It’s funny how a mature and well-resolved design can make a car lack ‘surprise and delight’ appeal. Take the Jaguar XE – it’s a great looking car, superbly engineered and, after a quick drive, it was easy to conclude that it’s there or thereabouts at the head of one of the most competitive market sectors. However, seeing it in standard small-wheeled form in silver, it’s a little underwhelming in the looks department, and it leaves me wondering whether the (understandably) safety-first approach to its design, was entirely necessary?
A look back over some of the AROnline’s older pages had me stumble across the old Rover R55 design as penned by Richard Woolley’s Gaydon Design Team, back in the mid- to late-1990s (many of whom are still at Jaguar Land Rover). Here was a car that sported a (then) unconventional set of proportions, with a long-nosed, cab-back stance (thanks to longitudinal front-wheel drive set-up) and effortlessly laid-back detailing from a confident design team that fully understood the direction it wanted to take the company.
Yes, the Rover R55 looked absolutely stunning – unusual and jarring at first glance, but increasingly agreeable the longer you look at it. Now consider this for a moment: the picture above is at least 18 years old, as the R55 was photographed alongside a full-sized, pre-production fibreglass model of the 75.
Now look at the Jaguar: it’s nice looking on big wheels and in the right colours, but is it actually much of an evolution over the original Jaguar XF, launched in 2007? It looks like a car that’s not new or exciting, but an established member of the establishment. Okay, so the same could be said for the current Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series especially, and maybe that’s what’s needed, but I can’t help shes a tear for that wonderful R55, and how a little of its stardust might might well have lifted its grandson just a little.