Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) launched two crucial new cars around this month's Paris Motor Show. Conceptually, they have much in common: they're both "white space" (a favourite phrase of JLR executives) models that take their respective brands into new segments, and they both share some new technology around safety and multimedia.
The Land Rover Discovery Sport we've told you about already. Except for this bit: it was launched to media just before the Paris show on the River Seine, with two vehicles climbing over an axle-extending "catwalk" on a barge, against a backdrop of giant gumboots - a sly reference to Paris Fashion Week, which was happening simultaneously with the motor show.
Land Rover is going gangbusters and the Sport was launched with British humour: tongue firmly in cheek, more than a little self-deprecating humour.
It's a brand full of confidence.
The Jaguar XE was revealed in a different way in London, in early September: helicopters, boats, bright lights and celebrities: a more serious affair from a brand that needs to make an impression in the compact-executive market against the likes of the BMW 3-series and Mercedes-Benz C-class.
The XE was a huge drawcard on the JLR stand at the Paris Motor Show. This was its first public appearance and people were embracing the first chance to see it up close and settle into the luxurious XJ-like cabin.
The XE and Discovery Sport will likely sell in similar volumes in New Zealand, but it's the Jaguar that carries much more responsibility for its brand.
Land Rover is already on a roll and it's hard to see the Discovery Sport not being a hit.
With XE, it has to prove itself against some accomplished and well-established competition.
XE's modular platform is constructed from 70 per cent recycled aluminium.
On paper, the ingredients are there. The XE might be Jaguar's entry-level model, but it's without doubt the most advanced and exciting vehicle in the range. It's the first to be based on a new modular platform, constructed from 70 per cent recycled aluminium. It's the most rigid Jaguar made and the most aerodynamic, too.
The XE does illustrate how far Jaguar has come with its aluminium construction. When it started in 2003 with the previous-generation XJ, the body was comprised of 70 per cent steel and 30 per cent alloy. Now, with the XE, those ratios have been reversed. It's the first production car in the world to use an alloy called RC 5754, which contains only a small amount of primary material blended with the recycled - to ensure quality and consistency, says Jaguar.
Jaguar is proud of the XE's "aluminium intensive" construction and confident about the quality, too: it has a wealth of experience with this material, both in the flagship XJ sedan but also in Range Rover product. The XE is being built in an all-new facility at JLR's Solihull plant in the United Kingdom.
Jaguar displayed a naked version of the car on the banks of the River Seine in Paris during its pre-show media conferences.
There are new engines as well, from a family that JLR calls Ingenium. The diesels have come first, with 2.0-litre engines in 120kW and 132kW specifications. The four-cylinder petrol engines are still sourced from former parent company Ford: EcoBoost (although Jaguar doesn't call it that) 2.0-litre powerplants, as used in the XF. But Ingenium petrol engines will eventually come as well.
The flagship performance version, the XE S, borrows its 3.0-litre V6 turbo from the F-Type.
It boasts 250kW and can accelerate from standing still to 100km/h in just 5.1 seconds.
Jaguar claims that the XE will be "the driver's car in the segment": easy to say when the car is still months away from launch and certainly a bold claim in company such as the BMW 3-series. But on paper, the company has taken some serious steps towards achieving that goal: aside from the stiff, light aluminium structure, the XE has new Integral Link rear suspension, torque vectoring by braking and Jaguar's first electric power steering system, which is tuned for what the maker calls the "50-metre feel": a first impression of responsiveness and accuracy, while also enabling features such as automatic correction for road camber and self-parking.
The XE also introduces All Surface Progress Control - another feature that owes a lot to Land Rover. Think of it as cruise control for slippery surfaces: at up to 30km/h, the car can maintain steady and smooth progress on low-friction surfaces with ASPC activated.
New electronic architecture also means the XE introduces new driver-assistance and safety features. There's a laser head-up display, which Jaguar claims is a first for the industry and a third lighter than existing TFT-based systems. The XE has a forward-facing stereo camera system and radar, which brings features such as automatic autonomous braking (at up to 80km/h), adaptive cruise control with automatic collision avoidance, blind spot monitoring with close vehicle sensing and lane departure warning.
The XE also dispenses with JLR's dated infotainment system in favour of a new setup called InControl, with an eight-inch (20cm) colour touch-screen with pinch and swipe functionality (similar to a smartphone). It does carry over JLR's clever DualView technology, which allows driver and front passenger to see different outputs on the same screen: so the passenger can watch a movie which is blocked from the driver's line of sight. There are also InControl-approved applications for Android and Apple users.
The XE can't come soon enough for Jaguar, which has been without a car in this crucial segment since the X-Type was discontinued in 2009. The Land Rover Discovery Sport will land in New Zealand in April, the XE won't arrive until August.