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Jaguar concept previews S-Type replacement. Image by Jaguar.

Jaguar concept previews S-Type replacement
We'll be amongst the first to see the new Jaguar C-XF concept car at Detroit next week.
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It seems an age since Jaguar first of all announced that its replacement for the S-Type saloon would be called the XF, then released a teaser image showing a part of the concept car to be displayed at next week's Detroit Auto Show. Finally, we're allowed to bring you the full details of that show car, called the C-XF.

A letter accompanying the press release stated that the C-XF concept does not just preview the forthcoming XF saloon, in the way that the Advanced Lightweight Coupé was a thinly-veiled showroom-ready Jaguar XK. That's a little surprising given the elegant form of the C-XF, its name and its four-door layout.

Let's look at the concept, piece by piece, starting with the face. Jaguar already has a strong identity and it is maintained on the C-XF, if drastically moved away from the retro towards the contemporary. The new grille is recessed by a fair amount and is more masculine than all previous Jaguar grilles (current XK included). If this shape is retained on the XF, it is likely that it will be softened with more chrome and feature a less stylised and smaller version of the recessed Jaguar badge. The wire mesh design could be seen on a future XF-R version though.

Either side of the grille are radically-restyled headlights. It is unclear how close these items are to production, especially as they house jewel-like detailing typical of concept cars, but the overall shape is great, melding into the sensuously styled bonnet. The C-XF features a heavily sculpted bonnet that incorporates an aggressive power bulge, as well as vents that mimic those found on the XKR. We would expect this design to be toned down for the non-R versions of the XF.

The same could be said for the sculpting of the front splitter and lower air intakes; they look great, but are unlikely to adorn a new car this year. However, it is likely that the basic front wing shape is to be seen on the XF, including a subtle version of the side vents, with satin-finish only likely on a future XFR. On the show car, the bonnet shut line extends deep into the front wings and then continues the length of the car, forming the shape of the rear deck.

Keeping that shoulder line pure is the movement of the door handles into the B and C-pillars, which is a feature I am sure the designers would love to keep, but we don't think they will make it to the showroom on a model that appeals to a relatively restrained buyer. Likewise with the fantastic door mirrors used on the concept.

Opinion is divided in our office as to whether the XF will retain the 'fastback' shape of the concept. We hope so, but it may not release enough rear head room. The rear view of the C-XF is just as modern as the rest of the car, though perhaps the furthest away from production. Extravagant exhaust pipes flank an aerodynamic diffuser, unlikely to be seen even on the R-version. Hopefully an iteration of the full-width rear lights will make it onto the XF, as they manage to combine sportiness with elegance and originality, especially when combined with the strip of aluminium embossed with the Jaguar name.

Whatever about the production feasibility of the C-XF's exterior, the cockpit is wonderfully forward-looking and only the bare outline is likely to grace the XF. Like many concept cars, the interior features a minimal number of buttons and controls. Jaguar has managed this by incorporating a prototype interface christened 'JaguarSense', in which the occupants can control certain aspects of the interior without actually touching anything. One such system is the new 'Dual View' screen that allows for instance satnav to work, even while the other passengers are watching a DVD.

There are several gimmicks included too, such as a rev counter that motors towards the driver for more prominence if the 'Dynamic' mode is selected on the transmission. Manual gear selection can be made using the prominent steering wheel paddles or via the rotary switch on the transmission tunnel. This switch is dramatically brought into view once the car is started, itself a theatrical procedure involving a bit of a light show in the cockpit and culminating with a little pulse of blue light from the front grille for onlookers!

Jaguar's Director of Design, Ian Callum, summed up the concept for us: "Great Jaguars turn heads in the street. They make people stop and pay attention. They evoke instant desire. That's what the C-XF does and that's what the next generation of Jaguars will do." From that, we have to hope that at least some of the C-XF DNA is visible in the XF saloon when it is revealed at the Frankfurt Motor Show later this year.

Shane O' Donoghue - 3 Jan 2007

2007 Jaguar C-XF concept. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2007 Jaguar C-XF concept. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2007 Jaguar C-XF concept. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2007 Jaguar C-XF concept. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2007 Jaguar C-XF concept. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

2007 Jaguar C-XF concept. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2007 Jaguar C-XF concept. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2007 Jaguar C-XF concept. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2007 Jaguar C-XF concept. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2007 Jaguar C-XF concept. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.    - Jaguar road tests
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