Ian Callum tells Wheels how he designed the most crucial new Jag in decades
WHEELS: What were the biggest challenges for you and the team in designing a smaller Jaguar?
CALLUM: The great thing about the XE is that we're starting with a whole new architecture; the design team was actually involved in creating where they wanted the wheels to sit and where they wanted the overall proportions to be – the big engineering questions.
I also wanted to make sure that the coupe profile that we'd developed and really invented for the XF and the XJ prevailed, because this for me was the ultimate sports saloon car.
In some ways it will take over the mantle of the XF as a sports saloon because it's smaller, and it's certainly going to be more nimble.
I didn't want us to reinvent the whole Jaguar look – good luxury branding is about consistency – so I was insistent that the overall graphic, especially around the front of the car, was very much part of the current theme.
It's more assertive, it's got a more upright grille, and slimmer headlamps, but people will recognise the essence of the current Jaguar look.
The stance obviously is very important, the wheel-to-body relationship is important, the size of the wheels is important.
Typically, we're an inch larger than our competitive set in terms of wheel size. Minimum is going to be 17-inch; we'll go up to 20s. And the car’s been designed around those sizes; it’s not something that's been added in afterwards.
WHEELS: With the F-Type, you described the huge battle you had over keeping bonnet height as low as possible – trading millimetres with the engineering boys. Was it easier or harder to keep the XE's bonnet low, being a saloon?
CALLUM: With the size of the engine, it's always going to be one of the big challenges.
The new four-cylinder engine isn't small by any means, it's a two-litre, and modern engines tend to be tall because there's a lot of stuff in the cylinder head. And it's challenging.
We're fortunate that we still have, in the European models, airbags under the bonnet to give us the lowest bonnetline possible for the engine height.
Ironically a straight-four is more difficult to package because of the height of it.
WHEELS: Aluminium: advantages and challenges?
CALLUM: From a design point of view it is hugely challenging. It requires a little more fullness to hold its form, but also it’s limited in how much depth you can draw out of it for areas such as rear haunches and shapes and such like.
WHEELS: You once said you preferred designing saloons to coupes. Has that been true with the XE?
CALLUM: I think I prefer them in the way that they're more challenging. You've got real constraints with them because of the packaging; you've got to fit in five people and their luggage.
I love the idea of a challenge and, in spite of all that, getting something overtly sporting out of it, and I think we've succeeded quite well with this car.
But I think I'd rather still do a sports car in terms of the emotional value of it, and I probably said that before I did the F-Type.