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Posts filed under ‘Jaguar’

Classic Cat: The Jaguar XJ-C

June 5, 2013 by Matt

Jaguar XJ-C XJC Silver

Temporarily occupying the two-door niche in Jaguar’s product lineup after the merciful demise of the Series III E-Type, the XJ-C is the stopgap that should have stayed.

More attractive than its successor the XJ-S, which for its part experienced a mixed reception, the XJ-C took the basic XJ6 sedan shape and, by removing the rear doors and B-pillar, subtly polished the natural attractiveness of the already-comely sedan.

Jaguar XJ-C XJC Green Olive

It was offered from 1975 until XJ-S production was in full swing in 1978, and could be had with either of the two engine options offered to its four-door stablemate: The classic XK6 4.2l inline-6 or the big 5.3l V12. In spite of the removal of the door and associated bits, the XJ-C still weighed around 4,000 lbs, so performance was stately rather than sparkling.

Furthermore, as an interim measure, the car exhibited production problems that Jaguar never resolved. Rather than investing in bespoke tooling, the automaker manufactured the car by taking standard XJ6 sedan body panels and modifying them in a kind of factory-sanctioned chop-top operation. The doors, for example, were simply two sedan doors grafted together, and the roof was an assembly-line modification of the original as well. It’s for this reason that all XJ-Cs left the factory with vinyl roofs, to cover the weld seams underneath.

Jaguar XJ-C XJC Interior Inside Cockpit Console Dash Dashboard

Jaguar never really figured out how to make the pillar-less windows seal properly either. In fairness, the car was introduced at the “height” of British Leyland’s infamous domination of its indigenous car industry, and quality control problems cropped up in auto plants across Britain during that period. Still—for as attractive a car as the XJ-C is, and for as much as Jaguar charged for it, it would have been nice to be able to drive through an afternoon shower without having to don a raincoat inside the car. If development capital hadn’t been siphoned off to work out the details of its replacement, perhaps Jaguar would’ve buckled down and really cured the XJ-C’s nagging issues. Then again, maybe not.

I like it a lot. As mentioned above, it’s prettier than the XJ-S and more representative of the classic Jaguar styling idiom, with more feline, resolved lines. Besides, the whole “beautiful but flawed” argument has never really turned me away. Would I drive one every day? No, but as a weekend cruiser it’d be hard to beat.

Image credits: carstainment.com, motorstown.com, jaguarclub.net

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On Jaguar’s Search for a Sporting Identity

May 21, 2013 by Matt

2014 Jaguar F-Type Black Rear

In a recent column, Peter De Lorenzo skewers Jaguar’s latest marketing efforts:

The stewards of Jaguar have decided that they will use the launch of the F-Type to reinvent the brand so as to appeal to a whole new hipper audience. In the process of doing so they will turn the brand into a recurring joke, with “baddest ass badboys” thrown in for good measure.

It’s an insult to the brand’s legacy and a rank insult to anyone who might even be remotely interested in checking the F-Type out.

I’d take it even further, though, and conjecture the British automaker’s recent hit-and-miss attempts to reposition themselves in the marketplace extend past the veneer of marketing, down into the realm of production development. Marketers, after all, although they influence engineers and designers, can only work with what they’re given.

With the new F-Type, Jaguar’s (ambitiously) stated benchmark is the Porsche 911, and yet the car weighs 400 lbs more than a base 911 and sports no manual transmission option, at least initially. Sure, they may load the car up with enough power to dust the German sports car in a straight line, but nowadays your average high-performance luxury sedan from Mercedes and Audi can accomplish that feat—the differences lies in the dynamics. That’s what makes a car distinctive; what gives it personality, character, and over time, what builds a brand image. The F-Type, regrettably, seems to take a page from the retro-themed BMW Z8 playbook in that it tries to be all things to all people—luxury cruiser and tire-smoking sports car—and ends up not being very good at either of them. Not only that, but its design is far too backward-looking in light of the successful launch of the XF and XJ luxury sedans, whose design ushered in new themes for Jaguar and had the opportunity to help position the brand as a design leader, a British Audi, if you will—if they had maintained that forward-looking styling direction.

But…the F-Type is a step backward design-wise, and its powerplant and chassis philosophy reflect a lack of focus on the part of its manufacturer. In light of that, perhaps the marketers are simply making the best of a less-than-ideal situation.

Image credit: autoblog.com

8 Comments

Epic Styling Fail:
The Upcoming Jaguar F-Type

September 21, 2012 by Matt

Jaguar F-Type FType Convertible Cabriolet Cabrio Droptop Ragtop

Why? Why on God’s green earth, with modern materials and engineering know-how, did they do it? I am a whirlwind of righteous design fury; Jaguar is dead to me.

It’s the bar. The Bar. The big black bar bisecting the upcoming F-Type’s grille. It stands out; it’s obvious; it pushes up the logo and bloats the otherwise attractive grille shape.

