Now known as the F-Type, the Jaguar C-X16 concept made its one and only Canadian appearance at the 2012 Toronto auto show. I got the full scoop on this gorgeous GT coupe for Autonet from none other than its creator, Ian Callum, design director for Jaguar. By the sound of things the C-X16 is more than just a design concept for Jaguar, but you’ll just have to keep reading to learn more.
Start by telling me when the C-X16 first became the twinkle in your eye?
Personally, I’ve wanted to do this car since I arrived at Jaguar 12 years ago. It’s been in the back of my mind for a long time. It really started to materialize a couple years ago when our M.D. at the time, Mike O’Driscoll, came in and said he wanted to do this car as well. He’s since retired unfortunately, but he said, and I totally agreed with him, ’it’s about time we start looking at a two-seat sports car for Jaguar.’ We’ve got a 2+2 GT and it’s very much an extreme GT, but we wanted to get back to the roots of what Jaguar performance is about, and this is it for me!
So, you’ve wanted to design this car for a long time then?
Absolutely! This is one I really felt would hit a bulls-eye for the brand, but we’ve had other things to do. It’s been something I’ve always wanted to do, but we had to go on with normal working life doing XF and XJ, so it was always on the back burner. But it’s starting to take priority now.
Did Jaguar’s change of ownership affect the speed at which the C-X16 came about?
No. In actual fact, it was actually a project we were working on when Mr. Tata arrived, and he was extremely supportive of it. In fact, he encouraged it; so, I suspect it probably sped things up a bit. We haven’t made a commitment to building yet but if the public attention is anything to go by there’s every opportunity to seriously think about it. It’s a concept car that addresses all of the legalities that we are aware of to build a real car, so it’s not entirely unfeasible.
Where do you start with a design like this?
Well, the first things I look for in any Jaguar is to just get the overall proportions of the car right – the roofline, the length of the bonnet, the height of the roof and the way the back actually slopes much lower than most cars do. I really love that profile and, for me, that’s probably the most exciting part of the car. But it doesn’t happen by accident. You have to work almost millimetre by millimetre to get that line right. There’s a little bit of E-type in there, unashamedly of course, but reinvented into a hopefully very modern way. The C-X16 is not retro in any way but it’s got a little hint of that very simple E-type shape, which is so exciting.
What’s your favourite part of this design?
The car also has a side opening rear glass (whether or not we would ever put that into production is probably debatable), which is something I insisted on this car as a bit of nostalgia. It’s made from a single billet of aluminum and weighs a lot; trick stuff and an indulgence for a show car.
Any other indulgences?
This car started off metallic grey, we painted it pearl white for L.A. to give it a bit of freshness but I’d quite like to see it bright red. The cars you see in the video over there are actually the same car.
That’s not just a video editing trick? How long does it take and what’s involved?
We don’t just mask it up and paint it, we rebuild it. We take it back to its original panels, take the interior out, repaint it all and then put it all back together. It takes a good two or three weeks, but the team that built the car takes it apart again so they know what to do.
What engine does it have?
This has a V-6 engine with a supercharger with I think between 360 and 380 hp and a hybrid electric drive unit, so it’s a V-6 hybrid overall.
Where might the C-X16 fit into the Jaguar lineup?
It is a smaller car and would be less expensive than a XK, but it’s a much edgier car then the XK. I mean, the XKR-S is a pretty edgy car but a car like this would be even sportier still, so it would be quite a raw sports car.
So you say, it may well be competing with the Acura NSX in a few years then, eh?
That’s interesting because the NSX is only a recently development, so nobody at Jaguar really has had a chance to go out and analyze it. From what I know of the car I suppose it would be pretty close contender. Have no idea where that car would be priced, but in many ways it would be a similar customer profile.
Tell me more about the C-X16 concept.
You have to start with a package – so you start off with the fact you’ve got two people in there and an engine – and you try to wrap the package up as tightly as possible. From the very beginning the roofline was very important to me, and then I work by the principle that every line on the car has to be very simple, unambiguous and very beautiful. The feature line of the car and the window graphic is really what wraps it all up. To me, the line that runs from the very front of the front fascia through the lamp, through the fender and into the door is the key visual line of the whole car and everything was built around that. It may not be that evident especially here in white, but if you see it outside in natural light, you can see how the whole car hangs from that.
What were some of the challenges you faced in designing this beautiful specimen?
An interesting challenge we had was what front end to put on it. This is effectively a very similar design to the XF and XJ but it’s proportionally more suited to a sports car in how it came about. The real challenge for us is in wrapping the sheet metal – or aluminum in this case – as tightly around the mechanicals of the car as possible. This is what really drives the whole entity of the car and that’s what sports cars should be.
Did your team design anything special for the interior?
It’s very much driver focused, including the aesthetics. All of the controls in it are quite tactile and many of the switches are real functional mechanical switches because we feel that’s what sports cars are all about. If you look at higher-spec cars, like the XJ for example, everything is very much about the digital world. The C-X16 interior, in terms of its usability, is much more analog and that was very important to us. The seat design is all about minimalism and inspired a little bit by the original E-type. It’s a very minimal seat, somewhat more sophisticated in this car, but the idea of keeping it very slim and minimal was very important as well. The bright red interior of this car was my indulgence. Even some of my design team squinted a bit but I got what I wanted in the end.
What other limitations were you forced to work with when trying to get the C-X16 exactly the way you envisioned it?
Bearing in mind that the car has got to be legally binding; yes, the car is a one-off but if we were to build the car, we want to be able to run with what you see. Some of the dimensions you have to attend to are for legal reasons and it’s very difficult when the bonnet line has to appease pedestrian protection and the header here has to appease United States legislation for unbelted occupants. We took all those issues into account when we designed it and they’re there for good reason – we’re not complaining about it – but it does make the dimensional side of it quite challenging. And that’s why these cars and up the sizes they do. We can’t build cars the size of the original E-types anymore because safety and legislation requires space and airbags everywhere. You have to have a certain amount of space between the occupant, airbags, seating and door surfaces, for example, and that all stack up to the dimensions you see here.
Hybrid technology is obviously quite new, so how do you teach an old dog, I mean cat, new tricks?
Packaging the hybrid drive train and batteries was quite challenging as well. And it’s all additional technology too so you have to have that debate between weight versus performance. The downside of hybrid cars is weight – you’ve got an electric motor package plus the batteries and all the other electronic systems – but this car is made of aluminum so we do have an offset in that the light body does compensate for the extra mechanics. The battery and power pack sit just behind the seats as there was no room left through the centre of the car. That was already filled up with drive shafts, the electric motor stuff, exhaust system and everything else. The modern motorcar is jam-packed full and there are rarely even millimetres to spare. That’s really our greatest challenge, to try and take all these absolute variables that every other manufacturer has to and wrap something really exciting around it.
What about a roadster version?
Well, you know, if we were ever to do a sports car again, inevitably we would have to have a convertible. We couldn’t do a coupe without a convertible, so that’s the best I can answer that one. It’s interesting though, coupes and convertibles. If you look back 10 years, it was 60% coupes and 40% convertibles. It’s moving the other way now to about 50-50 around the world for XK, for instance, moving slowly towards coupe. I don’t really know why.
Okay, how about powertrain alternatives?
If we were to build it not every car would naturally be a hybrid, that would be a choice. And, we’ve had people put deposits on this car at dealerships.
Kudos, is this the new face of Jaguar?
Yeah, a lot of the design language stems from the fact it’s two-seater sports car. If we did a sedan it wouldn’t have that kind of profile – our cars still have a sporty profile – but there’s a lot of that you might see in the future, especially in some of the detailing.