Armed with our Eurostar billet AROnline’s continental correspondent, Andrew Elphick, breaches the main gate at Paris Expo Porte de Versailles armed with just €14 and a ballpoint pen…
So what’s new? To find out we headed straight over to the combined Jaguar Land Rover stand. Let us be clear here – it was a scrum, the French public couldn’t contain themselves for a piece of the XE/Discovery Sport action. Imagine the stand had Sophie Loren passing out free champagne, whilst wrapped only in a towel, and you might just be able to envisage the scrum! No less, being after the scoop we secured access.
So what’s the lowdown on the XE? First impressions it’s BIG, almost XF in stature. Whilst the XF is a gentleman’s express, the XE is gunning quite simply for the Audi A4 S line and BMW 320 M Sport customer. In the metal, the XE works far better than any over-processed press photo – the deep sculptured air intake and hunched arches really work, the metal ducktail spoiler stamped into the boot lid is a delicious detail.
Even on the smaller wheels and tyres the track and proportions gel very well indeed. Truthfully, I was “so-so” about the whole XE media circus last month, but in the metal it is a winner. A winner with some flaws, however. That swooping “A” pillar treatment happened to be very close to my head as I climbed aboard and, oddly, the steering wheel is offset, despite the driver’s seat and pedals having perfect alignment.
Space in the rear is purely for those whose voice hasn’t broken yet with fairly tight legroom, and the central armrest does stick into your thigh when lowered. However, your kids will love the double 12v outputs and the huge rear door bins, just waiting to be filled with Lego/Crayola/mystery sticky substance. In the front the ambience is excellent with plenty of space – no traditional Jaguar transmission tunnel crush – and all controls are seemingly where you might expect. The dash top has a “wrap round” effect that will have Rover P6 owners smiling to themselves. Go for the pale interior trim is our tip.
Mechanically the Ingenium Diesel will be the big seller (despite the 4 cylinder petrol being £3000 cheaper and coming complete with an autobox). Details are already AROnline, but suffice to say the air intake is sensibly mounted at bonnet lip level, so you will be able to drive through puddles without fear of hydraulic locking the engine! Unusually the diagnostic slot features in the boot along with the “adblue” filler. A nod to future emissions adblue (or diesel exhaust fluid – its correct moniker) is a liquid that chemically neutralizes the NOx emission by injecting a small percentage into the diesel. This delightful non-toxic solution is a worry for the water table though, and does a feature a urine content – no were not taking the pee…
In conclusion? The XE is affordable and desirable, and has a pleasant quality everywhere you touch – we hope it drives just as well.
Across the way Land Rover were showcasing the Discovery Sport, your 2015 Freelander. The exterior is instantly recognisable as a Land Rover family product – we especially like the “radar” display heated rear window with its curved arcs of elements. Poke your nose down by the wipers and you might spot the auxiliary airbags too, mounted on the trailing edge of the bonnet. In the metal the Discovery Sport is the opposite of the XE – it looks dinky despite not being that lithe. The Sport also happens to be quite colour sensitive – old money to Footballer’s wife in seconds if you select the wrong shade!
Overall, the Discovery Sport’s exterior is inoffensive, but hardly ground breaking – a fitting Freelander replacement. Jaguar rather than Range Rover colours seem to suit it best. Possibly the Gaydon photocopier may well have dropped the ball – had this been a new Hyundai we would have stopped, said “that’s nice” and carried on walking.
Inside, the surroundings are very pleasant, if not ground-breaking, but suffer from what I call the Ford Focus effect – if you can reach it from the steering wheel it feels fabulous, if you can’t it feels Yugo… awful sub-FSO quality plastic adorns the seat backs and rear sear sill covers, which if you try to access the back seat (not easy at all) you will scuff to pieces. Quite a poor effort from Solihull – I guess Gerry McGovern only travels to the Salon (Paris or Cut & Blow) in the front.
One potential turnoff for the female buyer was spotted by a fellow passenger – as she opened the delightful door she shrieked as her €50 nails were almost removed by the stylish but ergonomically awful door catch, bad news for the school run target market we do wonder.
Over at MINI the new 5 door had centre stage. Little changed from its prototype Geneva bow earlier in the year, once again the French public couldn’t get enough of the new British-built hatchback. Coincidentally, the ghost of the ADO17 Landcrab hovers over it, especially that kick at the bootline. (Size-wise it’s just 7” shorter than the BMC family favourite). Rear access is good and as capacious as any other supermini, (if priced a sized above). Sadly, though, more mainstream than MINI fans might be used too – means we lose the delicate frameless windows on the 5 door as shown below.
Also on the Paris stand, in its first outing outside a Concours d’ elegance, was the Superleggera. E type-esque in details, and far sexier than the frumpy production roadster, it does actually seem to suit the fish-eyed look that is infecting the brand. The desirability stems from the crispness of the details – once a hallmark of the 2001 MINI, but now in the third generation, the MINI is gaining an unfortunate washed pebble effect. Could this be a niche in the brand we actually would like from BMW?
Adjacent to the MINI stand, German-owned, but British-built Bentley let themselves down, spotting number plates bearing a hash tag! A hash tag – how vulgar Bentley; a beautiful car spoiled for a lowly social media shortcut. Come on Crewe you’re better than this! We do jest, as the Pyms Lane luxury saloon looked divine, especially the new Mulsanne Speed. Check your lottery tickets now folks!
And the rest? You know those rival marques (!) – over at Renault we had sublime and ridiculous: sublime the simple Twingo rear door handle/bag handle – simple yet genius. The rear suitcase engine supermini continues to delight, as did its Smart Forfour half-brother.
The ridiculous? The new Espace, I can describe thus: a car for French civil servants. It can serve no purpose as a luxury car as it has three abreast comfy, but not quite big enough rear seats – so no use a luxury large French chariot. As an MPV, access to the rear seats requires a degree in mechanical engineering and lots of bits were broken inside already, ergo useless for family travel. From the cockpit it made sense, but isn’t a large French car bought for one the above?
Sadly’ the styling can be summed up as thus: German van stylist instructed to imagine an Avantime….
Anyway, if you fancy a trip, you have till Sunday to investigate, more information here…