BBC TopGear
BBC TopGear
Subscribe to Top Gear magazine
Sign up to our Top Gear Magazine

Here's how Jaguar plans on reinventing itself to shock the world

E-Types? Where Jag’s going, they don’t need E-Types. Open the Classic Jag swear jar!

Published: 24 Apr 2023

Jaguar wants you to forget about the E-Type, so let us unceremoniously open the Classic Jaguar swear jar. Any mention of The Holiest of Big Cats or the lore surrounding it requires a hefty donation; factoids like Enzo Ferrari once thinking it was really quite lovely [ching]. Dammit, we're already off.

Forget it. Forget the other Really Important Big Jags that use other letters of the alphabet too. Jaguar is putting all its chips on a shiny electric utopia and can’t afford to look back.

Advertisement - Page continues below

You might already have forgotten about some of Jaguar’s more modern stuff, mind. Last year, just 126 XEs were sold in the UK, versus the 8,992 3 Series saloons BMW sold over here in the same period. An unfair comparison given the 3er’s long dominance and established market presence? Not when you consider the XE – which at its height managed 13.5k in 2016 – was supposed to leap tall buildings in a single bound in a bid to usurp those pesky Germans.

“We’ve had periods of success, and we’ve had periods which haven’t been successful,” JLR boss Adrian Mardell told TG. “Thousands of people have put their livelihoods into this company, and that’s really important. More have spent their hard-earned money in this brand. That’s really important.

“So reinvigorating Jaguar and turning it into the successful brand I know deep down it can be, is really important to me,” he said. Indeed, he noted how this mission to revive the beleaguered brand’s fortunes was “personal”.

And yet, though Jaguar wants you to forget the old stuff, it doesn’t want you to forget the impact those cars had. “Think about the E-Type,” creative boss Gerry McGovern said. “Can you imagine when that was seen for the first time? It was like it had dropped down from space compared to the rest.

Advertisement - Page continues below

“Equally compelling was the XJS. It didn’t try and emulate the E-Type, it started again. If we talk about Jaguar of the past 20 years or so, it’s not that the designs were bad, it’s the fact the strategy was more about creating universal appeal and competing more with mainstream products.

“I argue that made [Jaguar] more ‘normal’. What we’ve decided to do is go back to ‘a copy of nothing’. That’s what this is about: a complete reimagining.” That phrase, incidentally, is the one Jaguar founder Sir Williams Lyons once uttered; a brief to his design team to create standalone cars, not rivals for other makes.

And with bruising head-to-head defeats of late against its rivals, perhaps a new, more curated – and more expensive – approach is key to Jag’s survival. We now know that the first of these new electric Jaguars is a £100,000 four-door GT with a range of up to 430 miles that the Porsche Taycan might like to have a word with. Two more will appear soon after, with all three spun off a Jaguar-specific electrified chassis.

McGovern notes how these new cars will usher in a ‘pivotal’ moment for Jaguar, not least because they’ll be designed to provoke a reaction. Three design teams created 18 different iterations of Jaguar’s new range, and each of the three new cars will be selected from those models on their ability to ‘shock’. “If it doesn’t, if it’s familiar, that doesn’t work in the future context,” McGovern said.

Top Gear

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

Nobody’s got any interest in tarnishing the heritage

Nick Collins, exec director of JLR’s vehicle programme, reaffirmed the new approach. “It’s exactly what we did with the Defender. We didn’t create a pastiche of the old car, we spent a lot of time thinking what the spirit of that brand is, and how we rejuvenate it and make it relevant for the modern world. It’s exactly the same with Jaguar.

“It’s not about looking at the new car when it comes out and saying, ‘oh that looks like [xx rival]’, but what you should feel is what people felt when they saw an E-Type or XK120 for the first time.”

Still reeling from that price tag? Collins reckons it’s a playground Jag belongs in. “I look after the JLR classics division as well, and the most expensive car we sell is a reborn D-Type at £1.8m. Jaguar reaches into that territory without breaking a sweat.

“We’ve just kind of forgotten we can reach into that territory.”

Collins told TG that the new GT will “drive how it looks”, and that it’ll bear learnings from Jaguar’s long time in Formula E. It’ll also feature “some of the intuitive elements that bring a current Jaguar to life”.

Which feeds into bringing the entire brand back to life, of course. “Nobody’s got any interest in tarnishing the heritage,” said Mardell. “But as the look forward is so very different to where we’ve been, it can be viewed that way.

“It’s not the intention at all. I strongly feel that’s the way this brand has relevance, longevity and success going forwards. That’s the only intent here – giving it the best chance.”

Which is why McGovern and co want you to forget about the past. “With the greatest respect, forget everything that’s gone before. When you look back to those cars, [the brief is] don’t try to emulate them, don’t try and do a retrospective pastiche, because that’s not credible. It has to capture the essence of ‘a copy of nothing’.”

And it’ll need to if we’re to look back on this new generation of Jaguar in 70 years’ time and not still be talking about… the E-Type [ching]. Dammit, that's eight coins in the jar.

More from Top Gear

See more on Jaguar

Subscribe to the Top Gear Newsletter

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, you agree to receive news, promotions and offers by email from Top Gear and BBC Studios. Your information will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

BBC TopGear

Try BBC Top Gear Magazine