UK: Jaguar runs model plans past Tata
Jaguar is eyeing a significant expansion of its model range with at least three new models, after its sell-off by Ford, most likely to Tata Motors of India.
Executives and engineers are eyeing a new GBP40,000 two-seat sports car, a two- door coupe version of the XF saloon and most radically, a four-door version of the XK luxury coupe.
None of the three models are officially signed off, but all three have been presented to Tata Motors' management and will be key new programmes for the Indian automaker to evaluate and decide whether to invest.
Privately, insiders favour the two-seat sports car, dubbed the F-type, as the highest priority. It would be pitched against the BMW Z4, Mercedes-Benz SLK and Porsche Boxster.
Although Jag has the concept clear, it hasn't yet decided on the industrial strategy for manufacture. Engineers favour the car as an aluminium variant of the XK, other executives favourite it as a steel variant of the new XF.
The alloy F-type would be four inches (100mm) shorter than today's XK, sit on a narrower track and be designed with an engine bay capable of taking both V6 and V8 engines. The V6 would be the volume seller and the V8 reserved for high end performance versions.
Jaguar has been interested in a two-seat sportscar since 2000, when it showed the F-type concept at Detroit.
But the handsome design wasn't based on a particular platform and Jag couldn't industrialise the design. It eventually turned into an alloy, mid- engine design that was canned when Jag hit financial trouble four years ago.
Easier to get into production is the two-door, XF coupe. Models of this car have been built at Jag's Whitley advanced design studio in Coventry, based around the two-inch lower roof-line of the C-XF concept. Apart from this detail, the XF coupe is understood to share its design and components with the XF saloon.
Unlikely is a soft top convertible version. Engineering studies suggest that the weight of added platform strengthening would be too high and the size of the fabric roof needed too difficult to engineer.
Also vying for future investment is a long-wheelbase version of the XK, extended along the lines of Aston Martin's DB9-based Rapide.
The XK four door would have an extra pair of rear doors and a small rear cabin, compromised to keep the XK's elegant roofline. It would also compete against Porsche's forthcoming Panamera and high-end Merc CLS models, as well as the Rapide.
Supporters of this design believe it to be an excellent brand extension, but a secondary priority to the F-type two-seater.
Room for the swooping four-door XK in Jag's range would be opened up when the re-skinned XJ, aka project X351, debuts in late 2009 for sale in early 2010.
Essentially a new 'top-hat' on the alloy XJ chassis, it would get a major interior rework to squeeze in more legroom without having to extend the current XJ's footprint.
Similar clever re-packaging has made the new XF roomier than the outgoing S-type, even though it shares the same wheelbase.
Also in Jag's new product pipeline is a 500bhp-plus XKR-R range-topper and designs for a crossover XF.
Designs of the latter model have split Jaguar, with US dealers clamouring for the model, while Coventry high-ups prefer to leave 4x4s/SUVs to Land Rover.