Silver supercar steals Paris spotlight

motoring134338 ELEGANT IN BOTH VISUAL AND ENGINEERING TERMS: The Jaguar C-X75 will be regarded as a classic expression of design long after the technology it presents has become commonplace. Pictures: Dave Abrahams

She's undoubtedly the star of the 2010 Paris auto show, upstaging even the star-studded five-model (six if you count Naomi Campbell) onslaught from Lotus and everything from Italy.

She's sleek, silver, streamlined to swooning point and so gorgeous you find yourself walking circles around her to find more angles from which to admire.

And, under her ultra-smooth skin, she embodies technology so advanced, yet so simple and so logical, that generations of automotive engineers will be asking themselves, "Why didn't we think of that?"

She - and if ever a car was female it is this one - is, of course, the Jaguar C-X75, a concept created to commemorate the marque's 75th anniversary with a unique look into the future wrapped in a subtle tribute to the past.

Jaguar managing director Mike O'Driscoll said: "The C-X75 is a tribute to the people who shaped the iconic Jaguars that are revered to this day. By making it a test-bed for the technologies of tomorrow, it also ensures that our reputation for engineering excellence will continue for another 75 years and beyond."

Its styling, as futuristic as it is, has a line or two derived from Malcolm Sayer's 1966 XJ13 Le Mans prototype - a car described by current Jaguar head of design Ian Callum as, "arguably the most beautiful ever made".

motoring134336 SYMPHONY IN SILVER: The interior of the Jaguar C-X75 contrasts polished aluminium with a dozen soft shades of grey and phosphor blue.

I'm not sure; I tend to agree with Enzo Ferrari that the E-Type is the most beautiful car in the world - but that's like debating whether Megan Fox is prettier than Charlize Theron.

Or maybe this is. Like all great designs, it's deceptively simple; just a straightforward central fuselage surrounded by prominent wheel arches, yet the detail work is utterly exquisite.

There's a short, straight crease from the lip of the front spoiler to each outer air duct that defines and separates them from the grille and, just in case you should ever think of accusing Callum of putting in a line that isn't functional, it smoothes the air-flow into those ducts for better cooling of the brake discs.

Then there's the perfect curve over the rear wheel-arch (courtesy of Mr Sayer) that meets another perfect curve rising from below just where the narrow red band of the tail lights "turns the corner" of the body - and that curve frames the carbon-fibre rear diffuser, directing air over it and ensuring perfect laminar flow as the speed rises and the rear diffuser is lowered to increase downforce.

We said speed: the C-X75 is a supercar in every sense of the word, accelerating from 0-100km in 3.4sec, from 80-145 in 2.3sec and on to 330km/h, yet warming the globe at the equivalent of only 28g/km.

It is, basically, an extended-range battery car but it's how that range is extended that makes every other car on the planet look a little out of date. Inboard of each wheel there's a 145kW electric motor; each wheel is independently driven and can be individually controlled by the car's electronic stability programme.

motoring134337 PERFECT CURVE: The sweeping line over the rear wheel-arch of the Jaguar C-X75 was borrowed frpom the 1966 XJ13 Le Mans prototype.

A LITTLE MORE 'STAR WARS'

Together they deliver 580kW and an eyeball-flattening 1600Nm from standstill (that's the beauty of electric motors) while weighing only 50kg each. They're fed by a 230kg bank of lithium-ion batteries with a collective capacity of 19.6 kWh; that's enough to keep a household kettle boiling all day and gives the C-X75 a zero-emissions range of 110km.

The batteries can be charged in about six hours from the power outlet in your garage but when you're out on the open road things get a little more Star Wars.

For, nestled under the rear window is a pair of axial-flow gas-turbines made by British company Bladon Jets. Each is 550mm long, 160mm in diameter and weighs only 35kg yet produces 70kW at a constant 80 000rpm.

Each turbine drives a switched reluctance generator supplied by SR Drives, charging the batteries either in sequence or together, depending on their needs, or even, for maximum output, powering the motors directly.

900KM RANGE

motoring134335 STAR WARS POWER: Nestled under the rear window of the Jaguar C-X75 is a pair of axial-flow gas-turbines made by British company Bladon Jets.

It gets better; gas turbines can run on a range of fuels from diesel to bio-fuels to compressed natural gas or liquid petroleum gas and, since they spin up to operating speed and temperature in seconds, they can be used in short bursts to top up the batteries without compromising fuel consumption or life-cycle.

That gives the CX-75 a theoretical range of 900km and, at the end of that, it can be refuelled with 60 litres of power paraffin from a general dealer or, at a pinch, mampoer!

When both turbines are running they push out 35 000 litres a minute of hot exhaust gases, which are directed, Formula 1 style, on to the rear diffuser to produce levels of downforce unprecedented on anything other than a GP racing car.

LATERAL THINKING

The interior is a symphony in silver, with polished aluminium, carbon fibre and a dozen soft shades of grey offset by phosphor-blue lighting from luminescent panels in the doors and bulkhead cavities

Its layout is equally as futuristic and as lateral-thinking as the powertrain. For example, the seats are fixed to the rear bulkhead; the steering column, instrument binnacle and pedal box are individually adjustable to suit the driver.

As in the new Jaguar XJ sedan the instrument panel is a high-resolution liquid-crystal display combining designs from the XJ and fighter aircraft to create virtual gimbals around which information can wrap and rotate to provide status updates - all controlled via paddles on the steering wheel.

A secondary touchscreen, angled towards the driver on the centre stack, acts as a co-pilot, suppressing superfluous information so the driver can concentrate on the task at hand and communicating with gadgets such as the driver's smartphone.

It will, for instance, recognise when the driver is due to attend a track day and suggest that the car's active suspension and stability programmes be reset to track mode, then reflect that information on the instrument panel.

SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL

The concept uses the same construction techniques as the XJ with aluminium panels over an extruded and bonded aluminium chassis. It's small by supercar standards at 4.647m long, 2.02m wide and 1.2m high, and weighs only 1350kg.

While it's unlikely that it'll go into production any time soon - if nothing else, the cost of the turbines would be prohibitive - it's a huge leap into the future of automotive technology, pointing the way to a new design language for Jaguar's next 75 years.

But most of all it is beautiful, elegant in both visual and engineering terms, and will be regarded as a classic expression of design long after the technology it presents has become commonplace.

Ian Callum, who has a truly Irish gift for expression, put it thus: "The C-X75 is everything a Jaguar should be. It possesses remarkable poise and grace yet at the same time has the excitement and potency of a true supercar.

"You could argue this is as close to a pure art form as a concept car can get and we believe it is a worthy homage to 75 years of iconic Jaguar design."


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