C-X16: Redefining Performance

Every line, detail and piece of technology on Jaguar's new concept serves one purpose: to deliver the ultimate driving experience.

  • Concept cars are a hugely important part of the motoring world. Usually launched at prestigious international motor shows in a blaze of flash photography, they compete for the world’s attention with their jaw-dropping looks, technological innovation and incredible performance statistics.

    Some are destined never to go into production, but are simply combinations of a designer’s whim and an engineer’s dream of a long-distant future. Others, meanwhile, offer a sneaky peek at how cars might look in just a few years’ time. One thing’s for sure, without them cars would be a lot less advanced or exciting.

    Jaguar’s latest creation, the C-X16, was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. It’s a two-seater sports car with a difference. And importantly, even though it’s a concept car it’s also a bold statement of Jaguar’s future design and technological intent. And what an intent. If anything can be said to define Jaguar’s designs it is drama, and the C-X16 is no exception. It is obvious, even at a glance, that this car has been made to be driven.

    “This car is an evolution of the design ethos of past Jaguars and defines the agenda for a future of dramatic, innovative sports cars,” says Ian Callum, Jaguar’s design director. “It is fundamentally a driving machine and that has driven every aspect of the design. The car possesses a sense of latent power; the potential to leap instantly into action.”

    But when it comes to the C-X16, less is definitely more. Ian Callum talks of simplifying the design, paying close attention to three “heartlines” – the front wing crease, the sweeping roof line and the rear haunches that wrap into the tail. This, he says, gives the car a “dynamic tension”. This might sound like flowery design speak, but walk around the car and it makes sense. The characteristic long Jaguar nose skims low over the engine while carbon-fibre sides bracket the aluminium and carbon-fibre wheels shod in hand-cut Pirelli tyres. The aluminium body tucks in around the driver’s cabin, and its low roof rakes steeply back before solidifying into two powerful haunches that are purely Jaguar. But as beautiful as they are, none of these design features are merely aesthetic. The front splitter, for example, channels a powerful downforce that holds the C-X16 onto the road without the need for a spoiler. The rear of the car, along with the side sills, also pushes air down the sides of the car and even the distinctive, sharp crease where the roof meets the tail is there to ensure the air separates cleanly from the bodywork when the car is driven to its full potential. So every piece of the body works hard. There is no wasted space.


    That incredible driver-focused element of performance carries through into the interior. The gears are controlled with a joystick-style gearlever which could have come from a fighter jet, as could the bank of aluminium, carbon fibre and chrome toggle switches.

    Push the red starter button and an aircraft-style start sequence powers up the displays and twin-dial instrument panel, while a touchscreen display gives an insight into every aspect of the car's performance. This touchscreen is central to Jaguar's 'Connect and View' system. Developed in conjunction with BlackBerry ®, the system is compatible with smartphones from a range of manufacturers and allows the driver to control the functions of their phone from the touchscreen which resembles the phone's display.

    Like the all-conquering C-X75 concept car before it, C-X16 leaves you under no illusion that this is a performance car. And, also like the C-X75, the car's edgy looks are more than backed up by impressive statistics. This is a concept car capable of sprinting from standstill to 62mph in just 4.4 seconds, that has a top speed of 186mph, and that can accelerate from 50mph to 75mph in just 2.1 seconds.
    ''The C-X16 is our compelling vision for a 21st century Jaguar sports car. It embodies the established Jaguar strengths of sensual design, animal-like agility and inspirational performance, and combines these with attributes that set us on a course for the low-emissions sports cars of the future,'' says Adrian Hallmark, Jaguar's global brand director.

    Jaguar's ethos centres on redefining performance and, as Adrian says, Jaguar is doing that with eyes firmly fixed on the future. The C-X16 gives a good indication of how the next generation of Jaguar sports cars will produce power in new technologically advanced ways.

    The concept is driven by a prototype, supercharged, all-alloy V6 engine. This in itself points the way to the next generation of enhanced, efficient, powerful, internal combustion engines. But the concept car can also call on the services of a performance-boosting electric motor inspired by Formula 1 systems.

    This prototype hybrid performance system has three benefits. It reduces fuel consumption, means the car can perform as a zero tailpipe emissions electric vehicle at speeds of up to 50mph - and here's the really exciting bit - it offers a constant, on-demand short burst of power and acceleration.

    Known as 'Push to Pass', this lets the driver increase the car's power by 70kW (equivalent to 95PS) for a burst of up to 10 seconds. In the unlikely event that you need extra power there's a little bit more, right beneath your fingertips, waiting to be unleashed just by pushing a button on the steering wheel. What's more, because it is powered by an electric motor that is constantly being recharged, that power is instantaneous.


    Jaguar describes the car’s layout as ‘one plus one’, meaning it has been created with the driver in mind. It is a car designed for performance, itching to be driven. If you want to take a passenger, well, that’s up to you. By deliberately creating as cocooned a space as possible around the steering wheel, the driver is shrink-wrapped into the cockpit, sitting right at the centre of this world.

    Cosmetically, and in terms of performance, then, C-X16 is exactly what you might expect from a Jaguar concept car – even the front air intake gives the car a shark-mouthed urgency that few others can match. But the exterior, and even the spec sheet, don’t tell the whole story. This might well be one of the most beautiful concept sports cars of recent years, but it’s potentially also one of the most fuel-efficient.

    A lightweight aluminium chassis helps C-X16 hit a top speed of 186mph (where legally allowed) while returning combined economy of 41mpg and combined emissions of 165g/km of CO 2. To increase fuel efficiency in real-world driving conditions, the eight-speed gearbox is fitted with Jaguar’s Intelligent Stop/Start, an incredibly sophisticated device that has just been introduced to the new XF 2.2L Diesel. The technology shuts down the engine 600 milliseconds after the car has stopped, at traffic lights for example, and when you’re ready to move off the twin solenoid starter gets the engine back up to the right rpm in the time it takes your foot to travel from the brake pedal to the accelerator.

    Just in case you still need to be impressed, C-X16 has been designed to meet the Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle standard, or SULEV 30, as well as the European Parliament’s Euro VI standards. These don’t become law until December 31, 2012, but then concept cars need to think ahead.

    C-X16 has to be one of the most drivable, and usable, concept cars ever made. The technologies on show suggest that Jaguar will have an edge for years to come, from the Intelligent Stop/Start system that is already in production to the prototype engine. But that’s all for the future. For the time being, we have a groundbreaking concept car to enjoy. And, as with the driving seat of the C-X16, that’s not a bad place to be.

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