It was only a matter of time before it happened. Only a matter of time before I parked up our Jaguar XE S longtermer next to its predecessor, the X-Type. So, when this first occurred a couple of weeks ago, I made sure I stuck around for a minute or two to survey the scene in front of me. “Jaguar’s idea of a 3-series rival, then and now” is how I put it when posting the comparison pic on Instagram. And oh my, does seeing the two next to each other do wonders for the newer car.
The modern, fresh XE made the classically styled X-Type look faintly ridiculous (not to mention small, thanks to the growth of cars over the years), and reminded me of just how much I hate that era of Jaguars. The X-Type, the S-Type and - even though I’m a fan of the car - the old XJ all share a ridiculous faux-retro look. And I don’t just dislike that because it resulted in some not terribly attractive cars (I find the S-Type in particular deeply ugly), but because having interior and exterior styling that looked to the past just wasn’t right. Particularly for a company like Jaguar.
If you look through the firm’s admittedly chequered history, it’s chock full of forward thinking and innovative technology. The XK120 was the first mass-produced engine to have hemispherical combustion chambers and dual overhead camshafts. The company was renowned for its work with disc brakes: the C-Type racer (above) had discs all round, and the car’s 1953 24 Hours of Le Mans win is widely credited as being the driving force for the disc brake revolution in the car industry.
The C-Type’s successor - the D-Type - was known for bringing aircraft-style engineering to the world of four-wheel in the form of a then-radical monocoque construction and advanced aerodynamics. The XJ220 may not have been the car it was supposed to be (despite four-wheel drive and a V12 engine being promised, it ended up being rear-wheel drive and powered by a turbo V6), but it was still a massive achievement to be crowned the fastest car in the world, even if it only briefly held the title.
Even in the daft retro pastiche, Ford-owned years, we had the X350 XJ with its aluminium construction - making it 40 per cent lighter and 60 per cent stiffer than its X308 predecessor. But that just made it all the more frustrating that Jaguar decided to wrap up all that high-tech stuff with a design that looked like it had been penned by someone who’d been locked in a windowless room without any contact with the outside world for the previous few decades.
These days, there’s plenty of innovation going on at Jaguar. There’s cool future tech like invisible pillars and clever systems to save us from the hell of pot holes, aluminium construction in all of its current cars and much more besides. Sure, the current infotainment system is pretty naff, but a replacement is on the way that’s said to be one of - if not the - best car touchscreens out there. Most importantly though, all that retro styling nonsense is nowhere to be seen. And that’s the way it should be.