It’s Friday once again, which means it’s time for another round of my Five For Friday: Five Thoughts about the Auto Industry for March 7, 2014. The Infiniti Eau Rouge goes for the throat, the Jeep Renegade makes a splash in Geneva, more details about Jaguar's compact sedan, the futility of the BMW X4, and a sad farewell to the Ford E-Series - let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
It's no secret that Infiniti's first attempt at a high-end performance trim - IPL - was utterly disappointing, with only minor tweaks being made to each coupe and sedan's suspension tuning and cosmetics. Take two on the luxury sports concept from the Japanese brand looks to be much more exciting, with the Infiniti Eau Rouge sedan that we first saw in Detroit now showing off its overboosted mechanical heart on the stage in Geneva.
Should it go into production, the Q50-based Eau Rouge would be motivated by the same 3.8-liter V-6 engine found in the Nissan GT-R, which means 560 horsepower of turbocharged goodness and a 0-60-mph time of less than four seconds. This is exactly the kind of statement that Infiniti needs to make in order to get back into the conversation with BMW M and Mercedes-Benz AMG buyers, and proof that parent company Nissan hasn’t forgotten how to grab our attention.
Another revitalization scheme was underway at Jeep's Geneva booth where the 2015 Jeep Renegade subcompact SUV showed its face for the first time. The Renegade rides on the same platform as the FIAT 500L people mover, but it wears much boxier styling and the automaker's trademark seven-slot grille. Intended primarily for an extra-U.S. audience, Americans will get a shot at the Renegade later this year, when it swoops into dealerships in a bid to make us all forget about atrocious current offerings like the Jeep Compass. The Renegade will be available in several different configurations, including one that features a low-range four-wheel drive system, which raises the intriguing possibility that what looks like the most fragile Jeep in the line-up might be amongst the most capable in a trail situation given its small footprint and lightweight design.
I've talked about Jaguar's plans for a compact sedan - and just how important this volume-selling model will be for the automaker - before, but now a few more details about the four door have been released following a media conference in Geneva. Specifically, the vehicle will be named the Jaguar XE, and it will come in an aluminum unibody and feature a brand new line of 'Ingenium' engines. The Ingenium detail is a crucial one, because it represents the first set of power plants developed completely in-house by Jaguar since the year 2000. The XE will be built in England, and it is scheduled to go on sale in the United States in 2016.
No one buys 'sports-activity coupes,' or whatever you want to call the sloped-roof, less-than-useful crossovers that have been repeatedly foisted on premium buyers as well as the average family shopper over the course of the past five years. One simply has to look at the sagging number of BMW X6, Honda Crosstour, or (now-defunct) Acura ZDX models that actually make it out the door and into someone's driveway for proof of this fact. Nevertheless, some companies are bound and determined to milk every development dollar possible out of an existing platform, which is why we get automobiles like the new 2015 BMW X4.
Slated to make its public debut next month in New York, the X4 is an X3…with a different roofline. Not only that, the vehicle's roofline intrudes onto both passenger and cargo space to make it not nearly as practical as its compact crossover cousin. Expect the BMW X4 to offer the same drivetrain packages currently available with the X3, and perhaps a hotter suspension setup, but don't expect it to sell in large numbers because so far no brand has been able to crack that particular nut.
My last story for this week is only indirectly related to the fanfare at Geneva: the death of the Ford E-Series full-size van. The E-Series (also known as the Econoline) is being replaced completely by the infinitely more modern Ford Transit family of vans, marking the end of over 50 years of service from the body-on-frame cargo hauler. The E Series was also available in a passenger model, but it's those white vans run by fleet companies or your weird uncle with no fixed address that will forever stick in the minds of anyone who has been alive since the vehicles were introduced in 1961. Spy agencies, plumbers, and private detectives around the world are no doubt also lamenting the loss of this rolling billboard/command center. The E-Series goes out on top, not having faltered from its place as one of the best-selling vans on the market, but rather victim of a growing feeling within Ford that it was time to advance newer, more efficient, and more comfortable technologies in its commercial division.