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Jaguar C-X16 redefines hybrid as a performance power boost

November 15, 2011|By Susan Carpenter
  • The Jaguar C-X16 is displayed at the L.A. Auto Show.
The Jaguar C-X16 is displayed at the L.A. Auto Show. (Allen J. Schaben, Los Angeles…)

With its C-X16, Jaguar shatters the notion that hybrids are for eco do-gooders. The British manufacturer’s newest concept car represents its first two-seat sport car in decades and pushes the Jag legacy of elegant performance into the future, using electricity to ramp up the speed. The C-X16 tops out at 186 miles per hour and accelerates from 0 to 62 mph in 4.4 seconds.

Unlike the C-X75 concept that debuted at last year’s L.A. Auto Show, which employed a hybrid powertrain as a range extender, the C-X16 uses an electric motor as a power boost to its supercharged V-6 engine. Alone, the 3-liter V-6 produces 375 horses and 332 pound-feet of torque. Using its “push-to-pass” feature, the car’s launch power is radically improved to 469 and 505, respectively.


FULL COVERAGE: L.A. Auto Show


“We’re using a hybrid drivetrain to make a point. Hybrids should not be the sole domain of economic, family motorcars. It can stretch into performance cars,” said Jaguar lead designer, Ian Callum. “Jaguar’s credentials are about performance. As we go into the future, we can’t throw that away. It’s just how we do that that will change.”

Some of those changes, on the C-X16 at least, involve light weighting with more rigid aluminum and incorporating a new fuel-saving start/stop system that turns off the engine when the car’s stopped and quickly restarts it when the brake pedal is released, similar to the system Mercedes-Benz is now using on its CLS63 AMG and ML63 AMG.

The C-X16, making its North American debut at the L.A. Auto Show this week after its unveiling at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September, is merely the latest attempt to “bring Jaguar back to its rightful place as a modern and youthful car company,” said Callum, who also redesigned the XF and XJ. “What we haven’t done is produce a two-seater sport car for at least 30-odd years. Certainly to my mind, that’s the heart line of the brand. It’s something we’ve been missing. Something we’ve been looking forward to doing.”

Callum’s enthusiasm for the project is obvious. The C-X16 is vintage looking, with a sculptured low-slung body and a dramatically tapered roofline that emulates its classic E type but drops even lower at its tail. But it is also modern, with a large peekaboo rear window that not only displays its hybrid drivetrain but rings it in a glowing red light.

To Callum, it’s the perception of a car from 100 yards away that tells the story. “Emotionally, that’s what people connect with first,” said Callum, who designed the car around two specific lines that convey speed. One runs from the creased front fender to the headlamps framed with J-shaped running lamps to the doors. An overlapping line runs toward the rear fender.

While the up-close details are important, they’re merely the cherry on top of the cake, according to Callum. The entire interior, including its headlining, is clad in red leather that yields only to carbon fiber accents that are often awash in red light. The white exterior hints at the interior color scheme, with Jaguar badges that are likewise bathed in a red glow on the side panels and brake calipers that are, you guessed it, red.

The red leather was “a personal indulgence” for Callum. “I love the idea of creating a car with an overall shape that you see as a total form, but from the inside of the car there’s this enormous amount of vibrancy coming through the windows that draws you into the car to see more.”

Now Jaguar just needs to make it.

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