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A tour round the Jag XE's engine factory

Published: 28 Jan 2015

After months of teaser shots and build-up, we've finally had a go in the 3-Series-baiting Jaguar XE, driving both V6 petrol and four-cylinder diesel versions.

The latter marks the first appearance of JLR's new ‘Ingenium' engine family, which will be built at a new 100,000 square metre site in Wolverhampton, the product of a £500m investment.

The Ingenium platform is modular, with 500cc per cylinder. It will major on four-cylinder units - so 2.0 litres in size - which will form the lynchpin of JLR's bulk sellers, including the XE and new Land Rover Discovery Sport. The modular setup means 1.5-litre three-cylinder, 3.0-litre six-cylinder and 4.0-litre eight-cylinder confugiruations are all technically possible.

The new facility, officially opened back in October 2014 by the Queen, sits in JLR's triangle of British car production plants. As well as huge investment in its production facilities - 150 high-tech machines across three lines - there's also been a big focus on the site's sustainability.

Its roof is covered by 21,000 solar panels, which on the sunniest of days will provide a third of the factory's power. Rainwater is harvested below the factory. And there's a wildlife corridor running underneath the facility to minimise its impact on local habitats.

It's also a big deal for the UK. There's an Ingenium engine plant in China, but supplying only its home market. Every four-cylinder JLR engine outside of China will have been built in Wolverhampton: half a million a year is the eventual target.

"It's a strong statement from Jaguar Land Rover for Great Britain," says JLR's director of manufacturing, Wolfgang Stadler. "It would have been the wrong approach to go to a low-cost country. We have some responsibility for the country and for the employees. We are creating 1400 jobs in this plant and 5000 in total including the wider economy. It's our responsibility as a British company, we have to do that."

The opening of production ‘Module 1' - which will crank out the XE's 161 and 178bhp 2-litre Ingenium diesels - is the first of "50 significant product actions in the next five years," according to Stadler.

‘Module 1a', which is currently barren of tooling, will produce JLR's 2.0-litre petrol four-pots when they arrive in 2016.

We ask what comes after that, given the flexibility of the Ingenium platform. Will Jaguar's bigger engines be made here, too? "In principle we have flexibility to do either more cylinders or less cylinders, and the facility is also built in a way that we'll be flexible enough. We have all options still in place," Stadler tells us.

"You could even do a 12 cylinder if you want! But it's very unlikely. That will not happen!" Shame...

Ingenium's flexibility includes the ability to incorporate hybrid technology, though, should this be a route JLR explores for the mainstream. Given the huge outputs both Audi and Volvo have extracted from four-cylinder engines lately, it's also interesting to hear of Jaguar's ambition with its 2.0-litre.

"The internal combustion engine has a lot of potential for both power and efficiency," says JLR's executive director, Mike Wright. "Our powertrain design and engineering guys in Coventry are working relentlessly to see how much power they can extract out of the engine."

Could that, TG asks, spell proper performance Jaguars powered by just four cylinders?

"Powertrains have a number of usages. I'm not making any announcements today," says Wright. "We're just making sure we get the right engines out for the XE product. That's the first stage." It's certainly not a denial.

Wright is also a keen advocate of significant investment in JLR's home country, though he does admit the selection process did consider building engines outside of the UK, before settling on Wolverhampton.

"It's a greatly significant step for us and it demonstrates our commitment to the UK economy, and the UK as our home base. It will act as a magnet to attract suppliers back into the region and it's a real statement of confidence in the ability of the British people to produce a plant of this quality."

Wright repeatedly talks of JLR being "globally competitive". That word ‘global' frequently crops up. Incidentally, a Brazilian factory is being constructed, housing Discovery Sport production from 2016. It's another significant step in JLR working towards annual production of one million cars (435,000 were made last year). It's probably not going to take long...

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