Despite the world and its daughter knowing that there’s a new small Jaguar sports car on its way, the appearance, and overall beauty of the C-X16 still managed to surprise the world’s media when the first pictures appeared days before its Frankfurt début. The question that’s on everyone’s lips is when does the production version, tipped to be called XT, go on sale, and how close in style to the concept will it be?
One thing’s for sure – C-X16 is the result of a lengthier gestation than you might imagine. An entry level Jaguar sports car has been on the product plan since at least 2006, and following Tata’s buy-out of the company in 2008, it’s said that Ratan Tata’s first major product decision was to get the new sports car codenamed X152 into production. Three years on, we get our first sighting of the results of that decision, and in a marketing plan rather similar to Land Rover’s with the Evoque, the new Jaguar will make it to production almost untouched from the concept – with only awkward to engineer details such as the side-opening hatchback not making the cut.
Marketing the car will be interesting, because it would appear that it doesn’t have any close natural rivals. At the anticipated list price of £55,000-70,000, it undercuts the Aston Martin V8 and Porsche 911, but it’s also probably rather less focused than the Porsche Cayman. Of course, we’ll know the answer to that question when it goes on sale – sometime in 2013-’14, depending on how hybrid development progresses.
It would have been sooner had the 3.0-litre V6 was to be a stand-alone engine option, but as Jaguar is taking alternative drivetrain technology very seriously indeed, this will need to be perfected first. Given that Williams F1 is co-partnering Jaguar on the gas turbine hybrid system on the beautiful C-X75 (which is certain for production too), there will be useful cross-pollination between the projects.
The underpinnings of X152 will use elements of the all-aluminium XJ platform, and keeping weight down will be of paramount importance. Forget thoughts of a cut-down XK platform (the prototypes doing the rounds are lash-ups), it will be all new underneath. Jaguar is setting itself some tough performance benchmarks for the production C-X16, and the figures quoted for the concept tell their own story: 0-60mph in 4.4sec and a limited maximum of 186mph.
That supercharged V6 produced 375bhp and 332lb ft, and is based upon the impressive modular AJ-V8. It’s heading for production, too, seeing the light of day in the XF and XK before being rolled out in the C-X16 – a long-standing Jaguar tradition. It will be EU6 compliant, so that means stop/start and lean-running. In the concept, it’s combined with the 95bhp electric power pack to deliver those impressive stats, as well as 165g/km of CO2 emissions.
But it’s the C-X16’s styling that dominate first impressions of the car – and unlike the XK, XF and especially XJ, which moved forward the marque’s design language by breaking with the past, the more organic C-X16 is instantly recognisable as a Jaguar. Design boss Ian Callum says it is, ‘an evolution of the design ethos of past Jaguars,’ but adds, ‘it defines an agenda for a future of dramatic, innovative sports cars.’
It is stunning, especially around its carefully crafted flanks, and the haunches in the three-quarters are unmistakably Jaguar. There are a number of design mechanisms that link the C-X16 with the original E-type, such as the rear lamps and hatchback, but they are handled delicately and at no point is there a whiff of retro about them. In short, it’s a masterclass. And the good news is that, barring the tiniest of tweaking, it will make production looking just like this. Elements of the prototype are far too sophisticated to be anything than production ready – including the pedestrian-friendly nose.
And that’s what makes the C-X16 so exciting. What we’re looking at is a Jaguar’s new sports car – arguably its first since the Jaguar E-type Series 1 – in production ready form. It comes on the back of what has been a particularly fertile period for the company, with the XF and XJ increasing sales, and the XK entering its post-facelift phase looking stronger than ever.
The production X152 will hit the market strongly, undercutting the Porsche 911, while offering XK owners the most appealing downsizing path. And don’t underestimate that – Land Rover Evoque has taught JLR all about the benefits of offering an appealing entry-level model that is just as appealing as the full-fat model.
The C-X16 is going to be a massive success for Jaguar – and will bring much needed younger custom to the showrooms… will they now have the bravery to launch an entry level saloon/crossover to continue the company’s successful run?