Catching up with JLR Catching up with JLR
Jaguar today made the surprise announcement that it’s returning to racing with a works FIA Formula E team in the autumn of 2016. The... Catching up with JLR

Jaguar today made the surprise announcement that it’s returning to racing with a works FIA Formula E team in the autumn of 2016.

The electric-powered Forumla E is the first global single seater race series for EVs and has been steadily gathering prominence and interest. The arrival of a works Jaguar team is sure to raise Formula E’s profile to even higher level.

The Formula E announcement caps a pretty active few weeks for the team at Jaguar Land Rover.

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Late last week, we finally had confirmation that JLR is to go ahead with its proposed new factory in Slovakia. That’s on course to build a family of new aluminum-bodied JLR models, with first vehicles expected off the line in late 2018.

When I read that, I wondered, as an aside, if that might actually be a small piece of history in the making. That’s to say, the first ever Jaguar to be built outside the UK…

Not so, as it turns out, as JLR’s factory in Pune, India, has been assembling both the XF and XJ from imported parts since 2013-14. So already we’re up to two ‘overseas’ Jags and counting, you could say…

Clearly, the coming £1billion premium manufacturing facility in Slovakia will boost JLR production to another level. It will start with an initial capacity of 150,000 units, but with enough ‘stretch’ to double that should things progress well.

Prior to the factory announcement, we had the great story (broken by the Birmingham Mail) that JLR “might” be in talks to buy Silverstone. That duly set Twitter on fire and to some extent made sense. Ferrari has Fiorano as a very cool facility for demoing cars for affluent customers. What about Silverstone for JLR? What indeed. Geographically not so far from JLR’s Midlands base, the track is to world standard and extremely fast.

Today’s Formula E announcement may have some bearing on that Silverstone story. Or not. To be continued, as they say.

Then there was JLR’s test event for Brit media in Hurley, Bucks and this well organized ‘ride-and-drive’ brought out the new Jaguar XF and 2016 model year XJ.

From Land Rover, the new Ingenium-powered Discovery Sport and Range Rover Evoque were on hand. Also, the Discovery Landmark and two special run out editions of the redoubtable Defender.

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With all new aluminum architecture, the new XF is a step up and very clear rival for the 5-Series. I drove a 3.0-litre V6 diesel XF, one of the upper spec editions, and this came over as swift, well sorted, modern exec sports saloon. On optional 20-in gloss black alloys, it had the looks, too.

The Jaguar XJ, updated with subtle design touches, greater luxury, more tech, a power/torque boost (but lowered C02) continues to turn heads like none other. A confession: there was a time when I didn’t quite “get” the modern XJ. Now, it’s a much more involving car and with 300 ps and, ahem, 700 Nm on tap (in the LWB Autobiography I drove), performance it doesn’t lack.  And that XJ design is still so wildly ahead of the game, to my eyes at least.

For JLR, the Range Rover Evoque is the gift that keeps on giving. For 2016, the package gets even sweeter with the introduction of JLR’s 2.0-litre Ingenium engine in 150 ps and 180 power grades, and with C02 emissions now as low as 109 g/km.

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Not forgetting the Defender, of course, which still rocks the soul in its own inimitable way, but not for much longer with production finally set to end in January 2016,

A spell in a Defender ‘Adventure’ 90 Station Wagon was an exhilarating blast from the past. Endearingly clunky, bumpy, guided by that massive wheel, it’s of course a lifetime away from the urbane smoothness of the Evoque. Both deliver very successfully in their own ways but side by side, you’d never know they came from the same company.

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The Evoque Convertible? We had a first UK glimpse of that. Interesting. In the US, Nissan tried much the same concept with the Murano CrossCabriolet SUV and it didn’t take off. The Range Rover Evoque brand is infinitely stronger so the Evoque Convertible may yet become the latest must-have.

Peter Nunn

Peter Nunn

Peter is a writer and tester in the UK with more than 30 years experience of covering new cars, classics and the fascinating, fast moving car industry.