STIMULATING THE SENSES
A brand new Jaguar stirs the senses of touch, smell and sight, the experience is one you will never forget.
PART 1 TOUCH
When it comes to sizing up a car, first impressions most definitely count. One of the initial things you do when you slide into the driver’s seat is place your hands on the steering wheel. In the XJ Supersport, that’s an experience to be savoured. The steering wheel is soft to the touch, but with enough firmness to the quality leather for a good grip.
“The steering wheel’s design was led by a desire to enhance the Jaguar driving experience,” says Mark Phillips, interior design manager at Jaguar. The build is a true team effort: safety and engineering experts initially specify essential features, after which the interior designers get to work on the concept sketches.
“In the Supersport’s case, the idea was to create a wheel that felt sporty, hence the three spokes rather than four,” says Mark of the sophisticated styling. “We also wanted a ‘dish feel’ – meaning the centre of the wheel is set back from the rim, to give a feeling of control.”
Once the prototype is built, Jaguar experts in ergonomics and perceived quality fine-tune the wheel’s design. Meanwhile, chief test engineer Mike Cross makes sure the car performs beautifully on the test track.
The rest of the car’s “touch zones” are pored over just as meticulously: switches are placed where you instinctively feel for them; thumbs, for example, control audio volumes, telephone calls and cruise control.
“Every switch needs to be positioned logically so you can touch your way to taking actions without having to glance away from the road. Our mantra is Jaguar should empower the driver, not overpower them,” says Mark.
PART 2 – SMELL
The smell inside a brand new Jaguar immediately evokes class and elegance, much as a fine perfume might. This is no accident: the way that a Jaguar smells is a carefully refined process.
“Our starting point is luxury,” explains Kim Challinor, Jaguar’s colour and materials manager. “Think about the way you feel when you enter a shop that sells luxurious, high-end luggage. That aroma gives you a sense of class.”
Jaguar’s team of perceived quality materials engineering experts work alongside a six-strong design team to test different leather samples and determine which are the most aromatically pleasing. The leathers are heated in a jar to see how the scent might change in different climates and the best are chosen. “Leathers are treated with different oils,” says Kim, “so we design the smell of a Jaguar like a recipe. You could say we’re very similar to perfumiers.”
The leather in the XJ Supersport comes from two different suppliers: Bridge of Weir in Scotland supply the seat leather while Pasubio in Italy supply the rest of the car. Both companies use the finest European hides which are then softened with a combination of oils.
“Our design team has travelled widely to test all kinds of leathers and the two that we have settled on are some of the very finest,” says Kim. The team even test competitors’ vehicles to ensure the Jaguar formula remains totally unique.
PART 3 – SIGHT
Driving an XJ Supersport at night is a feast for the eyes. You feel in complete control, your view maximised by the low dashboard, which is inspired by the stunning wooden Riva Italian speedboats of the 1950s.
“Sit in the driver’s seat and you sense an enveloping ribbon of veneer around you,” says Mark Phillips, Jaguar’s interior design manager. “It lends the experience a drama and elegance, as if you are in a cockpit.”
The focal point of the dashboard at night is the cluster – the dials – a virtual display illuminated in radiant phosphor blue. “The colour was chosen because it looks hi-tech, bold and individual,” says Mark. “It has become a Jaguar signature and is very easy on the eye.”
The low dashboard means that the XJ can accommodate a high console, which evokes the feeling of driving a sports car with real personality, albeit one that carries elements of both Jekyll and Hyde. “The interior exudes the same persona as the exterior, which is confident and sporting, yet effortless and inviting. You can drive it sedately or go into Dynamic Mode – and then everything changes,” says Mark.
And how! Turn the JaguarDrive Selector to engage the transmission’s sports setting and the cluster glows red – a more aggressive colour – as the suspension tightens and the engine fires up the supercharger.