The future styling direction of Jaguar will be mapped out by a sleek small saloon concept by Italian styling house Bertone.
Called the B99 — Bertone 99 — the 4.6-metre-long Jag will celebrate next year’s centenary of the design house and shed light on a possible new design direction for Jaguar.
Created in conjunction with Jaguar, the B99 is a Bertone project based around the dimensions of a 4.5-metre-long Mercedes C-class with a slightly lower, sportier roofline. Jag is planning a new compact saloon for 2013/14 and the Bertone design encapsulates the elegant proportions, tight overhangs and sporty stance that the small Jag will need.
“Jaguar is looking at a new design direction and a small car — and we think this is the right style, with a very light glasshouse and the visual weight concentrated on to the wheels,” said Bertone design director Mike Robinson.
The four doors are arranged in a clamshell style and open to reveal a pillarless entrance to an inviting cabin.Key to the design is the Bill Lyons/Malcom Sayer-era proportion, reminiscent of the XJC coupé and Series III, which Jag has fought hard to escape with the fastback XF and XJ.
“Our B99 is definitely not a fastback. We think the fastback lifts the body volume too high above the rear wheels. Jags have always had the weight concentrated on the wheels,” said Robinson.
The body surfacing is clean and subtle, lacking the creases and design devices that increasingly adorn luxury cars. Robinson said the design is not retro: “I’m an anti-retroist. This is not an old classic design. It’s a new classic.”
Ex-Rover and Rolls-Royce designer Adrian Griffiths helped create the B99 as part of the Bertone team briefed by Jaguar design chief Ian Callum and advanced design boss Julian Thomson. The Jag designers then approved the designs before they moved to the model-making stage. “After Geneva, if they like it, we hope to present our designs to Jaguar,” added Robinson.
The sole surviving feature of today’s Jags is the XF/XJ grille, although Bertone has slanted it slightly forward. “This gives a more superior look to the front-end styling,” said Robinson.
Inside, there’s also a return to the ambience of past Jags, albeit with a modern twist. An uninterrupted swathe of polished wood spans the fascia, with four analogue dials ahead of the driver.
The dials are housed in silicon trumpets, the same material being used for the pop-up rotary gear selector. Although the interior has sat-nav screens and buttons, they are hidden behind sliding panels to leave a clear and clean dashboard. “Luxury is not hundreds of buttons in the cabin. It’s nothingness, like a iPad,” says Robinson. In a neat new take on the wood and leather theme, the door panels are trimmed in wood rather than leather.