Jaguar has unveiled the first SUV in its history – the C-X17 concept – at Frankfurt, but design director Ian Callum admits that for a long time he felt uncomfortable about doing it.
“At Jaguar we are used to designing low cars and this is the exact opposite,” Callum says. “I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea, although there were a lot of people within the company who did. But it is what a whole generation wants, especially in places like China. During the development of the F-TYPE the information came back that their idea of a performance car is one of these.”
The biggest challenge in creating an SUV faithful to Jaguar’s heritage was in getting the proportions right, says Callum. “A lot of that was caused by the position of the cabin and the requirement to mount the engine north-south,” he adds.
“It has been designed to take engines up to a V6, although I’m sure we could get a V8 in. We had two or three attempts before we got it right, and even went as far as building clay models. It’s something we solved by working millimetre by millimetre.”
The car is based on Jaguar’s all-new aluminium vehicle architecture, iQ Al, which will be used for the first time to create a BMW 3 Series-sized saloon in 2015. Jaguar insiders stress that at this stage the C-X17 – the initials stand for Concept Experimental, and it is the 17th such car created for the company under Callum – is nothing more than a design exercise.
But it appears to have been created with production possibilities in mind, and it is hard to imagine that buyers in many parts of the world would turn down the chance to own an SUV from what is currently the fastest-growing premium brand in the world. Jaguar’s global sales from January to July rose by 33% compared with the same period of 2012, and were up by 65% in July.
The most extreme part of the car, Callum says, is the four-seat interior. It has been made as simple as possible, with the minimum of buttons and switches, but features exotic instruments and graphics, dog tooth-patterned leather, minimalist seats, lots of piano black, slatted headlining beneath a glass roof and touch-screen technology front and rear.
Callum says the touch-screen system is something Jaguar is working on for the future. “I wanted to really clean up the interior,” he says.
“I’ve got a real thing about seats at the moment, and I’m looking at the E-type seats as one idea. And you’ll notice there is no wood. That’s not to say we will give it up, but there are other things in life.” In the luggage area there are two pop-out picnic seats, which Callum describes as “a bit of fun and indulgence”.
The front grille and headlamps are similar to those on the XF and XJ saloons. “We’ll continue with them,” says Callum. There is a typical Jaguar power bulge in the bonnet, slim side windows, Coke-bottle rear haunches influenced by the F-TYPE, horizontal rear light units, barreled sides to reduce the impression of bulk and a dramatically profiled roofline.
The C-X17 is slightly larger than an Audi Q5 at 4.7 metres long and 1.6 metres tall, and sits on 23-inch wheels. “This car has proper ergonomic packaging,” says Callum. “It’s a concept car, but it’s a driveable concept. It’s one bookend of what we could do with our new architecture and it shows the flexibility in proportions it gives us.”