The beginning of a new decade is a great opportunity to pause, reflect and consider. And so it proves the perfect opportunity to review what an amazing, tumultuous and fertile period it’s been for the British car industry. As the 2010s begun, we were awaiting the reboot of MG, keeping our fingers crossed for Jaguar Land Rover and applauding MINI for bringing a dose of Cool Britannia to the premium small car sector (by largely creating it).
Ten years on, and the automotive landscape has changed almost beyond all recognition. We’re still waiting for MG’s second coming, Jaguar Land Rover was saved by the brilliantly-timed and judged Range Rover Evoque, while MINI seemed to lose its design direction thanks to the heavy-handed styling of the F56-generation model. Of the three mentioned here, Jaguar Land Rover is the shining star – and has been through a decade that has truly seen it all.
But let’s cut to the chase here – the Jaguar I-Pace is our stand-out Car of the Decade, not just for AROnline, but for the British motor industry as a whole. Okay, it could be argued that it’s difficult justifying a car – and a costly one at that – launched in 2017, and built in Austria, to represent the entire decade. However, such is the pace of change, and the rapid move towards electrification, this is the correct decision – not just for now, but going forward into the 2020s.
Jaguar I-Pace: sticking it to the opposition
So, why the I-Pace? Well, bear in mind that Jaguar Land Rover has been through one hell of a decade, needing to develop an all-new family of engines and a factory to build them, introduce new platforms, models and enter market sectors that had been dominated by the Germans for years. It needed volume through growth, and needed it quickly. It expanded overseas with new assembly and production operations, and maintained an enviable premium image that shines as strongly now as it has ever done.
And you know what? Jaguar Land Rover managed to succeed in delivering all it set out to. It wasn’t without hiccoughs, though. Quality and reliability took a dive, and there were numerous issues with the Ingenium engine that would take time to sort, while testing the patience of its hard-won customer base. The Jaguar XE and XF haven’t exactly flown out of the showrooms, either, although the E- and F-Pace seem to be doing the numbers now. And in the wake of Volkswagen’s (and the industry’s) Dieselgate crisis, the company’s over-reliance on diesel really started to hurt in the late 2010s.
Still, with all that going on, Jaguar managed to unveil the I-Pace in 2017 before going on general sale the following year. Although it lagged behind the pace-setting Tesla Model S and X in terms of tech and range, and lacked their bespoke (and wonderful) charging network, the I-Pace’s great styling, interesting (and well-finished) interior and fabulous dynamics made it a great advert for Jaguar Land Rover’s eventual march towards electrification. And in getting the car out when it did, it beat Audi and Mercedes-Benz to the SUV-shaped EV party by more than a year. A good news story indeed.
Will the I-Pace be a winner?
That’s the million dollar question. Well, we know that sales of EVs are only going one way right now. In the UK, 60,000 were sold in 2018, which should balloon to 80,000 in 2019 before exploding towards 120,000 in 2020. There’s political, fiscal and cultural pressure for an increasing number of buyers to head down the EV route and, with manufacturers like Jaguar offering appealing cars with a 200 mile plus battery range, more are bound to take the plunge – not just the early adopters. The I-Pace is well placed to benefit.
Jaguar Land Rover did extremely well to get the I-Pace on to market when it did, and for it to be such an excellent product. However, it needs to follow up with more EVs – and quickly – in order not to be left behind by the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, all of whom are promising waves of new EVs by 2025. We should see the electric Jaguar XJ quite soon, but what we need are the volume sellers to meet the challenge posed by the brilliant Tesla Model 3 and the upcoming Volkswagen ID.3. That will make the 2020s just as challenging as the 2010s for Jaguar Land Rover.
So, if Jaguar Land Rover transforms itself in the coming decade, we’ll look back on the I-Pace as the true gamechanger that kicked it all off. As it stands, it’s already earned its Car of the Decade spurs for the 2010s.
The real Car of the Decade: the one they all bought…
All that said, it’s impossible not to talk about the AROnline Car of the Decade without giving an honourable mention to the brilliant Range Rover Evoque. It’s no exaggeration to say that it transformed the Jaguar Land Rover business by not only generating super-profitability, but by successfully extending the Range Rover brand into new and uncharted territories. After all, it was pretty much a re-clothed Freelander 2, and heavily based on Ford technology.
In short, the Evoque managed to reinvent the premium car market and created a new class of vehicle. Whether you love or hate the profusion of posh crossovers that followed it, there’s no denying that the Evoque has been good for the British car industry – especially as it’s now matured into the second-generation model, which will become a plug-in hybrid in 2020. We’d like to see it follow in the footsteps of the Jaguar I-Pace by becoming a full electric car, but there’s still life left in the good old internal combustion engine. For now…