CAR interviews Ian Callum (2013) at Frankfurt motor show

Published: 10 September 2013

With XK, XF, XJ and F-type, design boss Ian Callum has transformed Jaguar from a brand unable to shake off its retro past into something edgier, cooler and altogether more modern. Now his C-X17 concept promises to take things a step further, breaking Jaguar into the crossover SUV market for the first time ever. CAR caught up with Callum ahead of the concept’s official unveil for an in-depth Q&A session. Here’s what he said…

CAR: Is an SUV really the right niche for Jaguar to be targeting?

IC: ‘Five years ago I wouldn’t have said it was right for the brand. I’m a sports-car man and my established view was that a Jaguar needed to be low, but there’s a generation out there whose idea of a must-have car is a crossover, and whole countries know nothing else. I came round to the view that we should try it.’

CAR: How hard was it to design a Jaguar SUV?

IC: ‘The design was quite challenging for us. We inherently want to go down, but now we had the freedom to go up. We had two or three attempts. The silhouette was the most difficult: we didn’t have anything like it, but we couldn’t just borrow it from Land Rover – we’re more sinuous than that. It was tough – even a few millimetres here or there can make such a difference.’

CAR: Did the Range Rover Evoque influence your thinking?

IC: ‘Not at all. We’d have done a design like this whether the Evoque existed or not. I wasn’t mindful of Evoque. I respect it, we’re aware of it…’

CAR: What were you trying to achieve?

IC: ‘We wanted a sense of length and speed, we wanted it to be exciting. You can sense the excitement of these proportions, even though it’s quite pragmatic. We wanted to keep the glass as slim as possible within real-world restraints, and the dramatic roof line is for visual impact and for the aero – you need to extend it as far as you can. I also wanted the stance of a north/south engine and rear-wheel drive – Jaguar’s history.’

CAR: How big are those wheels? They look huge!

IC: ‘As designers we’ve allowed ourselves the indulgence of 23-inch wheels, but they are far from inconceivable.’

CAR: How much off-road capability would a production version of the C-X17 need to have?

IC: ‘If you design a car with the suggestion of off-road capability, you need to fulfill that to a certain extent. Does it need to be as good as a Land Rover? No. Do you need to put multiple diffs and complexity in there? No. But people don’t understand how good our [ie Jaguar Land Rover] off-road capability is.

CAR: To what extent does the C-X17 need to be practical?

IC: We’ll have this eternal debate about package and style. You have to approach the package in a balanced way – if you have to take a bit of volume out of the interior to help the exterior, I’d say do it. If you want to take something home from B&Q every weekend, this won’t be for you, but if you take the kids to school and have fun, maybe you need to drive over a field, it will be.’

CAR: How likely is the C-X17 to make production?

IC: ‘Concept cars have to shout in an environment where there’s a lot of other things going on, but I don’t like to disappoint people with concepts, that’s all I’ll say!’

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator

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