Jaguar’s reinvention of its next-generation flagship XJ sedan as an electric vehicle may have as much to do with improving its packaging as it does producing a zero emissions performance limousine.
In the words of the company’s traditional slogan, electrification of the XJ won’t just bring more pace and grace, but space as well.
According to reports from the UK, Jaguar is expected to unveil the new XJ at this September’s Paris Motor Show to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the original 1968 car bearing the same name with an on-sale date of 2019.
Like the just-released I-Pace compact SUV, it will feature an all-electric drivetrain comprising a flat floor containing the batteries, with two motors each powering front and rear wheels.
If it sounds like a radical departure from convention in the normally conservative world of large, luxury cars then the XJ already has form. The current model, released back in 2009, broke the mould of traditional Jaguars from a design perspective and previous versions have introduced technology such as bonded aluminium structures.
Add to that a certain freedom of expression afforded Jaguar by the XJ’s relatively small dedicated global customer base – sales run far behind rivals including the Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7-series and Audi A8 – together with the availability of the I-Pace’s modular EV platform, and it starts to make more sense.
According to Jaguar design boss Ian Callum, the electric platform of the I-Pace, with its smaller motors in place of one bulky engine, was able to liberate more interior room in the compact SUV.
Without referring directly to the use of electrification in the next XJ, or stories that it may eschew a sedan-style body for a more radical five-door configuration, he said more space is exactly what Jaguar’s large luxury car (called an F-segment vehicle in Europe) needs as well.
“It’ll be different and it will have more room inside it,” he said
“Probably one of the biggest criticisms of the XJ today, people are saying the room inside for an F-segment car isn’t big enough.”
From what Mr Callum says, he is no fan of categorising cars in particular pigeonholes such as the three-box sedan archetype of the Mercedes S-Class.
“I don’t believe in the F-segment as such, I just believe we should do a luxury vehicle that manages people well and that’s what we’ve done for XJ, which is what the first one was all about.
“But we have given it more room because a lot of our market is the Far East where people are using these big cars to be driven in so we must accommodate that.”
Perhaps not coincidentally, the Chinese market is becoming rapidly electrified with some 150,000 50kW public charging stations now available compared with 95,000 in the EU and 33,000 in the USA, according to Jaguar’s figures.
Of course, Australia has very few public charging stations of any output but then, a total of just 26 Jaguar XJs were sold here last year.
Assuming the next XJ is built upon an extended version of the I-Pace’s platform, that also means more space for batteries and the possibility of extended range and performance despite being a heavier car.
Batteries in the I-Pace store 90kWh of energy, giving it a range approaching 500km between full recharges and it will accelerate to 100km/h in a claimed 4.8 seconds.
It has a very long wheelbase – the distance between front and rear wheels – and short bonnet for a so-called cab-forward design, both elements for liberating maximum interior space and flagged by Mr Callum as being probable design features in future Jaguars.
“I never saw XJ as a traditional F-segment car,” he said. “Mercedes have created that place, the three-box limo sedan, and I just don’t think that’s a Jaguar; Jaguar’s a much sportier entity than that, and it should reflect that in what we do.”
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