Shown above in a teaser photo, I had high hopes for Jaguar’s XK replacement. And as much as I took issue with the styling direction represented by the automaker’s C-X16 concept, whose look heavily influences the F-Type’s, I never argued that it was an ugly car. On the contrary, the C-X16—notably devoid of a blocky grille obstruction—was drop-dead gorgeous, and a worthy, if somewhat unoriginal, inspiration for a future Jaguar.

And it seems as if the Coventry automaker followed that path almost to a tee…except for the fatal flaw in the most prominent area of the car.

Yes, I understand there are new European Union pedestrian safety regulations that have been impacting (pun intended) the fascia design of cars as notable as the new BMW 6-series. But Jaguar should have tried harder to design around the regulations for as important a car to the brand’s image as the new F-Type. As juvenile-looking as it is, as it stands now, I’d take an old XK over the F-Type in a heartbeat.

Am I overreacting? I just hate to see Jaguar repeat its styling history, when by the end of their productions runs, initially stunning cars were rendered well-nigh unrecognizable underneath all the design bloat (XK120, E-Type, etc). And now it seems as if they’re building in the bloat from the beginning…

4 Comments

A Stunning Homage: The Eagle Speedster

November 25, 2011 by Matt

Eagle Speedster Jaguar E-Type XKE Roadster Red

Coincidence or not, the release of the Eagle Speedster in the year of the 50th anniversary of the legendary Jaguar E-Type’s debut is entirely appropriate. A car buff’s fantasy of an E-Type with modern running gear, the Speedster takes the classic shape unaltered, tidies up the details of the styling, adds modern power and suspension and prices it into the stratosphere, in the process creating nearly the sensation in the automotive world the original did.

Eagle Speedster Jaguar E-Type XKE Roadster Red

Offered at an eye-watering $780,000 apiece, each Speedster is handbuilt and utterly flawless, qualities which at least partially justify the price. Performance is on par with modern sports cars as well, thanks to the car’s light 2,200 lb weight and torquey, 4.7l, 330 hp straight six. The claimed 0-60 time is around 5 seconds, but then, driving the Speedster isn’t really about raw numbers; it’s about the experience. It’s a delicate balancing act—How to keep enough of the classic car without making it feel old and fragile, and introduce enough modernity without completely bulldozing the classic patina that gives the car its character? If Jeremy Clarkson, in the review after the jump, is to be taken at his word (and there’s no reason not to), it would appear Eagle has pulled it off in spades:

Watch the clip!

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Aero-Racing: The Jaguar D-Type

November 15, 2011 by Matt

Jaguar D-Type DType

A world-beating 3.8l inline-six engine. Then-radical four-wheel disc brakes. Space-frame construction at the front, monocoque in the rear, with aluminum panels that looked like they had been lifted from a Spitfire. An aerodynamically-refined shape with minimal frontal area. Forget pretenders like the Mercedes 300 SLR and Ferrari 375 MM—the ’54-’57 Jaguar D-Type was the true pinnacle of race car development for its era.

Jaguar D-Type DType

It may be a bit cartoonish, but I can’t think of another car, racing or otherwise, that looks like more of a plane-automobile hybrid, from the rounded body contours mimicking an aircraft fuselage to the tail fin. The latter was critical for stability at the D-Type’s 162 mph top speed, a velocity it hit regularly on the non-chicaned Mulsanne Straight at the 24 Hours of Le Mans—an event it won outright three years in a row, from ’55 to ’57.

The car was an evolution of the successful C-Type, itself a special build of the company’s legendary XK120 roadster. Recognizing the limits of the full space-frame design the C-Type employed, Jaguar engineers took a page from their aeronautical counterparts, fashioning a light-yet-strong monocoque for the car’s rear half while retaining a tubular skeleton for the front, all enveloped in ex-Bristol Aircraft designer Malcolm Sayer’s pioneering, slippery sheetmetal. Powered by a dry-sump version of Jaguar’s proven twin-cam XK engine and arrested by fade-free discs all around, the convergence of engineering excellence took the racing world by storm. And even after the D-Type faded into obsolescence in the late ’50s, its innovations long since having been adopted by other manufacturers, the car would lend much of its design elements—the semi-monocoque chassis, XK engine, aerodynamic focus and disc brakes, among other things—to the acclaimed ’61 E-Type, extending Jaguar’s leadership from the racing to the road car realm. An evolutionary step in the progression from XK120 to E-Type it might have been, but the D-Type’s striking looks and racing success cement it as a icon in my mind.

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Sophomore Slumps: The Series 2 Jaguar E-Type

October 18, 2011 by Matt

1970 Jaguar E-Type XKE Series 2 Mark 2 II

This one defines the automotive sophomore slump. Following the home run ’61-’68 Series 1 Jaguar E-Type, the ’69-’71 Series 2 was a complete whiff, and a cautionary tale for other manufacturers about how not to mess with a successful formula.

