Jaguar may not be synonymous with the word supercars per se, given that they largely make luxury sedans, sports coupes, and SUVs. However, between 1992 and 1994, Jaguar produced what I would consider one of the greatest and most significant cars of all time: The XJ220. The XJ220 was a 2-seater supercar that was produced by the British carmaker with the help of race engineering specialists, Tom Walkinshaw Racing. It was Jaguar's first and last attempt at a road-going supercar, but that may be about to change.
The Legacy of the XJ220
I won't blame you if you didn't know, but for a majority of the last 70 years, the Jaguar brand and its iconic mascot were associated with incredible success and domination in motorsports. The company earned its place in the history books with its historic C-Type and D-Type race cars in the 50s, followed by one of my all-time favourite cars, the E-Type, later in the 60s. After a decent stroke of success in the 70s with modified versions of the E-Type and the XJ-S, Jaguar set their eyes on Le Mans, with big ambitions.
Jaguar C-Type, D-Type, E-Type & XJ-S
The XJR-9 earned Jaguar Le Mans victories in 1988 and 1990, thanks to the incredible torque of its 7.0-litre V12. Jaguar's 1988 victory at Le Mans was its first since 1957, breaking Porsche's 7-year-long winning streak. However, changes in the regulations on refueling ultimately rendered the XJR-9's thirsty V-12 engine inefficient, prompting them to go back to the drawing board. The TWR racing team experimented with the 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 of the MG Metro 6R4 as an alternative power unit.
Jaguar XJR-9, XJR-12 & XJR-14
At the same time, Jaguar decided that their road cars were too disconnected from their racing program, which at the time had been essentially run by the TWR team. So, they began the development of a high-performance racing program internally at Jaguar. Towards the end of 1987, Jim Randle - who at the time was the director of engineering - created the rough design for a Group B prototype, which later became the XJ220 prototype.
The prototype was presented at the 1988 British International Auto Show, and was met with an overwhelmingly positive response. The design generated enough interest from wealthy collectors and enthusiasts that Jaguar would announce a limited production run of around 350 units for the road-going model.
Work on the production car began almost immediately, as TWR took on a majority of the XJ220's development and production. Jaguar ditched the V12 in favour of the aforementioned 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 from the 6R4 mated to a 6-speed manual transmission due to reliability issues, emissions, and power output. The new, more compact power unit not only shortened the wheelbase, but more importantly, it helped reduce weight and provided additional power and torque.
The AWD system initially planned proved to be too complex, so Jaguar stuck to the more traditional RWD instead. Advanced technology for the time, such as rear-wheel steering, height-adjustable suspension, and active aerodynamics were also omitted to reduce the complexity and cost of the project. However, the honeycomb-like aluminum structure, as well as the car's elegant shape, were retained.
The result? Well, the XJ220's performance on paper was undoubtedly revolutionary for its time. The car produced a whopping 542 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque, accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in a claimed time of about 3.6 seconds a top speed of 212 mph (well, actually 217 mph with unrestricted catalytic converters). This means that the XJ220 was briefly the fastest production car of its time until the McLaren F1 took the crown in the mid-1990s.
Unfortunately, despite the team's best efforts, the project was doomed around the same time that deliveries began, given the global recession. Investors' interest in rivals such as Bugatti and their EB110 supercar had died down. Given the original price of about $831,000 in today's money, it's no surprise that the XJ220 ultimately failed. With struggling sales and a 'meh' reception from the press, only 282 out of the planned 350 units of the final product were built and sold. The poor reception of the finished product was due to the extensive mechanical and design changes implemented on the final production version. Some owners even took legal action against Jaguar for deviating from their original concept as they felt they were cheated.
Personally, I think the XJ220 is one of the best-looking and most iconic supercars to date. I do think it's quite a shame that the driving experience and noise the car makes didn't live up to the hype, given the futuristic appearance for its time. While it may have had dominant straight-line speed, its handling seemed rather unpredictable when the car was pushed.
A Second Attempt
When Jaguar unveiled the C‑X75 in 2010, it was supposed to be the beginning of a new era of innovation and technology. Jaguar initially planned to evolve the car from a concept to a fully working prototype within a span of just two years. In that incredibly short time, Jaguar and their development partner Williams Advanced Engineering, who made a name for themselves over the years competing in Formula 1, created an AWD plug-in hybrid electric hypercar. This was Jaguar's first venture in making carbon composite monocoque chassis.
