Monaco Millionaires’ paradise and home to the rich – very, very rich – and famous. Home also, for six weeks to Jaguar and the launch of the car on which much of its future is based; the XF. And where better to be sitting having breakfast with the car’s Scots designer, Dumfries-born Ian Callum, than on a hotel balcony overlooking the crystal blue harbour where the yachts – no, theseare not yachts, they’re superyachts, apparently! – are worth about as much as the GDP of an African state. They’re massive.
Callum – who learned his trade at the Glasgow School of Art and has penned such stylish motors as the Ford Puma, Aston Martin DB7, as well as the Jaguar XK – is nursing something of a hangover having rather overindulged for the first time in months. Looking rather paler than even he does normally, orange juice and toast are the order of the day.
We’re chatting quietly – very quietly – when one of the Jaguar PR team glides over and asks Ian: “Can you do that interview with Sky now?” “Give me a couple of minutes,” he replies. “Ok,” the Jaguar-liveried girlie smiles. “I’ll get them to set up the camera over there to they can film you with the XF behind you.” “What? They want to film me as well? God, I look like s%&*!” he admits. “Better give me half-an-hour … and get me some paracetamol.” Jaguar girl sidles away and Ian frantically rubs both palms over it in an effort to stimulate some life – and colour – into it. “They never told me it was a bloody television interview,” he admits as he plays with his toast and prays for a sachet of Resolve. “I’m going to look terrible.”
Twenty-five minutes later though, ever the professional, Callum is in front of the Sky camera resting on his XF extolling the virtues and design cues of his latest creation. Hangover? What hangover? The hotel we’re staying in is the Port Palace and if ever you win the lottery and fancy watching the Monaco Grand Prix from one of the most brilliant positions on the sinuous street circuit, this has to be the place to be. Not only does the rear of the hotel’s uppermost balcony/terrace (where Callum was interviewed resting on his Jag) back on to the approach to Casino Square, but the front is directly on the entry to the swimming pool complex. Anyone who has never been to Monaco can only imagine how tight the street circuit is. Only when you see it in real life – and I’m fortunate to have been here on a number of press events – do you fully appreciate the lack of space; lack of vision; lack of run-off area; bumps and humps in the road; and the sheer spectacle of the circuit.
How was the Jaguar XF? It’s not bad. Not brilliant, but certainly very good. Without question the best-seller will be the 2.7-litre V6 turbodiesel. At £33,900 (the same price as the petrol 3.0-litre V6 the model line-up will include two 4.2-litre V8 models, with and without a supercharger, which will occupy between them less than 5% of British sales. The bulk of sales will be a 3.0-litre V6 (20%, and prices start at £33,900) and a 2.7-litre V6 turbodiesel, which will be responsible for 75% of sales and will also be priced £33,900.
That said, our progress through the twisty mountain passes north of Monte Carlo shuddered to a halt when I rounded a tight left-hander and ran over a fist-sized rock. Unable to take avoiding action because of a Fiat 500 on the other side of the road, the big 19in Dunlop deflated instantly after the impact. Thankfully the boys from Jaguar were on the scene in 15 minutes and kindly handed me the keys to their supercharged V8. While I savoured the explosive performance and subdued whine of the supercharger I left them jacking up the front of the stricken XF parked up next to a snow bank. Not a bad swap. The Jaguar XF needed to be good, and it is. Jaguars have never been short of charisma, but matching their rivals objectively has not been so easy. The XF achieves both, admirably, and now the company seems poised for a success that has eluded it for too long. Why Ford seeks to offload it is more of a mystery than ever.
Is the XF the car to lift Jaguar out of the doldrums? Should Ford have sold the company just at a time when things look to be on the up? Let’s hear your views.