Bertone Jaguar B99

Great designers can do only so much if they are compelled to follow a template that does not truly fit the marque they're working on. Jaguar's range desperately needs a solid replacement for the defunct entry-level X-type, the company's biggest contemporary seller despite the car's lack of grace, which was the result of its being a Ford Mondeo in a Jaguar suit. There's no question that Jaguar has the design team it needs, but it must also have management that will let its cars be Jaguars, not a compendium of "best-in-class" measurements.


1. Blanked-out grille has to do with Bertone's notion that this should be a hybrid with lower-than-usual cooling requirements. Bits of sparkly material -- glass? -- around the rim do not read from normal driving distances.

2. Bladelike lamps at the corners of the body have nothing whatsoever to do with past Jaguar practice yet look perfectly appropriate.

3. This subtle, indented line emphasizes the dropping front profile. It starts just behind the headlamps, runs through the door handles, and disappears in the rear door skin.

4. A rearview camera resides in this slim blade, leaving the entire upper body a single clean sculptural form.

5. Classic Jaguar haunches are preserved, with the upper nestling down between the peaks of the fenders. Elegant, graceful, and traditional, but not retro.

6. Simple constant-section sill-trim strip slopes upward toward the rear, almost unnoticeably so. Understated elegance.

7. Bertone used production Jaguar wheels, putting total design emphasis on the stance and proportions rather than on details that might distract from the whole presentation.

8. Angled elements enhance the impression of width and provide a subtle bit of decoration.

Ryan Thompson
They should have gone with this Bertone design for their coupe. The coupe design they went with looks like its VERY hard to see out the back of.
I again read your comments as if I was reading my own column.About this elegant design, heritage cues that I would keep are some suggestion of the cat ears in the talilights that would un-buick the looks of the rear facia, the rounded C pillar from some of the 50s and 60s models and just maybe, a subtle shaping of the side marker lamp into a prowling cat... Otherwise, I agree about the proportions and point #5. A X-type with this looks would really make an interresting, different choice for the 3 series/A4-A5/C class shopper.
I used to think Robert Cumberford could read my mind and put into words things I didn't know how to articulate. Then I started to worry that I lacked any eye for design and I was just blindly agreeing with everything he wrote. Apparently I wasn't just bowing to his expertise because I am happy to report that I completely disagree with Cumberford's design analysis on the B99. Although Bertone's car is a nice homage to the old XJ, Jaguar has taken a new design tack and should not look back to the past. And I thought the panel in #17 was justifiable as mimicking the front of the car--it almost looks the same coming and going (except the taillights are red instead of white like the headlights).
Re the Bertone Jaguar, had they presented it ten years ago, it would've been an outstanding evolutionary step in Jaguar design. Unfortunately, that opportunity passed. Ian Callum took a revolutionary step with Jaguar's new cars; their look is a complete departure from its past. Returning to the Bertone B99 would be a step backward, not forward. Too bad. It's a sharp car.

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