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Old 01-31-2005, 06:27   #1 (permalink)
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US:Jaguar's Detroit show concept reveals much of the forthcoming XK coupe

Plan of Attack: Jaguar's Detroit show concept reveals much of the forthcoming XK coupe


The design team used sharp lines and creases for the exterior, to impart a sense of power and tension. (Photos by Mike Ditz)

MAC MORRISON/AUTOWEEK

The buzz built steadily over the days preceding the 2005 North American International Auto Show, and while our radar registered bogies from every sector of the automotive battlefield, our anticipation focused most notably on Jaguar. For the first time in more than a year, we expected something good from Ford’s struggling cat, rather than announcements about aborted racing programs, fiscal losses, plant closures or worker layoffs, all of which overshadowed record sales in the U.K. and Europe in 2004.



Journalists therefore packed Cobo Hall’s sports arena in Detroit for the introduction of a concept car rumored to look much like the all-new XK coupe production car, which arrives sometime in 2006 as a 2007 model. That there was a slight hiccup to the whole thing was sadly fitting: In relative darkness, Jaguar design chief Ian Callum drove the Advanced Lightweight Coupe into the arena with—thanks to an electrical gremlin—only one headlight illuminated. So much for the best-laid plans.

Of which Jaguar has many. Besides the behind-the-scenes boardroom maneuvers intended to even out the balance sheets, executives are determined to revolutionize the company’s product range, which explains the buzz for the concept car. While the 3700-pound XK8 may appeal to the eye now as much as it did when launched in 1996, the car’s less-than-nimble reflexes mean it is not among our top choices for switchback shredding.



The ALC indicates the next XK (both coupe and convertible) will be far more suited to its sports car designation. While the non-running (an electric motor propelled it onto the show stage) concept is built from a mix of aluminum and carbon fiber parts, the alumi*num monocoque production car will be the second Jaguar, after the latest XJ sedan, to benefit from Coventry’s aviation-industry-adopted assembly process. As with the XJ, the next XK will shed several hundred pounds as its stiffness and rigidity—and thus ride, handling and crashworthiness—improve massively.

In person and parked alone atop a rotating display, the concept’s proportions, which Callum says are the same as the real car’s, deceive you. It is exactly the same length, at 188 inches, as the outgoing XK, but the ALC is one inch taller and wider. The good news for U.S. buyers, many of whom Callum says “don’t fit our cars,” is that the wheelbase increases by about 2.75 inches and should aid the car’s stability. The extra space translates directly to a more comfortable cockpit environment, where tall front-seat passengers have noticeably more legroom; however, in fine XK tradition, the rear seats remain utterly pointless.




Inside the ALC, likely precursor to the next production XK, it is simple and uncluttered, with aluminum, carbon fiber and hand-stitched leather trim.

Callum says the cabin appointments are “simplistic and pure, which is what Jaguar has always been.” The cockpit is well thought out and a natural evolution of past Jaguar interiors. There is plenty of alumi*num and carbon fiber-like trim contrasting nicely with the hand-stitched leather. The center console, too, is satisfyingly simple, with a visually pleasing lack of buttons and switches; an Alpine telematics screen displays and controls most functions and provides feedback in the form of a pulse when touched.



Interior execution notwithstanding, all eyes were on the ALC’s design cues, from the E-Type grille to the XK120-influenced beltline to a luggage compartment that opens as a hatch. In silhouette, the car appears as you might expect for a new era of Jaguars, but Callum and his design team have infused the ALC with many sharp lines and creases to create a sense of “power and tension.” While Callum is firm in his commitment to implement a “muscular and taut” design philosophy, we heard more than a handful of observers comment about the apparent similarity to several Aston Martins (Callum design*ed the Vanquish, DB7 and DB9), which may or may not be a good thing. All the Jaguar people we spoke to at the show confirmed the ALC to be representative of the real car; however, they did so in a nudge-nudge, wink-wink manner, so we can’t say what will change by the time we see the production XK.

One thing we do know is the powertrain will include updated AJ-V8 engines, both normally aspirated and supercharged. With its lighter weight and a new automatic transmission featuring wheel-mounted paddle-shifters, a company first, the next XKR should easily hit 60 mph in under five seconds, and Jaguar estimates a 180-mph (sans speed limiter) top speed. Expect a more lively suspension, too, especially if the production car keeps the concept’s ridiculous 255/30 front, 295/25 rear 21-inch Pirelli tires.



Regardless of how the XK turns out, the ALC is significant in that Jaguar officials insist it symbolizes their commitment to building stylish, luxurious performance cars—cars that are an indispensable part of the company’s revitalization plan—for the foreseeable future.

“That’s why it was important for us to be here in Detroit with a very, very real statement of the vision of the future for Jaguar product,” said Bibiana Boerio, Jaguar’s managing director.

We want to believe her. For both enthusiasts and Jaguar Cars alike, 2006 can’t come soon enough.



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Old 01-31-2005, 08:16   #2 (permalink)
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Re: US:Jaguar's Detroit show concept reveals much of the forthcoming XK coupe

she is purty
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