FRANKFURT, Germany – Jaguar is not committing to a production model of its C-X17 concept cross/utility vehicle unveiled at the Frankfurt auto show this week.
For engineers, the show car, developed in less than a year, is a tool to test the limits of the new highly advanced modular aluminum architecture that underpins the CUV and on which they have been working for several years.
For designers, the concept is meant to determine whether traditional Jaguar patrons will accept the idea of the luxury marque expanding its lineup to include other body styles such as utility vehicles and if the introduction of a CUV would impact sister-brand Range Rover’s leadership in the field.
Kevin Stride, Jaguar’s vehicle line director, says the auto maker plans to grow its range “intelligently,” citing the addition of the all-new midsize sports sedan coming in 2015, but “we are going to take our time to make a decision about new models.
“This is the case for the C-X17 crossover’s development,” he tells WardsAuto in an interview at the auto show here. “We all know there is a big market there, but we need to be sure there is a role for a Jaguar in that arena.”
Designers see the C-X17 as a test of their talent in creating a tall vehicle, with entirely different dimensions than those with which they are used to working. A Jaguar must be beautiful, but can a CUV be elegant, sporty and luxurious? That’s the question the C-X17 is here to answer.
Julian Thompson, director-Jaguar Advanced Design, believes it can. “We have considered and experimented with the height of the car at all stages of development,” he says. “We started with a lower configuration, but eventually had to come to the decision that this is the right height.”
Jaguar is displaying the C-X17 at the show to keep the momentum going in its future-vehicle development. The upcoming sports sedan has importance both as the brand’s first production application of its new modular platform and as the industry's first aluminum monocoque product in the segment.
“(But) there is a lot more to the new architecture than the aluminum technology Jaguar has been mastering through the past 15 years in relatively high-production volumes,” Stride says.
“What we are aiming at with the aluminum monocoque is for a very stiff structure that is not heavy, rather than just minimizing weight.”
This is critical, but the aluminum platform is one of many pillars of the new architecture, which Stride and Ian Callum, Jaguar’s design director, have investigated, researched and tested over the years to align established Jaguar values of driving finesse, sporty character, elegant style and dynamic looks with modern technologies.
When the time came to plan for an all-new flexible platform for the Jaguars of the future, designers and engineers investigated all the relevant factors that would allow the architecture to accommodate a wide range of model types, size and derivatives.
“We needed to think of all possibilities for the future, even if we knew we would not do everything, and to do that we needed to choose a set of technologies rather than the best parts and components we have access to,” Stride says.
“Our belief was, and is, that every…new-generation (model) must drive and feel like a real Jaguar. We all knew this was a matter of body structure, sure, but also of suspension, steering and powertrain response, and of braking, handling and comfort; all a matter of agility.
“Consequently, day after day, we developed a sort of philosophy serving as the fundaments of a new approach to design and engineering. The new architecture is a result of constant dialogue between designers and engineers working as a unique, holistic team.”
Where to position the wheel and how to set the distance between the front axle and the driver’s H-point were both crucial and strategic questions the team answered together. “We researched again and again the answers to those questions,” Stride says.
Similarly, “the designers’ sleek silhouettes, low and flowing lines at the front, called for low suspension domes and hence the sophisticated double-wishbone suspension at the front, with enough room under the skin for high flexibility for engines, transmissions and integrated hybrids.”