Jaguar C-X75: the inside story behind eco supercar

Published: 06 May 2011 Updated: 26 January 2015

Today’s Jaguar C-X75 announcement tells us plenty about the health of Jaguar. That a small Midlands company can take on Porsche – which sells around twice as many cars each year – with a 200mph supercar as clean as a Prius speaks volumes about the ambition of Jag in 2011.

Although they didn’t say so explicitly, reading between the lines execs hinted that this would never have happened in Ford’s day. Now Jaguar is owned by Tata Motors, it is a nimbler, more agile business. One not afraid to put an £840,000 petrol-electric supercar into production, one that’ll hit 100mph in six seconds yet pump out less than 99g/km. Yep, it’s Jaguar’s take on the Porsche 918 Spider hybrid supercar.

‘This is why we bought Jaguar’

‘This is part of the reason we invested in Jaguar,’ admitted Carl-Peter Forster, CEO of Tata Motors. He hailed the unusual tie-up with Williams F1 as an example of how newly independent Jaguar could strike partnerships with specialaists to devastating effect.

The engineers at JLR say that they have learned an enormous amount in the past five months. In F1, Williams don’t have model-year changes; they upgrade components week by week. ‘This way of thinking is new to us,’ admitted Jag’s group engineering chief Bob Joyce.

He said he fretted over Christmas 2010 which powertain should be fitted to the production C-X75. ‘We could have used one of our regular V8s, but what sort of statement would that have been? By choosing a small-capacity hybrid in association with an F1 team, we’ve certainly made a splash. In my mind, this is a bigger statement than us launching a BMW 1-series rival.’

Tellingly, they’ve opted not to repeat the ZF hybrid module to be used in full-sized Land Rovers and forthcoming XJs and XFs. Jaguar’s opted for a full F1-inspired, downsized high-output turbo.

But where are the turbines of the C-X75 concept car?

Suit after suit lined up to defend the switch to a petrol engine from the concept’s diesel turbines. Joyce said JLR was pursuing turbine tech through its deal with Bladon Technologies and hinted that a production application might be ready by 2015, right at the end of the C-X75’s life (it’ll be built from late 2013 in a two-year production run). They are serious about using such tech for a range-extending application.

As it is, the tech on offer in the Williams F1-inspired four-pot is a techhead’s dream. The C-X75 will use a ‘state-of-the-art, small-capacity, highly boosted internal combustion engine’. Off the record, CAR understands that means a 1.6-litre petrol four-cylinder, most likely super- and turbocharged to an astronomical 5 bar for a very serious power output. Hence the 200mph+ and sub 3.0sec 0-60mph claims.

‘Hybrid tech has become an area of intense development in F1,’ Williams F1 CEO Adam Parr told CAR. ‘We are working on downsized internal combustion engines with hybrid capacity that can run on EV mode down the pitlane… The engine for the C-X75 is being developed in parallel to the F1 concept for 2013.’

And in a nutshell, there you have the beauty of the C-X75 project. On the face of it, this car is a pricey irrelevance. But then, so is F1 in general. As a halo car for Jaguar, as a statement to remind us that it is one of Britain’s biggest R&D spenders and a company that punches above its weight, I can think of little better. I just hope they don’t get caught in a Veyron-esque spiral of broken promises. Joyce says the company still bears the scars of the diluted XJ220 and vows that won’t happen again.

If – as they promise – some of the C-X75 tech then filters down to mainstream Jaguars, then that’s the icing on the cake.

By Tim Pollard

Group digital editorial director, car news magnet, crafter of words