In essence, for every decision the company made right with the first generation car, they made wrong with its successor. Every subtle styling touch was tampered with and spoiled, and the resulting car lost almost all the delicacy and poise of the original car’s design. Rather than hone and refine the Series 1 E-Type’s look, Jaguar actually went backward, cluttering the shape with ham-fisted, amateurish features.

1970 Jaguar E-Type XKE Series 2 Mark 2 II

There were engineering justifications for many of the decisions. The switch from the earlier car’s beautifully-shaped mouth with a simple bisecting chrome bar to the second-generation’s gaping maw was driven by greater cooling needs. And the wart-like turn signal clusters that appeared on the Series 2’s jowls were probably added to improve lighting visibility. The giant chrome box that took up residence under the newly-connected rear bumper bar was probably unnecessary, though, and its visual weight and angularity clashed with the rest of the car’s sinuous curves. The simple headlight covers disappeared as well, replaced by exposed lights caked with far too much chrome icing.

1970 Jaguar E-Type XKE Series 2 Mark 2 II

Even the engine suffered a styling downgrade. The polished, exposed cam covers gave way to ribbed, matte aluminum pieces surmounted by the carb warming duct. Even when it’s clean, the engine just looks dirty compared to the Series 1’s work of automotive art.

I’ve focused on the styling, but the detuning of the mechanicals also deserves mention. For as much drivability the styling changes added (better cooling, lighting, etc), the dual emissions-strangled Stromberg carburetors took away with vapor lock problems, airflow restrictions, etc. Performance decreased notably compared to the Series 1 E-Type, and reinforced the notion that the Series 2 was actually a step backward from its predecessor.

In fairness, the impetus for many of the changes didn’t arise from the automaker itself, but from the external pressure of US emissions and safety regulations, an important consideration for Jaguar’s biggest export market. That said, I would have hoped the Coventry firm would have dug a little deeper and found a way to accommodate the regulations while still integrating the needed changes more harmoniously with the E-Type’s shape and purpose. The car has eye-popping curb appeal and excellent performance; don’t uglify and neuter the primary reasons 99% of buyers purchase the car. I understand the regulations came out of left field for many automakers and caught many unprepared, but Jaguar wasn’t yet in dire financial straits in the late ’60s; they had the resources to, well, try a little harder. How I wish they would have.

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series highlighting cars whose second generation failed to live up to the promise of the first. Read the other installments here:

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Stunningly Unoriginal: Jaguar’s C-X16 Concept

September 7, 2011 by Matt

Jaguar C-X16 concept

Let me just say this up front: The new Jaguar C-X16 concept is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. The proportions are beautiful, the details are well done, and the whole car is a magnificently tasteful expression of everything we love in a classic British GT—even if the name does succumb to a touch of McLaren-like weirdness.

Let’s get this out of the way, too: The powertrain—incidental as it is to a car whose appeal is 95% predicated on its looks—is a new type of hybrid system. When a The Fast and the Furious-style steering wheel button is pressed, the supercharged, 376 hp 3.0l V6 is augmented by the extra 92 hp of an electric motor grafted onto the gearbox. Cute. But only marginally relevant.

Now, to the issue at hand. When I first laid eyes on the concept last night, my gut reaction was “BUILD IT!” Since, however, I’ve come to appreciate Autoblog‘s critique:

[I]t’s as good as anything from Ian Callum, Jag’s Director of Design, but we’d be remiss not to say that it looks a little dated. Gorgeous, no doubt, but in the same way the XK is a stunner, but fails to quicken our pulse when we see one on the road.

Therein lies the rub, and Jaguar’s quandary as originators and Lord Protectors of the classic British GT faith: How to keep pace with evolving styling trends, offer something fresh-looking and maintain a connection to a uniquely rich heritage—a heritage distinctly dependent on looks rooted in classic proportions, stance and tastefulness.

Jaguar C-X16 concept rear quarter

Sadly, the C-X16 isn’t the solution. I honestly expected more from Callum, the force behind Jaguar’s wildly successful stylistic reinvention. With the latest XJ and XF, he accomplished the herculean task of prying the automaker away from 40-year-old design cues. But with the C-X16, in spite of the updated grille shape and other details, he falls back into old habits. The man who penned such classics as the brand-reviving Aston Martin DB7 and even the latest GT from Jaguar (the XK) doesn’t seem to have a vision for the body style’s aesthetic future as he serves up a collage of other cars’ design elements, from the Aston One-77‘s finned fascia and hips to the BMW Z4 M Coupe‘s greenhouse and rear deck treatment.

Concept cars offer a vision of a brand’s stylistic future, and range-topping GTs like Jaguar’s XK set the aesthetic tone for the rest of the brand. The automaker had the chance to unveil something really daring (like their showstopping XK120 and E-Type of the late ’40s and early ’60s, respectively), but as seductive as the C-X16 is, it’s a missed opportunity.

4 Comments