From BMW to Bentley: Jaguar takes the XJ upmarket

Posted by: Trevor Miles onSeptember 29th, 2008

Since their purchase from Ford by the Indian carmaker Tata, Jaguar’s future has been a bit uncertain, as the luxury automaker was having serious trouble moving cars under the Premier Auto Group umbrella. With Tata at the reigns and cars like the XK selling far fewer units than its BMW or Mercedes counterparts, it seems Jaguar has decided that there is only one way to go – up.

In its current inception, Jaguar’s market strategy places it as a British alternative to the luxury offerings of the Germans. BMW, Mercedes, and Audi have long dominated the segment, with Jaguar left as an old-fashioned niche brand. Even with the more modern look and feel of the XK and XF models, Jaguar still has an image problem, one that goes back as far as the dark days of British Leyland. In an attempt to revive a struggling brand, Jaguar execs have decided that instead of fighting the Germans on the beaches of middle-luxury, they’re aiming for higher ground; specifically, the upmarket offerings of companies such as Bentley.

XJ Portfolio

The XJ: Will the next model be ready to take on the Flying Spur?

The first example of Jaguar’s upper-luxury foray will be the upcoming revision of the venerable XJ sedan. David Blackhall, chief of Jaguar’s Australian division, had this to say about Jaguar’s new direction:

“we talk about Jaguar as premium niche. The way I explain this to people is, closer to Bentley than BMW. That’s the territory we’ve got to keep heading towards in my opinion.”

Focuses on the new car are to provide a new range of engines, replacing the supercharged V8’s with more modern engines ready to compete in the horsepower wars. That said, it is expected we’ll see supercharged V8’s replaced with more supercharged V8’s; gone are the days of straight-six Jags. Jaguar’s history of unreliable V12’s may also keep them away from that configuration for the immediate future, and the break from Ford means they no longer have ready access to the Aston powerplants. Luxury appointments will also have to be suitably upgraded to compete with cars such as the Bentley Flying Spur, which carries a hefty price tag in the area of $200,000.

So, is the new XJ going to be ready to take on the big names? Find out in 18 months when the big cat is unveiled.

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