Spannerhead Dot

On Jaguar’s Search for a Sporting Identity

May 21, 2013 by Matt

2014 Jaguar F-Type Black Rear

In a recent column, Peter De Lorenzo skewers Jaguar’s latest marketing efforts:

The stewards of Jaguar have decided that they will use the launch of the F-Type to reinvent the brand so as to appeal to a whole new hipper audience. In the process of doing so they will turn the brand into a recurring joke, with “baddest ass badboys” thrown in for good measure.

It’s an insult to the brand’s legacy and a rank insult to anyone who might even be remotely interested in checking the F-Type out.

I’d take it even further, though, and conjecture the British automaker’s recent hit-and-miss attempts to reposition themselves in the marketplace extend past the veneer of marketing, down into the realm of production development. Marketers, after all, although they influence engineers and designers, can only work with what they’re given.

With the new F-Type, Jaguar’s (ambitiously) stated benchmark is the Porsche 911, and yet the car weighs 400 lbs more than a base 911 and sports no manual transmission option, at least initially. Sure, they may load the car up with enough power to dust the German sports car in a straight line, but nowadays your average high-performance luxury sedan from Mercedes and Audi can accomplish that feat—the differences lies in the dynamics. That’s what makes a car distinctive; what gives it personality, character, and over time, what builds a brand image. The F-Type, regrettably, seems to take a page from the retro-themed BMW Z8 playbook in that it tries to be all things to all people—luxury cruiser and tire-smoking sports car—and ends up not being very good at either of them. Not only that, but its design is far too backward-looking in light of the successful launch of the XF and XJ luxury sedans, whose design ushered in new themes for Jaguar and had the opportunity to help position the brand as a design leader, a British Audi, if you will—if they had maintained that forward-looking styling direction.

But…the F-Type is a step backward design-wise, and its powerplant and chassis philosophy reflect a lack of focus on the part of its manufacturer. In light of that, perhaps the marketers are simply making the best of a less-than-ideal situation.

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Filed under: Car Industry, Jaguar, News


  1. Shaun says:

    Good perspective. This is good insight, and I feel similarly disappointed by the chassis dynamics of this car (at least, based on many preliminary reviews and track tests). If their “goal” was 911, they have fallen way off that mark. It would have been better to not state that at all, and perhaps disappointment would have been alleviated.

    However, I for one, love the styling direction of this car. It’s such a great advanced/modern design, while retaining many styling cues of their classic XKE/E-type. It’s just wonderful. But I’m a retro grouch at heart, so take that as you will. Will the car be a failure? I think not. It’s almost a mini-aston. Stylish, sounds awesome…has road presence and looks good. Will it attract the more well off “Grass roots racer” seeking for a platform to build upon for their next track monster? Absolutely not. But I dont think that’s what this car tries to be (nor did the E-type). It’s a posh sports coupe and I think it meets the mark on that. I just wish the 911-as-a-benchmark was never raised. That definitely alters perspective and we begin to see glaring gaps.

    • Matt says:

      Thanks Shaun. I agree; it would have been better if they hadn’t pointed out the 911 as a development target. It just opened them up to all sorts of comparisons that didn’t need be made, and amplified whatever lack of focus the new XK exhibits.

  2. John D says:

    C&D just came out with an article on this car in their latest edition. I must say that reading their review made me want to test drive one…all the way into my garage. It is heavy, but apparently it handles quite well, is blisteringly fast (0-60 in 3.9, IIRC), and make a very loud and wonderful sound. Combine that with it’s looks and I think you have a winner. Now if they could only make one for half the price…

    • John D says:

      (For $40k less you could have the new Vette. Apparently they finally got around to giving it good seats and a decent interior, a sweet na engine, and bad-ass supercar looks. The first vette that I’ve liked in a very, very long time.)

      • Matt says:

        I’d like the C7 better if it weren’t ugly as sin on the outside. Props to Chevy for fixing the interior and for the car’s (always impressive) capabilities, but it’s definitely a step down design-wise from the C6.

        • John D says:

          Says you. I have never liked the tail end of a Vette for the past, oh 2 or 3 decades maybe? It always looks like a large and flimsy piece of plastic with some lights and fiddy bits stuck in it. This one actually looks purposeful and like GM stopped sourcing the components out to Rubbermaid (TM). And I know you, for the most part, despise vents and the like…but I like how the new Vette looks like a proper American supercar. Sure it’s a bit over the top…but I like it. I’ve always thought that Vettes were a bit bland. Parts of them were exciting…all the wrong parts. The C6 is a solid design, but it never really made me sit up and want to change my mind about how boring the car was in general. The C7 has done what no other Vette has been able to do that was produced in my lifetime: wonder how long it would take for one to depreciate enough for me to be able to buy it. ;)

          • Matt says:

            Fair enough—diff’rent strokes. :)

            I’d be very interested to hear your take on this article:


            For the record, I tend to agree.

            • John D says:

              I really don’t know much about such things, but from what I’ve seen (or not seen) from GM’s marketing dept concerning the Corvette, I would tend to agree as well. The Mustang is usually pushed *much* harder than the Vette, though I think a lot of sports cars have suffered in the past few years with both GM and F*rd spending more effort on their global platforms and more ‘sensible and efficient’ little cars.

              This article also seems to go hand-in-hand with an interview printed in the back of the latest C&D with Ed Whitacre. Apparently GM had terrible culture and was completely disconnected with it’s product and the market. You should look it up. Very enlightening.

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