Despite slow sales and eroding profits, Jaguar continues to adhere to an ambitious future product plan. The new XJ has just arrived, but the brand has lots more excitement in store, with a new sports car that will be more affordable than the XK and retro models that revive Jaguar greats from the past.
XE sports car: The only all-new model the brand is determined to push through over the next five years is a compact sports car, the spiritual successor to the E-type. A senior manager explains: "The idea is to build a lightweight, front-engine, two-plus seater that will initially be a canvas-top roadster and then logically also a coupe. Priced slightly above the Boxster/Cayman, this reincarnation of the iconic E-type aims squarely at the Porsche 911.
"Assets over its designated rival," the manager continues, "include more benign handling balance and more generous space utilization. Like the 911, the modern E-type would be powered exclusively by six-cylinder engines."
The powerplant of choice is a new V-6, which may eventually also be offered in high-performance 3.5-liter guise rated at about 450 hp. Although Jaguar currently lacks a dual-clutch transmission, such a gearbox could be sourced from a supplier to complement the regular six-speed manual.
Tentatively labeled XE, the new sports car also would be offered as a more spacious two-plus-two coupe and a hard-core R version, all coming within twenty-four months of the initial launch in 2013. To keep costs down, R&D is reportedly working on a common components matrix for the XE and the next XK, which will burnish its upmarket image by adding a supercar version to take on the Porsche 911 GT2. Both the XE and the new XK would be loosely linked to the next-generation XF, which will utilize considerably more aluminum. Product planners expect an annual sales volume of 20,000 cars for the XK and double that for the XE.
Although the project is still in the planning stages, Jaguar is already preparing a business case to build a limited batch of re-created classics like C- and D-types and perhaps even certain E-types. The cars, to be developed and built under the direction of the company's R performance division, combine vintage looks with modern drivetrain and chassis elements. Priced between 150,000 and 350,000 apiece (approximately $250,000 and $600,000), these copied classics would be reliable daily drivers dressed up like the original all-time greats. Although many carmakers have pondered such a scheme before, Jaguar is remarkably driven to pull it off. If the concept turns out to be financially viable, more affordable retro models like the Mark II or the XJ coupe might be added at a later stage. The first of the re-creation cars, the D-type, could appear as soon as 2012.