by Paul Williams
Ian Callum, Director of Styling, at the Jaguar Heritage Center in Brown’s Lane, Coventry, England. Click image to enlarge
“In my view, by 2010 Jaguar will have the reputation as the most modern car
on the road.”
This from Ian Callum, Jaguar Director of Styling, and the man responsible
for all Jaguar styling programs.
The latest from Jaguar is the aluminum-bodied 2004 XJ. Many people who saw
it at the recent Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto commented on
the car’s beautiful lines, its magnificent paint and its confident stance.
When it comes to the big Jaguar sedans, that’s been a typical response for
But others suggested that the 2004 model looks too similar to the 2003 it
replaces. And, come to think of it, too similar to the 2000 and 1995
versions as well.
In fact, there’s still a resemblance between the 2004 XJ, and its
predecessors from nearly 35 years ago. That’s when the original XJ6 was
So it is that Mr. Callum has a challenge on his hands. How do you make
modern cars, while retaining heritage?
“That original XJ6 was the epitome of the sports saloon,” he said in a
recent phone interview from Jaguar headquarters in England. “It was perfect
for its time, with contemporary modern design. We’ve lost that a bit, but
this belongs to Jaguar.”
He’s heard the description of Jaguars as “an old man’s car,” and concedes
there’s an element of truth to this, especially as it relates to the XJ.
“People don’t see it as a performance car,” he says. “It’s a
misunderstanding. These cars are very quick, high performance. People don’t
quite get that.”
The wood and leather image of the car surely has something to do with this,
but Mr. Callum doesn’t feel the new XJ is unchanged or out-of-date. You can
tell the car excites him.
“It’s a mixture of old and new. The new XJ is worrying Mercedes Benz and
BMW. It has technical additions that other cars don’t have. I can see one
driving by right now, the big 20″ wheels, you’ve got to see it on the road
to get a full appreciation of the car, not on a stand in a car show.”
Given the company’s strong reliance on heritage, it may come as a surprise
that Mr. Callum sees modernity as a core value of Jaguar cars.
He can make a strong case.
Look back to the 1950s and 1960s and Jaguars were at the leading edge of
motorsports technology. The cars featured powerful twin-overhead camshaft
engines, disc brakes, sophisticated suspensions, aerodynamic design and
truckloads of racing trophies as a testament to their winning vehicles.
Off the track you could buy shapely Jaguar sedans trimmed with rich leather,
thick wool carpets, walnut panels, and the same race-bred technology under
the hood and between the wheels. Weekend racers took those to the track as
well, and won even with the luxury appointments.
But the forward-thinking 1968 XJ6, along with the revolutionary XK-E
(E-Type) and category-defining Mark II sports saloon were probably the
technical high-points for Jaguar, at least in terms of public perception.
“Today’s cars are born out of what’s happened over 25 years,” explains Mr.
Callum. “The company decided where it was in 1968, but it can’t remain that
way. We’ve reached a turning point over the past couple of years.”
The current Jaguar model line-up, though, continues to trade on the success
of the Sixties cars. In the case of the XJ, it’s clearly an evolution of the
XJ6. Today’s XK8 is draws its inspiration from the XK-E, and the S-Type is
born from its mid-Sixties namesake (and the classic Mark II sedan). The
X-Type is something of an amalgam, perhaps unsure of its legitimacy to the
Sales, however, are up, although volume is comparatively low. . Global sales
of Jaguars increased for the fifth consecutive year, with 2002 sales up 29%
over 2001 at about 130,000 cars sold worldwide. In Canada, sales are up as
well, but with an average of 150 Jaguars sold per month in Canada, this is
one-fifth the volume of BMW or Mercedes.
So what can we expect from Jaguar in the near future, and how will they
become “the most modern car on the road?”
“Our cars currently are too fragmented in design,” says Mr. Callum. “They
need more of a lineage. I can tell you that the cars on the road now are not
representative of the vehicles you’ll see from Jaguar in 5-10 years.
Heritage will still be important, but the contemporary message will be
Coincidentally, other luxury carmakers, like Audi and Mercedes-Benz, have
spent vast sums to make their cars similar to each other, or to put it
another way, to harmonize the design. Take a look at the current Audi A4, A6
and A8, for example.
But now that Audi has unified its design, BMW is throwing down the gauntlet
and differentiating each of its models. They expect the other German
manufacturers to follow suit. If they do, Jaguar may be taking a road less
Mr. Callum is undeterred: “We know our competitors inside-out, and
back-to-front. We know exactly what our competitors are up to. We don’t want
to build “cookie-cutter” cars, but there will be a move toward more
harmonization. We’re going to use the Jaguar grille on a lot of our cars.
It’s the D-Type, C-Type actually, grille. It’s not retro; it’s a Jaguar
grille. It immediately establishes a visual cue that’s instantly
2001 Jaguar R-Coupe Concept, Click image to enlarge. Photo: Jaguar
Mr. Callum points to the 2001 R-Coupe concept as an example of where Jaguar
could go, although this is a car the company is not planning to produce.
“We used that as a design exercise to establish a new way of thinking in the
company. It’s clearly a Jaguar, but aggressive. It’s the style of the
Apart from the revised 2003 S-Type and the 2004 XJ, Jaguar is planning an
estate (wagon) version of its X-Type, and an X-Type R to compete with the
BMW M3. The F-Type sports car is on indefinite hold. Future cars will loosen
their grip on the past, but won’t let go.
“Inside the car must be a place you want to be, not austere, not cold. That
being said, maybe metals in the future. In a couple of years you’ll be able
to buy a Jaguar with no wood at all, a luxury sports saloon. Not a new car,
but a new treatment.”
The company will continue with three sets of vehicles: an XK-type sports
car, a sports saloon and more formal, luxury saloons.
“We’ll maintain the coke-bottle waistlines, but with a modern
interpretation, and we won’t give up on wood and leather totally, although
maybe we’ll use different woods.”
New, radical, designs by other luxury makers, notably Cadillac, don’t appeal
to Mr. Callum:
“It’s brutal, with an edge of menace about it. We’ll do sharp edges in a
more caring way; with lots of form. The cars will be aesthetically
beautiful, fast and beautiful.”
For new ideas, Mr. Callum is using the Jaguar Advanced Styling Studio.
“They’re working on projects up to ten years ahead, but for Jaguar it’s got
to be right; nice looking, even at the expense of not being that
far-reaching. But it also has to be fresh and modern.”
Then there’s the British secret weapon, the sense of humour.
“Like on the R-Coupe we put a solid silver Union Jack, and the whole door
was a sheet of ebony, with leather applied to it. Old materials in a
Mr. Callum points to British designers like Paul Smith who are doing similar
things in the fashion world.
“We can take ordinary things and put a spin on them. British tradition: it’s
ours to do it with. It won’t upset it.”
The question is, in a highly competitive luxury segment, featuring
revolutionary BMWs and radically designed Cadillacs, can Jaguar combine
tradition and modernity into appealing models for future buyers?
Ian Callum has no doubt.