Enlightened design

The Jaguar Design Team, led by Ian Callum, discuss how the New XJ took shape.

The Jaguar Design Team:

IAN CALLUM (director of design)
JULIAN THOMSON (head of advanced design)
MATTHEW BEAVEN (principal designer)
GILES TAYLOR (chief designer, Jaguar XJ and XK)
ADAM HATTON (exterior design manager)
MARK PHILLIPS (interior design manager)
NICOLAS FINNEY (interior designer)
KIM CHALLINOR (colour and materials manager)

  • IAN CALLUM - When the original XJ first came out in 1968, it was revolutionary. The new XJ had to recapture the bold, sporting spirit of the original. It needed to make an impact. The XK and XF allowed Jaguar's design language to move forward and gave us the permission to design something special, a luxury car with elegance and performance – a true XJ for the 21st century.

    JULIAN THOMSON - When we started, it was during a period of great reinvention. We'd started to realign the brand from classically styled cars to ones that were more intelligent, innovative and imaginative.

    MATTHEW BEAVEN - We developed a portfolio of designs, from a very sporty concept, nicknamed Goodwood, to conventional ‘big' saloons. We didn't produce anything physical, but we developed conceptual artwork and virtual CAD models to get a feel of people's perceptions.

    JULIAN - It was the point at which we had a really good discussion – understanding, articulating and talking about a car that had a spacious interior, but also a sporty exterior. Measuring up to the competition and just doing our version would have been easy, but wouldn't have been right for Jaguar. We wanted something more individual and unique, but something that was still a rational product.

    IAN - People knew what they wanted from us, and what they wanted was something truly special. By March 2006, we established XJ's fundamentals – its dimensions, and key building blocks such as the glass roof and the front-end strategy. We established a basic engineering package that allowed us a whole range of styling options. We needed to do more than create a modern Jaguar, we needed to create a completely contemporary XJ.

    GILES TAYLOR - When we started, each designer had a unique take on the car – their own personal vision, mood and emotion of what the next XJ should be. We viewed eight virtual CAD models, which allowed us to see the car being driven around from all angles. From this review, we worked out exactly which elements of the various designs we liked. It was a fantastic step forward.

    ADAM HATTON - For the next six months we worked towards a final theme – the ‘go-for-one' in November 2006. After that, through 2007 and the first half of 2008 we designed one car for final sign-off.

    IAN - Giles and Adam got the engineering and manufacturing teams involved very early in the process. As a result, they were able to discuss our ideas. And there's no doubt about it, we set the guys some real challenges.

    ADAM - We pushed the production engineers hard, but they know our ambitions and they were used to them from XF. And they delivered on this new XJ; we've become world leaders in forming aluminium panels and parts. We are always going for the biggest shoulders we can get on a car, and the flared wheel arches on XJ are bigger than most sports cars. There were some tough areas, but you have to stay strong and stick to the theme. It presents challenges, but ones we've got to solve with our engineers; it's a team thing.

    IAN - One idea we dismissed early on was the traditional XJ twin-headlamps and small grille style. We knew that the size of the grill was important. Initially, our new designs seemed extraordinarily assertive. But if you don't step that little bit beyond the comfort zone, you'll regret it. So we took a view that we'd keep the grille as strong and powerful as possible.

    ADAM - Because we wanted more aggression in the front-end of the XJ, we looked at the details, the nature of the lower vents, the front blades and the Xenon lamps all going out to the extremities of the car. Julian asked me to design some new headlight shapes on the clay model, and he sketched this feline form, which developed into a more aggressive shape.

    GILES - Those elements create the edge to the new XJ design. They will make it stand the test of time.

    MARK PHILLIPS - As we progressively understood the values the exterior stood for, we set the character and personality of the interior. The inspiration goes back to the R Coupé concept car from 2001 – long lines, and simplicity of surface. Rather than using wood in the foreground, we've pushed it into the background as an architectural statement. One of the more enlightened things we did was to drop the dashboard down 50mm – quite a lot – which allows a fairly slim, low-slung dashboard. The benefit is that the driver and passengers don't feel like they are hiding behind a wall. The driver feels in control.

    NICOLAS FINNEY - Anyone who sits in the XJ will be treated to a special experience, and the panoramic glass roof is a big part of that. You can put as much luxury in an interior as possible, but one of the greatest luxuries is light and space. Another effect of the glass roof is, when you walk up to the car, you see much more of the interior. Following the XF we have a reputation for introducing that sense of theatre into a car, and this enhances it.

    IAN - It looks fantastic on the outside, and you only need to sit in the car to find out how much room we've actually created. We've put the coupé roofline behind the rear head-form, so the exterior looks very sporty, but it's still a full five-seater.

