XF Crossover 4x4
Controversial, this one, and only a long-odds possibility. Jaguar marketing men envy booming sales of rival brands in this sector and reckon the XF design values could easily stretch to a sleek, stylish soft-roader. Designers have already produced proposals and full-size models.However, the Jaguar/Land Rover decision makers believe Jaguar must resist becoming a 4x4 company, and leave such vehicles to Land Rover, especially as its associate marque is about to move further into the high-style 4x4 bracket with the new LRX.
The proposal for a four-seat, open-top version of the XF is not favoured at present by either engineers or accountants. The engineers don’t want it because of the large amount of unique engineering needed to reinforce the chassis and to make such a large fabric roof. The bean counters are hesitant because of the expense, given the modest expected sales. American dealers are predictably keen, but the company calculates they can attract rag-top customers with the coupé.
Another non-starter. Jaguar’s designers have investigated a sporty wagon, but the idea has been shelved for good. Realists at the firm say it lacks estate heritage, and they take lessons from German estates, which work in Europe but sell poorly in America. Jaguar’s future volume will be a fraction of BMW’s or Audi’s; it couldn’t bear the development costs of a wagon knowing that at least 50 per cent of its potential market doesn’t want it.
The two-tier XK lightweight coupé range that began Jaguar’s fightback hasn’t even reached mid-life yet, but two eye-catching new developments are on the blocks. Closest by far is an ‘unrestricted’ XKR version capable of around 180mph. The precise spec is still being fleshed out, but expect a low-volume model (say 300 a year, at a £10,000-£15,000 premium) with more supercharged power from engine management tweaks – or perhaps even the adoption of the forthcoming 500bhp 5.0-litre, direct-injection V8 – plus ultra-sporty tweaks to décor and chassis. Jaguar admires the progress and profit potential of the AMG brand at Mercedes, and believes it has customers that would like the idea.
Jaguar bosses also admire Mercedes’ CLS. They believe there’s an opportunity for a sporty but practical all-aluminium, four-door version of the XK. Think of it as Jaguar’s Porsche Panamera. This ‘CLS class’ is set to grow rapidly (Aston Rapide, Panamera, Maserati Quattroporte and probably an A6-based A7 from Audi) and it’s natural Jaguar territory. The project is understood to have company-wide backing, but would need big investment.One key decision would be whether to offer V6 petrol engines alongside the normally aspirated and forced induction V8s. At first glance Jaguar might not be inclined to, but by the realistic launch date (not before 2011) Porsche will be selling V6 Panameras. Jaguar wouldn’t much enjoy having its new saloon undercut by a Porsche.
They call this project X351, a major re-engineering of the today’s luxury flagship for 2009, still made in aluminium and broadly similar to the outgoing car in proportions and wheelbase. Jaguar people state openly that the car will be very progressive and have its own identity; it won’t just be a bigger XF. The company is proud of its aluminium body engineering and believes the progression from XK to next XJ (fewer rivets, more extrusions, extra strength but the same fundamental process) will take the new flagship well beyond Audi, the obvious rival, in technical sophistication.The new XJ will offer a choice of two wheelbases, one eight inches longer than the other. The shorter will be the standard model, but this time Jaguar has made it roomy enough for two full-size adults in the back, rather than hurriedly having to produce a long-wheelbase version as a correction for an early mistake.The long-wheelbase version, styled to look graceful and not stretched, will be launched within weeks of the standard version. It will be a true limo, transport for potentates, prime ministers and captains of industry, priced and equipped to suit.
Steve Cropley and Julian Rendell