Jaguar chief designer says government regulations hindered redesign of new XK
MARK RECHTIN | Automotive News
FRANKFURT -- Critics are already debating whether Jaguar blew the design of its upcoming flagship XK coupe, pointing to an uninspired front end.
Jaguar chief designer Ian Callum defends his work heartily. Yet, in an interview here with Automotive News, Callum was quick to blame U.S. and European government regulations that he said hindered his ability to create the car he wanted.
In fact, Callum warns that upcoming regulations are restricting vehicle design so that certain vehicles -- especially coupes -- will look similar, no matter who designs or manufactures them.
For instance, upcoming European pedestrian-safety laws require specific measurements that affect the shape and height of the front quarter panels and wheel arches. In addition, a 70-millimeter gap is required between the hood's sheet metal and the topmost piece of the engine, to cushion pedestrian impacts. That made the XK's hood more bulbous than Callum would have liked.
Next to obstruct Jaguar designers were restrictions regarding the height of the front header, the roof's cross member connecting the A-pillars. Compared to the production design, Callum wanted a header that was 20 millimeters lower, which would have made the roofline and greenhouse areas much sleeker.
But he said an obscure U.S. crash safety regulation regarding unbelted occupants mandates specific header heights in relation to the occupant.
Raise the header, and the roofline has a more bloated look to it.
"If you look at the Mercedes-Benz SL's header, their measurement is different by only a half-millimeter to ours," Callum said.
Lastly, after generations of oval-shaped headlamps, Callum wanted the new XK's swept-back lights to create some "discord" in the car's design. But U.S. crash regulations restricted how far rearward the lamps' lenses could extend.
Then there are the design cues that Callum did on purpose, which he defends vigorously.
The most frequent critical comment so far: that the XK's oval grille was ripped from a Ford Taurus.
Callum responds to that charge through gritted teeth: "It's a Jaguar grille. BMW has its kidney grille. Mercedes has its grille. And Jaguar has its oval grille."
Jaguar has used oval grilles on the D-Type, E-Type, XJ220 and XJ13 vehicles, Callum said. The badge in the center of the grille also was used for the E-Type. In fact, Callum said he is studying how to incorporate oval grilles in every Jaguar in the future lineup.