautiful interior (arguably more beautiful than today’s cabins), was still derived from Ford-sourced S-Type underpinnings.

The XF was Jaguar’s only volume car and even this was hardly high volume. Lacking a serious sales alternative to the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, it really was a minnow in the premium sector. The Germans simply didn’t consider it a serious rival.

Jaguar Land Rover

Now look at it: there’s a brand-new XE made from an all-Jaguar, aluminium-intensive platform, winning plaudits and leaping straight into the position of driver’s car alternative to the 3 Series. There’s an all-new XF, again heavily using aluminium, that on paper makes as much rational, tax-friendly sense to business users as the smaller XE does.

The svelte XJ has been tweaked and the F-Type continues to get ever-faster and more lairy, neither car not really registering on saes charts but providing useful image-boost assets for the firm.

And soon, there’ll be the F-Pace. Jaguar’s first SUV. A great-looking machine that’s chasing the Porsche Macan and, by all accounts, is just as good to drive. Unlike the so-so XE and XF interiors, its cabin is also bang on the money, while both pricing and CO2 are double-take competitive.

The F-Pace, along with the XE, are going to transform Jaguar. Its sales are, relative to previous years, going to skyrocket and it may finally be able to stand on its own two feet rather than being propped up by the financial might of Land Rover.

And if Jaguar’s able to do this in a generation, what else could it do once the momentum really starts to flow?

Stackmann is right to ask us if we’re proud of Jaguar Land Rover. Perhaps we should ask ourselves that. Put the usual British cynicism to one side for a moment: even in the boardrooms of giant German car brands, JLR’s achievements are being recognised. Maybe it’s time we started shouting about them too.

Blog: Can a turbocharged Porsche 911 Carrera S be fun… driven slowly?

Blog: can a turbocharged Porsche 911 Carrera S be fun… driven slowly?

Blog: Can a turbocharged Porsche 911 Carrera S be fun… driven slowly?

We’ve had one of those new-fangled turbocharged 911s in on test for the last week. It’s a car that just had to happen, but that didn’t stop purists showing their disapproval when it was announced in September. It was the Cayenne all over again – or, even worse, switching from air- to water-cooling.

I knew that Porsche wouldn’t mess it up. I don’t make a habit of gushing over manufacturers, but it’s true that Porsche – in recent years, especially – consistently gets things so right. The Macan? So much more than a rebodied Audi Q5. The 918 Spyder? Arguably the most technically advanced of the hypercar trio. The 718 Boxster? We’ll see, but my hopes are high.

When the first drive reports started to come in, it was clear that turbocharging the entry-level 911s hadn’t diluted them in any way. They could hit 62mph 0.2 seconds quicker than before, with the Carrera S being the first entry-level 911 to reach 62mph in less than 4.0 seconds.

Our own Richard Aucock concluded that, “The engine, despite our worries, still delivers 911 character and sounds more charismatic than we expected.” It would have been ruinous for Porsche to mess up the 911, and it’s clear that they haven’t.

Blog: Can a turbocharged Porsche 911 Carrera S be fun… driven slowly?

Driving the new turbo 911 Carrera S on UK roads confirmed that. To my ears, the flat-six engine sounds just as delightful as before, while the extra performance makes me want to kneel down and praise the lord of turbocharged engines.

There has to be a ‘but’, though. And it’s not something that’s new to the latest 911. It’s something that’s plagued every 911 I’ve driven – a gripe that, should I flex my right foot for more than a few tenths of a second, my licence could be taken from me. A concern that the average British B-road just isn’t wide enough for a 911, plus a tractor that’s suddenly appeared coming in the opposite direction. A nag that, actually, I’d be having more fun in a Cayman.

Last night, I finished work and decided to go for a drive. The 911 was being taken away first thing this morning, so it would have been rude not to. But I live in the South East, where roads are busier than Beijing. And Storm Imogen was giving the UK a bashing, so it was wet, trees were falling and other motorists were tip-toeing around as if exceeding 40mph could result in a fiery death.

This would normally be annoying. But I wasn’t in the mood for blatting around like a demented dog on heat. Instead, I tuned into 6Music and went with the flow. To nowhere in particular.

Most of the time I was well below the speed limit. Sure, if the road opened up, I’d accelerate up towards 60mph with slightly more gusto than Mr Rep would manage in a diesel Audi, but it wasn’t anywhere near pushing the Porsche’s abilities. Yet it was enjoyable.

I’m usually a PDK convert (that’s a whole different blog post), but working through the seven-speed manual ’box of ‘our’ 911 was not only a pleasingly analogue experience (even at low speeds), but also one that I fear I’ll be telling my kids about in years to come.

With the Sport button engaged it blips the throttle on downshifts, while the engine is just ridiculously tractable. Can’t be bothered dropping down from fifth to accelerate out of that 30mph limit? No problem, the 911 will do it, with torque spread flat from 1,700rpm. And it’ll sound good – especially if you press the button to open the flaps in the sports exhaust.

I’d argue that feeling special at lower speeds is actually something at which Porsche excels. Part of it comes from the interior – you sit low, with Porsche crest proudly sitting on the wheel in front of you, and the 3.0-litre flat-six burbling behind you. As great as something like a BMW M5 is, a 911 has a feel-good factor that hot versions of mainstream cars can’t match.

Am I convinced that the 911 makes more sense than a smaller, cheaper Cayman if you’re out for a blat on UK roads? No. But do you have to be on the Autobahn to have fun in a turbocharged 911? It helps, but perhaps not…