Jaguar XF wins car of the year!

21 01 2008

This is just a quick note between rants. You can’t believe how delighted I am that the Jaguar XF has won the 2008 “What Car?” Car of the Year award. The XF was such a brave move by a company notorious for building stuffy cars aimed at the 60 year old, golf playing crowd and I’m overjoyed to see it getting its dues.

Jaguar XF; ‘What Car?’ Car Of the Year, 2008

I’m well known for my dislike of manufacturers who refuse to move forward. They spend their time and money pandering to the whims of the few from the baby boomer generation stuck trying to relive their youth. Dodge Challenger, Fiat 500, new Mini and new VW Beetle… Yeah I’m looking at you. However, of all the manufacturers that insisted on this lazy and uninspiring school of design, Jaguar was by far the worst.

They dragged everything out of the old car and shoved it into the new ones. Inside lived switches like something used for intercepting Nazi transmissions and the wooden dashboards… I mean seriously, why so much wood in a car? Is it there in case the boiler runs out of coal? Lets not even speak about the exterior, grimly hanging on to that horrible grill. The only car with a stupider looking front end for the sake of some BS ‘tradition’ is the Veyron.

Even the XK earnt my wrath. The Aston Martin is a pretty body design, but its stale. They’ve been slapping updates onto it for over a decade now and for Jaguar to go and build the same bloody thing… Yes its pretty, but if I wanted a car that looked like a DB7 I’d have bought the sodding DB7.

Attention British Journalists and particularly Mr Clarkson: This is the DB7. They built this car in 1994. It was very pretty. However:


DB9

These are all the same bloody car with different headlights. Please stop raving about it. It’s now 2008 and it’s getting to be embarrassing.

The XF is the very epitome of what needed to happen if the British automotive industry was to be saved. With Ford getting ready to bow out and Jaguar currently in flux, it certainly picked the right time to appear. It’s a car that focuses purely on the end result, while everything before it focused on the means to get there.

Prior to the XF, in order to provide a luxurious four door saloon, Jaguar would go through a long list of must haves. Stupid grill, check. Carve the interior from a tree, check. 90 year old man living in the boot to get the musty smell just right, check. On and on it went. A long list of components that when put together in the 1940’s built a fantastic car. When put together in the year 2000 they resulted in a labouring monstrosity that made small children cry.

Jaguar have done a complete 180 with the XF, they built a proper luxury car then added the touches to make it a Jaguar. The Jaguar is reborn. Now the start light gently pulses like a heartbeat as you approach. Push it and the car awakens. Vents rotate out and the gear selector rises up into the palm of your hand. Its still a Jaguar, pieces of wood appear around the interior, you sink into masses of top quality leather and there is still an over-sized grill hanging off the front. But now it feels like they’re building luxury cars, not just gluing together pieces of old Jaguars.

XF Interior

A lot of people don’t like the start-up procedure, or the subtle blue lighting through the interior. But here’s my take on it. When it comes to the Aston Martin’s of the world, I cringe at every start-up. Emblazoned across the dash appears “Power, Beauty, Soul.” Its just so… American. The proper British way of doing these things is to never say it. You never, ever spell it out. If you need to tell people you’ve got that certain something, the truth of the matter is you don’t. That’s why the Aston Martin is so embarrassing when it insists on shouting a marketing catch phrase every time it’s started. The Jaguar simply exists. It leaves you struggling to describe just how good it is, while it modestly sits in the corner being gorgeous and wondering what all the fuss is about.

When you push the start button, it acknowledges you’ve arrived. Like a good butler it delivers the gear selector to your hand, ensures the air-conditioning vents are just as sir likes them, makes sure the car is in working order then waits for your next decision. Yes its flashy, there are blue lights and computer screens but try thinking of it this way. In a nice restaurant a drinks waiter will approach your table. If he waits attentively, hands over the wine list then commends you on your choice before disappearing with a bow, it’s an altogether classy affair. If he stands by your table shouting the prices of each bottle and asking for payment in advance its tacky. Whether the drinks waiter is wearing a top hat and tails or a modern Armani suit is of absolutely no importance to the proceedings.

In other words, to all the (Old) people currently poo pooing the new interior, for your own sake be quiet until you’ve actually sat in the car and experienced it. It just works, trust them, they’re British. The Jags are still achingly stylish and quintessentially classy. The only difference is that they’re cool now too. The cat’s got its claws back.

Cringe / Class

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2 responses

30 04 2008
Mike Dixon

Regarding your comments regarding the “60 year old golf playing crowd”: I’m a long way off sixty and I don’t play golf but I do know a class design when I see one. Aston Martin for example age better than any car I can think of, that’s because they don’t go for the trendy here today gone tomorrow looks. Unlike the XF ‘Lexusulike’ you rave about which look very sad and outdated in two years. It will never be a classic and cars in that leaugue need to be capabable of that status, it won’t happen due to lack of individuality. I’m sure it’s a lovely car but please don’t overdo it!

MD

3 05 2008
Dave

Mike’s comment is a rarity, basically because it’s well written and concise. I’ve recieved no less than 12 “Aston’s rock and you suck *insert object of choice here* ” comments regarding this peice but this one is the first worth publishing.

My response to the comment is the same as the article however. The Aston Martin could have been timeless. Ian Callums original design was a beautiful machine. If Aston Martin had continued developing new car designs the DB7 would have joined the DB5 in the classic garage. But they didn’t. They’re milking the original design for all its worth, watering it down with the addition of daft looking vents, a dashboard that screams a marketing slogan at you and a bodykit that belongs on a rice burner. Its not the first time its happened either, the DB6 became the unloved older brother of the DB5, the same will happen to the DB9, the Vantage and the Volante and basically everything coming out of their factory at the moment. They will go down in history as the cars that looked vaguely like the “proper” DB7.

But then some will say the Countach got better with age and the addition of numerous vents and wings. Each their own. In regards to the new Jag it is definately a fair comment to call its exterior lexuslike. It is definately the interior of the car which most impresses me for setting new standards. Thats always been the way with Jags however, understated exteriors with luxurious interiors. That they managed to find a completely new way to achieve this after decades of repeating tired designs was what truly impressed me. The XF Jag has found a whole new way of achieving its function. A way forward that maintains its purpose of old, but making it relevant to the modern era. That is what I consider a true step forward in car design.

As for the current Astons… If I went into a dealership wanting James Bonds Supercar and came out with a decade old design featuring a bodykit and dashboard screaming advertising slogans at me I’d be pissed.

Regarding the 60 year old crowd, I intended to use them as example for your average Jag driver… though come to think of it most Aston drivers I’ve met fall into the category… But if pressed to give my impression of the “Average” Aston driver I’d be picking someone who has a lack of automotive imagination comparable to a Porsche driver but wants to stand out from the rest of the comb-over crowd.

If I was James Bond, these days I’d probably be driving a Noble M15…

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