Gavin Green on why Jaguar needs to balance SUVs with sports cars

Published: 31 October 2016

► Gavin Green on how Jaguar should advance
► What the company could learn from Porsche
► ‘How about a new sports prototype racer?’

Over the years Jaguar has been urged to make a ‘new E-type’, a ‘new Mk2’ and even a ‘new XJ220’. Instead, it’s built a ‘new Land Rover’. What’s more, it’s surprisingly good. 

If you want a sports-minded SUV that can deliver both pace and space – with a healthy dose of grace – then the new F-Pace may well be the best SUV of all. Only a Porsche Macan can match it dynamically. Only a boxy trad 4x4 can better it for versatility. 

The F-Pace is a seminal car for Jaguar, and will reach more customers in more markets than any Jaguar before. The company now has a car that will rival brother brand Land Rover in sales and revenues. Never mind that to emulate Land Rover’s success, it has entered Land Rover’s segment. 

With the premium SUV market booming, with the SUV F-Pace sure to appeal to a range of younger customers, and Jaguar Land Rover’s time-honoured expertise in all-wheel-drive technology, it is surely obvious what Jaguar’s next new car should be? A smaller SUV to build on the F-Pace’s appeal? A bigger SUV to rake in juicy Range Rover-style profits?

The answer, I gather, is a little brother to the F-Pace. But what Jaguar needs soon, or so I suggest, is another sports car. As the late, great footballer Johan Cruyff said: ‘Winning is just one day. A reputation lasts a lifetime.’ Now is the time for reinvigorated Jaguar to invest in its reputation, and the sports car soul that apparently guided the design and development of the F-Pace. This is the sports car soul that was inspired by the C-, D- and E-types; the sports car soul that the F-type nobly rekindled; the soul that is the essence of the Jaguar brand, and underpins the credibility of the F-Pace, XE, XF and every other new Jaguar.

A smaller-than-F-type roadster (and coupe) costing about £35,000 would do nicely. It would be a Boxster, SLK and BMW Z4 rival, released at a time when its German competitors are weak (especially now that Porsche has sullied its new Boxster with turbo four power, in place of a more entertaining naturally aspirated six).

It would make a tidy profit, buttress the Jaguar brand, strengthen its sports car credentials, and encourage a younger sportier audience to buy a Jaguar for the first time since those halcyon days of the E-type.

This strategy follows highly profitable Porsche, of course. Porsche now makes most of its money from SUVs. Last year, out of 225,000 cars sold globally, more than 153,000 were SUVs. The ratio of SUVs to sports cars widens every year. Porsche is a sports car company that (whisper it) is primarily an SUV maker. Just as Jaguar will be, once the F-Pace gets into its stride.

To remind us all that Porsche is a great sports car maker (that happens, sotto voce, to make SUVs) Porsche has recently gone on the sports car offensive. New 911 plus GT3 RS and 911 R variants. New Cayman GT4 and brand-new 718 Boxster. New 911 Turbo. A Le Mans sports car programme to remind us that the racing flame still burns bright.

This halo helps Porsche to sell Macans and Cayennes at inflated prices. This sports car skill also means the Macan and Cayenne steer, corner, brake and go unusually well, at least for heavy and naturally cumbrous SUVs. So Porsche’s sales and profits boom. Enthusiasts and mainstream buyers alike are happy. So are shareholders and management. 

Those who, like me, cringe every time they see a Cayenne clip the kerb or cut up a cyclist on its daily school run, can forgive that porky Porsche – and occasionally even smile cheerfully at their drivers perched high behind the wheel. We know without their custom there’d be no GT3 RS to stoke our sports car passions, no Cayman GT4 to excite the senses on a good Welsh B-road, no 919 hybrid racer gunning for glory at Le Mans. Just as I forgave David Bowie for performing Dancing in the Street with Mick Jagger, and Robert De Niro for The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, so I can forgive Porsche.

Here is the role model for Jaguar. Launch new sports cars that give you licence to launch new SUVs. Launch new SUVs to fund new sports cars. This way you build both the bank account and the brand. 

Plus, while I have my wish list, it’d be good to see Jaguar back at Le Mans, just as we all celebrated Porsche’s return. So how about a new sports prototype racer? After all, nothing would boost the brand like a ‘new D-type’.

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By Gavin Green

Contributor-in-chief, former editor, anti-weight campaigner, voice of experience