2 February 2004

Jaguar is heading for a high-tech future with two more of its model range switching to lightweight aluminium construction.

Next year’s XK8 replacement will be the second alloy Jag, followed in 2007 by the new S-type. The shift to riveted alloy construction for the bulk of Jag’s models also increases the likelihood of the next-generation X-type switching to the radical construction method. Such a move on a higher-volume production model would give Jaguar’s junior model, being developed under the X450 codename, a unique technical advantage against rivals like the BMW 3-series and Audi A4.

Meanwhile, Jag’s engineers are working flat out engineering the new XK8, scheduled to start production in late 2005, although customer cars are unlikely in any volume before 2006. According to insiders who’ve seen the finished car, the new XK8 will feature much more muscular styling than the graceful and flowing lines of today’s car. A rising beltline will give the new XK what designers call ‘wedge’ – classic performance car styling – with aggressive shoulders and wheelarches over the rear wheels.

One insider likens the look to the Aston Martin DB7, Jaguar design boss Ian Callum’s best creation. ‘But the car has its own very distinct character, with nose treatment and rear lights very much Jaguar and nothing like an Aston,’ said a source.

At the front, the nose is characterised by the oval grille of the E-type and single-piece, faired-in headlights, while the rear of the coupé bodystyle has a long, sloping roofline and short ‘bustle’ boot over a tight rear overhang.

Underpinning this purposeful styling is a development of the Jaguar XJ’s riveted-alloy unibody. Although Jag’s engineers started with a plan to maintain as much commonality as possible with the saloon, the specific requirements of a coupé bodyshell have forced the company to engineer a largely unique architecture for project X150. Jaguar is sticking to a canvas roof for the cabrio, allowing Jag’s engineers to keep a practical boot and small rear seat, details that XK8 customers value.

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Greater engineering commonality has been achieved with the high-cost powertrain and running gear. So the new XK will share engines, gearboxes, front and rear suspension with air spring units and rear diff with the XJ.

A V6 XK6 has been ruled out because it would cheapen the XK’s upmarket image. By launch time in late 2005, Jaguar will have revisions of its AJV8 powerplants in the pipeline, so expect the 4.2-litre V8 to make close to 320bhp and the supercharged V8 in the XKR closer to 450bhp.

A high-end performance version, the XKR-R, is also in the pipeline, but not for launch until 2008 at the earliest. Jaguar has re-organised its Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division under Mike Lawrence and a range of low-volume performance spin-offs are planned. But production plans for the XK are not hugely ambitious and, in the first year, production of around 14,000 is targeted, dropping to today’s 10,000 a year as the model ages.

The second alloy model in Jaguar’s new model pipeline is the replacement for the S-type (pictured), code-named X250, due on sale in late 2007.

What we show here is an artist’s impression gleaned from insider information. But one critical decision has been made – to make the car out of aluminium.

Ford vice-chairman Allan Gilmour confirmed that alloy was inevitable for the S-type, because the introduction of a second aluminium model would reduce overall tooling costs at Jag’s alloy pressing and body plant at Castle Bromwich.

Essentially, the new S-type will remain faithful to today’s car – a four-seat sports saloon around 4.9m long and with road manners balanced between driving pleasure and ride comfort. And the alloy construction ought to take a significant 100kg out of the new model’s kerbweight, making it around 1550kg – about 20kg lighter than an equivalent BMW 5-series.

The switch to a new aluminium platform will give Jaguar’s engineers complete control over the character of the S-type. Today’s model was engineered on the Ford global DEW98 platform, in the process suffering many design compromises.

A key feature of the new S-type will be a road-hugging stance with wheels and tyres positioned perfectly in the arches. Jag’s engineers are essentially creating an all-new structure that in long-wheelbase layout will form the basis of the XJ replacement in around 2010.

At least two exterior designs and two interior designs are still in the running. Both exteriors are influenced by the R-D6 concept from Frankfurt, while one interior follows the concept’s modern look, the other being more traditional.

But the key difference between the exterior styling of the production S-type and the concept is the front overhang. Crash protection will force Jaguar to engineer a longer front overhang, which Jag’s designers will hide with a strong dose of ‘planform’ – curving the corners of the car.

Otherwise many details of the concept are being planned for production. The nose of the new S-type will have much in common with the R-D6 and its upright, C-type-inspired grille, although details such as the width and profile of the grille surround, the bonnet shut line and the shape of the taper towards the grille will be refined for production.

Powertrains and major componentry will be carried over from the XJ to keep costs down, so don’t reckon on major surprises in the engine bay. Expect 2.5-litre and 3.0-litre petrol V6s, a 4.2-litre V8, 4.2-litre supercharged V8 and a V6 turbodiesel. Also a high-output 450bhp S-type R-R from the new SVO operation.

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