Jaguar C-X75 Concept first drive
The Jaguar supercar that will never be
It's a bit of a contradiction is Jaguar's C-X75 experimental concept car. On the one hand, it's a supercar. On the other, it's powered by 1.6-litre four-banger. Yes, you read that right, a car claiming to be super powered by the same exact engine format as a Hyundai Accent.
Jaguar's management team mandated that it had to accelerate as hard as a Bugatti Veyron, eclipsing 100 km/h in less than three seconds. They also said, however, that it had to have roughly the same CO2 emissions as a Toyota Prius. Indeed, the same mandate also required that it be able to drive 60 kilometres without even turning on that diminutive little gas engine.
Just to add that last little degree of difficulty, it had to have an interior based on current Jaguar parts and technology, a ride that would not offend an F-Type owner and, oh, by the way, the car it was to be based on — the C-X75 concept first shown to the public at the Paris auto show in 2010 — was powered by miniature gas turbine engines which meant there really was no place for that gasoline engine, no matter tightly one packaged those lowly four pistons.
That was the design brief originally handed over to Ian Cluett, head of Williams (as in Formula 1) Advanced Engineering's head of powertrain development. And, Mission Impossible or no that's exactly what Cluett and his counterpart at Gaydon, Felipe Austin Bodely, Jaguar's vehicle integration manager, produced.
Hybrids: The new supercar frontier
The C-X75, for those few motorheads who've been living in a cave these last two years, is Jaguar's answer to the competition's recent spate of hybridized, supposedly emission-conscious supercars; McLaren's P1, the Porsche 918 and Ferrari's LaFerrari. All claim the green mantle's emissions reduction while simultaneously boasting incredible horsepower, the LaFerrari (Gawd, what a pretentious name) claiming 900 plus.
Unfortunately, there is some concern that with so many players vying for Bill Gates like money, the market in million-dollar green supercars might be a little crowded (Porsche is reportedly having much trouble moving its 918) and so, despite initial plans for Jaguar to produce 200 samples of the C-X75, the company has since announced that the program is on indefinite hold. Poor economic climes is the official reason but one can't help but suspect that memories of the difficulty the company had selling the equally exotic XJ220 back in the early ‘90s played a part in Jaguar's reticence.
A prototype in name only
Nonetheless, the supposedly experimental C-X75 is an almost full-developed prototype on the very edge of production and an intriguing example of what a performance hybrid might be capable of. Powered by the miniscule designed-by-Williams 1.6-litre four-banger and no less than two electric motors, Jaguar claims a top speed on the scary side of 320 km/h. The Williams 1.6L, which revs to a heady 10,300 rpm, produces 502 ponies (yes, 313 horsepower per liter; no, that's not a typo) while each of the two wafer thin electric motors (one connected to the front axle through a single-speed gearbox, the other powering the rear tires through the traditional seven-speed transaxle) each produce 195-hp. Put them all together and you're good for nigh on 890 rootin, tootin, horsepower.
It's also a supercar of incredible complexity (the gas engine with both a supercharger and a turbocharger, two electric motors, two lithium-ion batteries, two electrical inverters and no less than 14 radiators) possessed of seemingly impossible sophistication that will also scream down the (relatively) short straight of Jaguar's High-Speed Emissions Track at 310 km/h with such ease and stability that Yours Truly took one hand off the steering wheel (only to make a point to Mike Cross, Jaguar's famed vehicle integrity engineer who was sitting in the passenger seat). This is what Cross calls the C-X75's "full fat" mode, with both electric motors and gas engine all pumping maximum go-juice to all four wheels. And yes, as you might probably imagine, the super-revvy Williams 1.6L was howling like a banshee at every time I paddle-shifted up a gear at 10,300.
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