Inside Jaguar Land Rover’s Billion Pound Engine Factory

JLR powering ahead…

After spending a significant amount of time and effort on creating a model range that ticks the right boxes for quality and diversity, Jaguar Land Rover has been able to turn its attention and investment toward the engine range powering those models. With the need to continuously work toward lower emissions and greater efficiency, JLR has developed their own range of “Ingenium” engines to bring that more tightly under its own control.

The range of engines are manufactured in its new Engine Manufacturing Centre just outside Wolverhampton, which represents a hefty billion-pound investment, including the £450m spent on an 85,000 square metre expansion started in 2015. The building’s environmental credentials are bolstered by the huge number of photovoltaic cells in the roof that provide up to 30% of the electricity needed by the plant, while the detail in the design runs to a self-regulating temperature environment utilising openings in the ceiling, and services all piped in from the top rather than through the concrete floor to allow greater flexibility should the need to move the production line about arise.

The plant, officially opened in 2014 by the Queen (Her Royal Highness’ opinions on two-litre turbo diesel engines remain sadly unknown,) is responsible for the production of all two-litre petrol and diesel engines making up the Ingenium range. While the initial focus was on getting the diesel production line up and running, the petrol line has been producing engines since April, and those will start appearing in customers’ cars this summer.

The stereotype of a dirty factory has long been banished and this is no exception. If you still harbour thoughts of topless calendars, swearing and casual sexism then abandon them now. It’s entirely possible I was the least refined thing in the factory, which was as well-presented as the employees who all looked happy in their activities as they fed the kilometre-long production line.

Comparisons to competitors’ outputs, failure rates and speed of production were deftly avoided but, taken in isolation, this is a superbly impressive facility. Watching both the robot and organic workers going about their business without undue fuss belies the large volume of engines that are continuously dropping off the end of the line ready to be inserted into various JLR models at other sites.

It’s relatively early days for the plant at the moment, so it’s impressive to see it operating so smoothly this early in its lifespan. The mantra of continuous improvement was repeated frequently as we toured the factory, so it’ll be a surprise if greater levels of efficiency were not to be achieved. The one thing that wasn’t possible to check in the course of the visit was how the engines felt when put to their intended purpose.

To rectify this I left the factory in a Jaguar XF with an engine manufactured in this plant. I’ll be sharing my impressions of both the car and the engine in the near future.

Ben Thorpe

Ben is a motoring enthusiast and racing fan, with a passion for anything with a big engine that goes fast. He can therefore be found hanging around drag strips talking unfathomably about 10 seconds and quarter miles. Despite this, and a weakness for American muscle, he drives a SAAB 9-3.

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