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.
Significantly, the C-X75 has a modulated rectangular grille shape, similar to those on the newest Jaguar sedans. I believe it is more a way of establishing identity than ingesting air, because it and the brake-cooling inlets open only when needed, with in-hood ducting releasing airflow over the windshield. There are scoops on the lower sides, behind the door glass in the roof, and again across the roof above the backlight. There are huge outlets on the lower back of the body, along with turbine exhaust ports and complex black diffuser panels. Surprising features abound, like having the interior door handles in the middle of the form-fitting seats. Altogether, the car is sleek, solid, and filled with new approaches and it promises a future as glorious as the past.
1. There is a sharp crest on all four fenders, describing the side profile and giving this car the feline aura that is part and parcel of "Jaguarness."
2. Notice how the side glass leads into an air scoop, while the perimeter of the side DLO (DayLight Opening) remains an elongated profile.
3. The entire upper structure is very much like a fighter-plane canopy. It's tapered in plan view and in profile and is both elegant and effective aerodynamically.
4. External antenna is a surprise but is a nice visual break from the pure form of the body.
5. Jaguar was one of the first companies to use flush headlamp covers (on the 1951 XK120 C-type). These shapes recall those simpler ovals but carry the fender peak.
6. The badge floating in the black mesh opening is a subtle identity mark, leaving all painted surfaces without asperities.
7. This chin blade serves to direct air around the sides of the nose into the brake-cooling inlets on the front corners.
8. These accreted panels seem unnecessary, unless they are part of rationalization for production assembly. In any case, these are clearly a theme for detail design.
9. These air inlets are no doubt necessary, but the separate add-on panels are not.
10. The door cut runs directly into the wheel well, an unusual simplification of cutline graphics.
11. The opaque panel that would seem to be a window rolls inward to allow air to flood the turbine compartment.
12. The backlight is tiny in proportion to the whole car and provides a very limited rear view.
13. Bladelike taillights accentuate the break in plan view from side to rear surfaces, adding visual width as they sweep forward on the sides of the rear fenders.
14. The up-sloping lower surface has been used on a few other concept cars, including the 2008 Citroën GT and the Arex roadster, leaving room below for the diffuser construct.
15. One hopes that all this confusing carbon-fiber molding has been thoroughly wind tunnel-tested, because it surely adds nothing to the car aesthetically.
16. The upper crease follows the lower profile of the fender blades and slims the side profile.
17. These crisp lines framing the lower side scoop serve multiple purposes. They stiffen the door panel, and the upper line is parallel to the rear-bumper cutline that leads into the sharp rear deck edge.
18. A crisp separation of lower and side sections gives direction to the lower part of the nose.
19. Huge ventilation ducts with curved blades are partially covered by the doors when they swing down to close.
20. This gap is caused when the steering wheel and instrument cluster move rearward toward the fixed seats.
21. The pedal assembly, too, is adjustable for reach.
22. No Jaguar has ever had as antitraditional a steering wheel as this. The rim is leather-covered, though.
23. No wood at all in the interior, at last. The panel shape recalls the rear of the body.
24. Backlit inner door panels give the impression of space in what is already a very wide cockpit.