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Auto Express
by Hilton Holloway

Jaguar's German rivals will be having kittens when they hear the news: the Big Cat is planning a rival for the VW Golf and BMW's new 1-Series.

Auto Express has also uncovered the Coventry firm's decision to replace the X-Type with a more sporting rear-drive car to go head-to-head with the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes C-Class, plus a roadster to take on the Z4 and SLK.

According to a senior Jaguar source, the company is working hard to bring the RD-6 concept to life as a small car which will place Big Cat ownership within easier reach. "The RD-6 was a huge hint at Jaguar building a compact," said our insider. The firm has recognised there is an expanding 'compact premium' market, which is being pioneered by the 1-Series, Saab's 9-2X Subaru Impreza clone and the new Golf V6.

To take these models on, Jaguar has given up its policy of using Ford platforms, and its future vehicles will utilise purpose-built chassis components instead. "There won't be any more transverse-engined Jaguars," revealed our source, acknowledging criticism of the current X-Type, which uses a transversely mounted motor and, on cheaper models, front-wheel drive. Fans have long believed that the company's cars should be exclusively rear-wheel drive.

And it's also thought a 4x4 version of the family drivetrain is being planned. However, the firm must develop an all-new steel chassis to underpin the RD-6, meaning the model is not expected to arrive until 2006. Engineers have already earmarked the powerplants they want, though, including a version of sister company Volvo's familiar straight-six, which will be built in the UK from 2005.

But it won't be worth designing the complex new chassis for only one model, even if it is set to be Jaguar's biggest seller. Which is why insiders say the RD-6 platform will also be used for the X-Type replacement, due in late 2006. Even more exciting is that this chassis is the right size to spin off an affordable roadster project. With a rear-drive platform and new engine line-up at Jaguar's disposal, our insider said 'it seems inevitable' that the F-Type performance car, revealed at the Detroit Motor Show in 2000, will be put back into the company's business plan.
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