Gavin Green gets the inside story on Jaguar’s new C-X75

Published: 24 July 2012

There are no 200mph-plus hybrid supercars on sale and then suddenly, like London buses, four come along all at once. The new Ferrari Enzo F150, mega McLaren P12, Porsche 918 Spyder and Jaguar C-X75 will all likely compete in the rarefied circa $1 million price band when they hit the road in a few years (probably 2013-14). But that’s where the London bus comparison ends. They will all be among the fastest, most visually stunning and – in a major break with fast-car tradition – among the greenest of all road cars.

Jaguar revealed more details of its upcoming C-X75 at a cosy tête-à-tête in engineering boss’s Bob Joyce office at JLR’s r&d headquarters in Gaydon, Warwickshire.

Small high-revving four-cylinder power

Unlike the Ferrari, Porsche and (if rumours are anything to go by) the Mega Mac, the Jaguar uses a small four-cylinder engine rather than a V8 or V12, co-developed by the Williams F1 team. Despite its meagre 1.6-litre capacity it will develop ‘over 500bhp’ thanks to a couple of extra electric motors, turbo- and supercharged power plus both direct and indirect fuel injection. (The direct injection gives lower to mid range fuel efficiency, the port-fed injection supplies more fuel at big revs.)

‘The secret of big power is to get a lot of fuel and air in the engine, rather than just big cubic capacity,’ says Joyce. The little four-pot motor revs to 10,000rpm and – as a display soon revealed – sounds like a high performance motorcycle motor at full chat. Hear that noise and you’d expect to see Rossi on top, not Brundle behind the wheel, but that doesn’t matter. It sounds fabulous.

Four wheel drive for fast standing starts

Power is distributed to all four wheels. That’s mostly to assure scintillating off-the-line acceleration (0-60mph will be ‘under three seconds’, 0-100mph in ‘under six seconds’). The front drive comes from an electric motor, always engaged, while the dominant rear drive is a hybrid system that combines petrol and electric engines or can go electric only. In pure EV mode, range is a promised 60 km, or 37 miles.

Official CO2 figure will be ‘less than 99g/km’, astonishing for so fast a car. As is the latest (and greenest) fashion, it is a ‘plug in’ hybrid. That inspirational high-revving engine note – more soprano than baritone V8 – was a key reason for Joyce and his team to pick hybrid, not range-extender electric power, for the limited edition (just 200 examples) production version of the C-X75. ‘Supercars are partly about emotion and that includes engine note,’ says Joyce. ‘You need a big-revving internal combustion engine. Plus you just can’t get 200mph performance from batteries alone. You need some direct mechanical drive.’

Different powertrain from original concept car

You may recall that the original C-X75 concept car, debuting at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, had lovely little jet turbines as on-board generators, topping up the batteries. It always drove in electric mode. Joyce loves those little turbines but says they are not ready for production just yet. Plus he reckons they have greater promise for smaller urban cars rather than high-speed supercars. The production car’s style will closely mirror the concept car.

‘Active aerodynamics’ – Joyce confirmed this meant adjustable wings – will be offered. The C-X75 uses a bonded carbon chassis and mostly carbon body panels. It will be Jaguar’s first carbon car. A rear carbon subframe carries the mid-mounted four-cylinder engine, which uses a supercharger for extra punch at under 5000rpm, and a big turbo at higher revs. It also carries the lithium ion battery pack, which cradles the internal combustion engine and which has ‘three times the power density of any current hybrid car’.

Plus it carries the rear electric engine and a transverse seven-speed automated manual transmission, preferred over a dual clutch ’box because it’s lighter and more compact.

The four-cylinder petrol engine is bespoke, although it nicely promotes a new range of Jaguar Land Rover four-pot engines soon to be built at a new factory near Wolverhampton. It also neatly ties in with Formula One’s move to 1.6 turbo power in 2014, the same year the C-X75 is likely to go on sale (although the F1 engines will be V6s not fours).

A ‘new technology’ image booster

The C-X75 is as much JLR new-technology promotional tool, as it is sporty Jaguar image booster. Joyce confirmed that Jaguar was working on carbon construction for other road cars and is well advanced on production hybrid powertrains. The C-X75 signals Jaguar’s seriousness with both technologies. But will there be enough super wealthy car collectors, for the Jaguar, Ferrari, McLaren and Porsche all to be successes? ‘Probably. I suspect there’ll be some collectors out there who will buy all of them.’

The exact launch date of the C-X75 is not yet confirmed. Joyce said that the engine, motor and battery work well on the lab test bench - but Jaguar is now about to build five working prototypes to test how the technology works on the road. They should know the answer by early 2013 when a final production date will be set.

By Gavin Green

Contributor-in-chief, former editor, anti-weight campaigner, voice of experience