Ian Callum: Sensual healing
When designing a sports car, the importance of first impressions cannot be over-emphasized. Like seeing a blind date for the first time, your mind is made up within a second of looking at it. If a Jaguar is ugly, it'll be in trouble, so it's good that Ian Callum is head of design.
If there's one man who knows how to skin a cat, it's Callum. He's a car enthusiast as much as anything, not just on the payroll because it's a job. He's served time with Ford and was responsible for some of the company's most startling concept cars before landing the job as designer of Aston Martin's seminal DB7. When he went over to Jaguar, he was actually heading the design teams for both manufacturers, but that didn't last long. He's carried out some subtle tweaks of Jaguar's older models, such as the S-Type, which looks far less awkward these days. The new XK, however, was his first proper stamp on Jaguar's design aesthetic.
He's justifiably proud of the XK and XKR. Looking at the rear three-quarter view, you get the true sense of what the car is all about. The glass area on the rear hatch is only a third of the width of the car, giving the haunches plenty of drama and a squat, purposeful look that spells performance. Lithe, athletic and muscular, yet not too retro like previous Jaguars, this is the finest looking big cat since the E-Type and places Jaguar firmly in the 21st century.
He's made it quite clear he wants to throw away the rule book, just as Sir William Lyons, founder of Jaguar cars, would have done. The next Jaguar (the XF) will replace the S-Type, which could be make or break for the company. Expectations are understandably high but, in Callum's hands, things are looking good.
Aluminum: a Cat's best friend
Ever-increasing levels of equipment and safety features mean cars weigh twice what they used to. This makes for less fun, higher fuel consumption and more pollution. Hardly a desirable state of affairs.
Jaguar, though, has been busy investing huge sums in new technologies, resulting in its new cars being all-aluminum in construction. Eschewing the separate spaceframe and exterior panel methods used by many others, the XK uses an all-aluminum monocoque body structure. This is high-tech aircraft engineering put into car production. Just like the E-Type back in the 1960s.
Using innovative epoxy bonding and riveting processes, the result is a structure that is both incredibly stiff and light. This means Jaguar, a company with finite resources, can get away without designing an all-new engine. With a bit of fine-tuning, the new XKR has a 12 percent higher power-to-weight ratio than its predecessor-mainly down to the use of aluminum instead of steel. The XK Coupe chassis is 30 percent stiffer than the previous generation and the convertible is more than 40 percent stiffer, which makes for a much more rewarding experience behind the wheel.