Ten Questions: Ian Callum and the XK

January 30, 2006

2007 Jaguar XK Coupe/Convertible by Marty Padgett (2/1/2006)
Gorgeous, yes — but technically tight, too.

 

 

The new XK is sensuous, glamorous, and sleek. But how did it get that way? Jaguar chief designer sat down with TheCarConnection at the global launch of the new XK coupe and convertible in South Africa to share exclusive details of the car’s development.  (Click photos to enlarge.)

 

 

 

 

2001 Dodge Intrepid

2001 Dodge Intrepid

Clay models might seem like old-school car design, but most carmakers, including Jaguar, still use them to flesh out the details of their vehicles. Jaguar chief designer Ian Callum says you have to: it’s only in this form that you see how a car looks before locking into production pieces. “It’s always a surprise when you cut a car,” he says.

 

 

 

2000 Dodge Intrepid

2000 Dodge Intrepid

In the case of the new XK, Jaguar’s multiple clay models dictated some of the car’s fundamental features, too. An early pass at a longer XK went belly-up in consumer clinics. “Buyers said, ‘Don’t make the car bigger,’” Callum recalls. Out came four to five inches from the wheelbase. Too, stylists and engineers had toyed with the idea of making the XK a hardtop convertible — but abandoned the notion when they realized that packaging a folding hardtop would mean squaring off and enlarging the XK’s tail.

 

 

 

 

1999 Dodge Intrepid

1999 Dodge Intrepid

Even after being vetted out with the clay model, finishing touches will always draw fire. The oval air intake on the XK’s nose has been a source of early criticism, drawing some unfavorable comparisons to the front end on the 2000 Ford Taurus. Callum says there’s a logical explanation for it: brother Moray, Mazda stylist and owner of an E-Type coupe, reinterpreted the latter car’s front end for the more pedestrian Taurus. And now it’s come home to roost on the XK, where Ian Callum points out that the oval shape and size are nearly identical not to the Taurus, but to Jaguar’s iconic XJ13 racer.

 

 

 

 

2000 Dodge ESX3

2000 Dodge ESX3

“Most designers are intrigued with the front, and get fed up by the time they get to the back,” Callum says. The new XK’s taillamps evolved from a more delicate shape in clay models — a narrow band of red with circular reverse lights ringed in chrome — to the larger ones that made their way into production. Chalk it up to the various safety regulations around the world: the fog and reverse lamps can be on the decklid, but brake lights must be on the body itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2000 Dodge Durango R/T

2000 Dodge Durango R/T

The XK’s stance was the single element that Callum says guided the shape of the car. At every chance, his team pulled the rear of the car narrower and tighter, to give it the “haunches” that undoubtedly give the car its best angle, from the rear side. But the car had to have a trunk opening large enough to swallow a full-sized piece of Samsonite, per the marketing department.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2001 Dodge Durango

2001 Dodge Durango

The XK Coupe’s hatchback glass area is one-third the width of the car — more testament to Callum’s dictum that stylists pull the rear end narrow. “We can’t take it lower or tighter anywhere,” he beams. “We wanted people to understand that Jaguar has a raw edge to it” — hence, the coming 21-inch accessory wheel option.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2000 Dodge Durango

2000 Dodge Durango

Callum says the straight line that underscores the XK’s headlamps is an element of tension that is more intriguing than Jaguar’s usual “thumbnail” headlamp shape. Toying with different treatments resulted in several styles — a traditional look like that on Porsche’s 911, a copy of the Mercedes “goggle” look — until Callum signed off on the production car’s final headlamp shape. “We’re less precious about [our headlamp shape than Porsche]. We can break the rules.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1999 Dodge Durango

1999 Dodge Durango

The narrow spoiler resting on the XK’s decklid is a concession to regulations that dictate the placement of the center high-mounted stop lamp — but Callum says it creates a strong line across the tail of the car. “It’s a slightly idiosyncratic piece…a strong bow across the rear end.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2000 Dodge Dakota R/T

2000 Dodge Dakota R/T

The buckle that decorates the XK’s front fenders is a new styling element that will show up on future Jaguars. It neatly solved the puzzle of what to do with the sheetmetal between the wheel and door cutline — and, Callum says, lets people know that the car is a Jaguar, if they don’t recognize the new shape instantly. “It allows us to indulge in a little bit of luxury,” he says.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1999 Dodge Dakota R/T

1999 Dodge Dakota R/T

The new XK comes with a choice of three interior trims: traditional walnut, a light poplar, and a technical-looking aluminum trim. The aluminum trim package has proven popular at home, as 50 percent of XKs are ordered with it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2000 Dodge Dakota

2000 Dodge Dakota

Callum says the XK is the most accomplished Jaguar design to date. “There’s a totality…a most sophisticated look.” He adds that the XK is the first Jaguar in which designers were totally involved from the beginning along with marketers to determine the shape and layout of the car. “It’s exotic…and it’s extreme,” he says.
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