Jaguar is working on a dramatically styled five-door sports hatch featuring lightweight alloy bodywork and new, direct-injection V6 petrol engines.
Priced from £40k, the compact five-door is pencilled in for production around 2014, when it will line up alongside a new front-engined sports car and an estate version of the XF as extensions to Jaguar’s model line-up.
Intended as a luxurious but practical five-seater combining excellent fuel economy with good performance and handling, the sports hatch still awaits the production go-ahead, but is being championed at the highest levels of the company.
The inspiration for Jaguar’s new model is the influential R-D6 hatch first shown at the 2003 Frankfurt motor show. That concept broke Jaguar out of its saloon/sports car design straitjacket, but it never advanced past the ‘nice idea’ stage because the company had other production priorities.
Now that Jaguar has a more solid product line-up and is forging an independent future under Indian owner Tata, the sports hatch is a very serious contender for production.
“There’s a growing feeling with the R-D6 that we really had something very innovative, fresh and different,” a source told Autocar. “Maybe we missed something back then, but the idea is even more applicable now.”
With a compact footprint and lightweight alloy body architecture, the sports hatch, dubbed R-D7 by one insider, would also take a major role in reducing Jaguar’s average fleet output of CO2, which has to hit 130g/km by 2015.
Jaguar’s new model definitely won’t be a ‘cheap’ small car, because the company knows it can never match the production volumes of rivals Audi and BMW. So prices are likely to straddle the middle of the XF range, even though it will be smaller.
The choice of an aluminium body and understructure will push the price up, too, but that fits with the company’s ambitions to move upmarket. And Jaguar will also make sure that the sports hatch won’t suffer the stigma of its previous small car, the X-type, which became too many people’s last Jaguar, rather than their first, as initially planned.
Under the skin, the sports hatch is likely to be planned as part of the next-generation XK sports car and its spin-off, the entry-level XE Porsche Boxster rival. However, the sports hatch could be a version of the XJ and the XF, which looks increasing likely to switch to alloy construction for their next generations.
Tata boss Ratan Tata is said to be a very strong advocate of alloy body construction, a technology that he sees as a vital competitive edge. By sharing with other models, Jaguar will save development and tooling costs, particularly on crash engineering, package design, the electrical system and interior structure.
Three and five-door
Although the detailed engineering and design is some way from being finalised, the current thinking is to launch the sports hatch as a five-door, like the R-D6, with a three-door as a possible later spin-off.
The five-door body style has also been chosen to give the car practicality and everyday usability. “We want to have some utility in the car, but not at the cost of elegance and styling. This still has to be a very beautiful Jag,” said our source.
Assuming the model follows the basic dimensions established by the R-D6, Jaguar’s entry-level car is likely to be around 4.3m long; that’s 600mm shorter than the XF while sitting on a wheelbase about 70mm shorter. Its rear overhang, in particular, will be very tight.
The production car’s doors are expected to hinge conventionally, a change from the concept. That featured a pair of rear-hinging doors based on Mazda RX-8 technology, which Jaguar was then able to borrow from its Ford-controlled sister company.
For production, the rear-hinged doors are understood to have already been ruled out because engineers reckon access to the rear seats is hindered by the interlocking door system, making the engineering cost and complexity not worthwhile.
Jaguar’s exterior and interior design teams are, meanwhile, working on applying the latest XJ styling themes to the five-door hatch body style.
The styling has yet to be finalised but will be strongly influenced by the new XJ, which takes the swooping fastback theme established on the XF and sends it in a new, bold direction. “We’re not going to throw away what we’ve established with the XJ,” said a well placed insider.
One thing is clear: the new Jaguar won’t feature any of the S-type-inspired styling cues of the R-D6, which are now obsolete. The focal point of the sports hatch will be a bold trapezoidal grille flanked by distinctive LED headlamps. Expect a version of the XJ’s polished gills on the front wings, sitting horizontally behind the wheel arches rather than vertically. This new Jaguar styling signature will eventually feature on all models.
A slightly rising beltline will add some sportiness, but the critical part of the styling — the rear hatch — has yet to be resolved. Jaguar drew on its E-type heritage for the R-D6 with a distinctive side-hinging hatch, but it has already accepted that this arrangement is too costly for production. Instead, a conventional, upward-hinging rear hatch will allow Jaguar to pursue the all-in-one glazed hatch and C-pillar theme found on the new XJ.
The new car is likely to get V6 petrol and diesel engines and a new four-cylinder diesel that Jaguar is working on for a 2011/12 launch. The V6 petrol will be an all-new engine, partly developed for emerging markets such as China, where it will be needed for the new XJ.
Borrowing its combustion chamber, valve gear and bottom-end design from JLR’s new 5.0-litre V8 family, the V6 will feature a new 60-degree block and capacities ranging from 3.0 to 3.5 litres.Equipped with forced induction, this V6 could produce strong horsepower for a performance version of the sports hatch.
Jaguar’s new entry-level hatch will also need more frugal diesel engines to get CO2 figures down as the EU tightens the regulatory net around a fleet average of 130g/km. Jaguar is already working on a four-cylinder diesel engine with manual transmission for introduction in late 2011 and that will be a core engine for the new small Jaguar.