    ADAM – We are delighted with the sleek exciting shape, and strong architectural themes, including the elongated teardrop shape of the side glass and that strong shoulder line. As you look inside you pick out these details through the glass roof that are lit up, and it all adds to the luxury feel.

    KIM CHALLINOR - We did a lot of competitive benchmarking, asking: "What is modern, premium luxury?" and "Where should XJ be?" But we didn't pursue automotive references alone. We also looked at couture brands – Louis Vuitton, Prada – and put together a vision that was about sporting luxury, and attention to detail. It was all about what you first see when you open the door, what you first touch, the influence, feel, texture and warmth of materials and colour.

    IAN - Customers who buy premium cars, such as the XJ, have a strong point of view. So we offered a diverse choice of options. One might want black leather, with carbon fibre and without wood at all, something very sporty and youthful; another, something incredibly luxurious, dripping in warm colour tones and walnut veneer. I had to press the design team to think about creating a wonderfully eclectic mix of choices that encourages our customers to reflect their own taste. With lesser cars, you buy what you can. But, at this level, people choose what they want. And there are so many ways to build your XJ with an individual personality.

    GILES - As we closed on the final design, one thing we looked at again was the rear of the car, which is obviously important in terms of making an impression, because other drivers spend a lot of time looking at it.

    ADAM - I'd worked on the C-XF concept, and XJ – at this point – had similar wraparound rear lights. Ian and Giles wanted to push harder. We worked hard on the rear lights to accentuate the XJ's length and elegance.

    GILES - The ‘cat's claw' lights are an essential element of the rear, a real part of the theme, complementing the bolder elements of the car – the big grille, the slim feline front lamps – and an essential part of the car's style statement. We had to work hard with engineering and manufacturing to make the rear lamps sit beautifully in the corners of the car, with the sheet metal almost flowing around them.

    IAN - The design team is here to establish what a car should be, not just to the skin and surface, but something that exists in engineering terms. Luckily we have an engineering and manufacturing team who want to build what feels right aesthetically and functionally. You have to work here to appreciate how closely at every level we work: the chief engineer and designer talk daily.

    GILES - The design freeze is a stake in the ground – the day we formally stopped designing. We then constructed solid models of the exterior and interior, complete with real, milled surfaces to look at. There's a big focus on design quality and perceived quality – getting gaps correct, flushes right and honing optical quality. It's not just about great styled lamps or great looking cars, it's about micro-design. Owners micro-judge design, and they'll consciously choose a product because it has a better quality.

    ADAM - We are incredibly vigilant in this area. It's easy to design things with big gaps and tolerances, but we at Jaguar want watch-like precision. This is the geeky, perfectionist side of the process. One starts the project being madly, broadly creative, doing sketches and clay models, then you work right down to these fractions of a millimetre.

    GILES - Final judgement is the day everything has to be released. By this point, we're on the next project, but there's an overlap, where you've got one eye on the future, and one eye on the baby about to be born. As the prototypes were built we analysed them in minute detail. There's a separate side to engineering, which is all about mastering – the grain and the gloss of components. It's our design spec, so we're part of policing it. If you're dedicated and devoted – which our design team are – you can go from a blank piece of paper, pastels by the side, to that last literal millimetre.

    IAN - XJ is the third part of a trilogy that started with XK and XF. A series that cements the new Jaguar. We've established a consistency across these cars and set the foundations for the future in terms of Jaguar design. We've announced that Jaguar has moved on and is very much part of the 21st century. This new XJ works from every angle – a bold front, a sleek profile and a subtly confident rear. As it goes past, it says: "Look at me, admire me, and don't forget me…"

  • XJ LONG WHEELBASE

    "There's a status benefit in a long wheelbase car, but there's also a style benefit in the exterior if it is executed in a fairly subtle, tasteful way," explains Ian Callum. "Therefore it was important with the new XJ that we designed the exterior of the long wheelbase version at the same time as the standard wheelbase car. Historically, companies tend to start with a standard wheelbase design, and then stretch the longer body. However, it can be difficult to extend the car's natural lines on details such as longer rear doors. With the new XJ, we didn't want the two versions to be consciously similar, or consciously different. We wanted both to work, and look good in their own right. We took the lines of the body and roof structure into consideration when we designed both, so the longer wheelbase would be a pure design, and not a compromise."


  • "We are delighted with the sleek exciting shape, and strong architectural themes, including the elongated teardrop shape of the side glass and that strong shoulder line"

    "We needed to do more than create a modern Jaguar, we needed to create a completely contemporary XJ"

    "Those elements that create the edge to the all new XJ design will make it stand the test of time"

    "We've set the foundations for the future in terms of Jaguar design. We've announced that Jaguar has moved on and is very much part of the 21st century"

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