Jaguar's big debut at Geneva this year was the new XFR-S Sportbake, a toothsome crossbreed between its feral F-Type Coupe R and domesticated XF wagon. America won't have the option of pairing Coventry's 550-hp V8 with D-pillars, but we will be getting its XE sedan (internal code X760), the upcoming BMW 3 Series-fighter floated in a teaser press release during the 2014 Geneva Motor Show. We sat down with some Jaguar people, including design boss Ian Callum, to get a few early details on the XE sedan.
1. It might underpin a future two--two sports car
"It means finally Jaguar can get some economy of scale and consistency ... by ownership of the company, we've got four different platforms," explains Callum, "and we need to get down to two—sports cars and sedans."
The XE draws on the C-X17 crossover concept's all-aluminum modular architecture, which we first saw in Frankfurt last year. As solid as the latest XF may be, it's still riding on what's essentially an 'aluminized' version of Ford's archaic DEW98 chassis—the same underpinnings Lincoln's LS launched on 14 years ago. With the new architecture, this problem is solved, and then some.
"And I want to see if we can get a sports car off this platform, some kind of sports car, maybe a two--two. The engine sits too high for a sports car at the moment, but who knows? It's exciting."
This could potentially present a fix for some proximity issues between the XK and F-Type in Jag's lineup, though a new XF in 2016 is likely a top priority.
2. It's future-proof ... and lighter than the BMW 3 Series
Jag says the XE will be the first all-aluminum, rivet-bonded monocoque in the mid-size sedan segment, giving it a big advantage.
"It'll probably be the lightest in-class," Callum said.
"It's the most flexible architecture we've ever produced," another Jaguar rep said, "[suitable for] inline, transverse, rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive. We like to say it's 'future-proofed,' if you will."
The BMW 3 Series sold over 500,000 units last year, partially because of its breadth of configuration, and the C-X17/XE structure follows suit. Launching with Jaguar's C/D segment contender is an all-new 'Ingenium' four-cylinder engine family, with 2.0-liter gas and diesel powerplants coming courtesy of a new 775,000-square-foot facility in Wolverhampton, England.
We're told Coventry's bean-counters are watching the American market "very closely" regarding the diesel but are still undecided about bringing an XE oil-burner our way. Expect a six-cylinder option and, since the four-bangers are modular, a super-downsized mill if the European market calls for it. Early word on a V8-powered R model?
"That would an interesting proposition, wouldn't it?" we're told with a smile. "Of course, you wouldn't expect to see it in the initial phase ... never say never."
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3. If it fails, it could be curtains for Jaguar
We floated an April 2015 drive-off date, and were told to expect the XE "within a few months" of that. But Callum's more keen on stressing the XE's broad appeal, claiming it will offer everything from "big wheels and a 186-mph top speed" to "under 100 g of CO2 per kilometer" depending on how it's equipped. Callum hopes this will help get cars into the hands of customers who "haven't been able to own a Jaguar before."
"We've got the foundations of the brand in place, but we need to grow it," he says. "We need to reach a mass of people. We can't continue at the volume we've got. It just doesn't work. 80,000 units is not the right answer. You either do 5000 units, or you do 200,000. That stuff in the middle? It just isn't good business, if I'm being honest."
Jaguar is investing roughly $2.5 billion for new aluminum manufacturing in its Solihull factory. That's a mighty sum, and while the company has seen a resurgence in the post-Dearborn era, it's not out of the woods just yet. A report from Bernstein Research last year echoes Callum's sentiment, quoting a company insider as saying, " ... Jaguar is not viable at 60,000 units [per year]. If the X760 fails, it will be probably be the end for the brand."
It doesn't get more important than that, folks.