Jaguar has made more than a million desirable, high-style sedans in its seventy-five years, but what stands out in people's memories are its sports cars, even though exciting two-seaters really have been only a small fraction of the vehicles produced during the company's checkered, multiowner history. From the almost-too-perfectly-British SS 100 to the XK120 inspired by Italian-bodied BMW 328 racing cars, from the sublime Series I E-type to today's XK, Jaguars have always been esteemed for the exceptional beauty and -- at times -- extraordinary performance of its sportiest production models. No doubt the best of all of them was the XK-E, but like the 1968 XJ sedan shape, that D-type-inspired line has had its day.
To celebrate the brand's seventy-fifth anniversary (and to mark the first new product of its fourth owner, India's Tata), Jaguar designers and engineers have gone all out for a new sports car concept almost totally unlike other makes in style or engineering. It derives some formal inspiration from the never-raced 1966 XJ13 prototype, thus keeping continuity with the past. The styling is excellent, as one would expect -- Jaguar's design team is on top of its game -- but it's the science-fiction engineering that truly dazzles. Porsche's 918 Spyder hybrid is terrific, but its principles were laid down 110 years ago with the Lohner-Porsche: a gasoline engine and electric motors to drive the wheels. The C-X75 doesn't have a reciprocating-parts internal-combustion engine. Instead, two tiny, British-made, 80,000-rpm gas turbines burning liquid fuel -- the kerosene used by diesel cars and trucks and most of the world's airplanes -- generate electricity for individual motors at each of the four wheels.
Gazing through glass at mid-mounted V-8, V-10, and V-12 engines in Audis, Ferraris, and Lamborghinis is impressive, but all that ancient-concept mechanical magnificence pales when you see the Jag's pair of matched cylinders that might be a spaceship's ray guns. They contain the gas turbines, and if they don't actually drive the Paris concept car, they do run, and Jaguar is working on this advanced driveline for eventual production.