However, in 2012, Jaguar found themselves in a similar situation as with the XJ220. The C‑X75 would not enter full production due to the global economic crisis. Nonetheless, Jaguar demonstrated to the world their clever engineering and expertise in lightweight vehicle construction. The car currently serves as the ideal test mule for R&D into high-performance, low emission powertrains for future projects.
As the C-X75 was proposed as a rival to the 'Holy Trinity of Hypercars' - the McLaren P1, Porsche 918 Spyder and the Ferrari LaFerrari - Jaguar had to have made a great car. Well, Jaguar did exactly that.
“The C‑X75 programme represents the pinnacle of Jaguar's engineering and design expertise. It is arguably the world's fastest test-bed for the world's most advanced technologies, combining as it does a remarkable hybrid powertrain with awe-inspiring performance. Jaguar is always looking to shape the cars of tomorrow and with projects like C‑X75 we are laying the foundations for the next generation of Jaguar innovations.” - Adrian Hallmark, Former Global Brand Director, Jaguar.
Unlike the concept shown off at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, the final product ditched the Bladon Jets omnivore turbines. Still, the C-X75 is the most powerful Jaguar ever made, with a combined power output of over 850bhp and 1000Nm of torque. Thanks to William's Formula 1 expertise, the 1.6-litre turbocharged and supercharged 4 cylinder power unit produced 502 bhp at 10,000 rpm. At one point, the C-X75 boasted the highest torque and power density per electric motor for any production car, which generated an additional 390 horsepower, giving the car a total of around 892 horsepower.
The C‑X75 can go from 0-60 mph in about 3 seconds and from 0-100 mph in under 6 seconds, thanks to its advanced 7-speed automated manual transmission, allowing sub-200 milliseconds gearshifts. The first C‑X75 prototype was able to comfortably pass 200 mph during testing, and it is estimated that the car has a top speed of 220mph. The car's deployable aerofoil and underfloor ground effect devices generate more than 200 kg worth of downforce at 200 mph, and the active aero systems enhance the car's high-speed stability. The complete carbon fibre construction makes for torsional rigidity of 60,000Nm per degree; three times more than a Lamborghini Murciélago.
The C-X75 is has a range of 60km on purely electric power. It's also surprisingly efficient, as its carbon dioxide emissions fall below 89 g/km, falling below the Toyota Prius' 90 g/km and EU's target of 95 g/km for 2021. If anything, the C‑X75 project allowed Jaguar to make a name for themselves by being the UK's most significant investor in innovative technology. As they were set to take on the big dogs, it's no surprise that millions on millions of dollars were spent developing the C-X75.
The best part of the C-X75? It's not just all bark and no bite. Matt Saunders, from Autocar, has actually driven the C-X75. He stated that regardless of wet conditions, the C-X75 feels every bit as fast as Jaguar say it is. Up to about the end of fourth gear (~120 mph), he argues that the C-X75 could probably compete with a Bugatti Veyron.
The C-X75 was a statement to the automotive world. The advanced powertrain and lightweight composites that Jaguar developed show that they've pushed the boundaries of power, performance & fuel efficiency. For a forgotten leader of building performance cars, Jaguar have demonstrated their technical prowess and expertise, reinforcing their position on the cutting-edge of the automotive industry. It's a shame that as of now, only 5 working prototypes actually exist, and there are no plans to make more.
The 'Leaked' Supercar
It's highly possible that with the help of new funding from their EV SUV range, Jaguar could take a step as once a world-leading British to compete head to head against the big dogs. As a carmaker that now looks destined to become a forgotten motorsports force, Jaguar's recently 'leaked supercar' could be a sign that they're getting back into the groove of high-performance cars. After all, not only are Jaguar doubling down on fully electrifying their range by 2025, but they also have their own Jaguar Racing Formula E team.
The Leaked Jaguar Patent
These mysterious patents have surfaced on the internet, showcasing a potential future road-going Jaguar supercar - loosely based on the Vision Gran Turismo virtual race car, with hints of the XJ220 and C-X75. The patent was allegedly filed in China on the 17th of March 2020, but a priority filing with the EUIPO (European Union Intellectual Property Office) was also found, submitted earlier on the 25th of September 2019.
The last time the world was gifted with a Jaguar supercar seems like an eternity ago - 28 years to be exact. Throughout my entire lifetime, the closest thing to a Jaguar supercar was the C-X75, and seeing that project being shut down has left me wanting more from the iconic British brand. The XJ220 was an icon of the 90s, and I really hope the folks in Coventry come out with a modern-day icon to do justice to the Jaguar brand.
After all, the Jaguar XJ220 never got a successor that I think it rightfully deserves. For a while, we were teased with the likelihood of that happening with the C-X75 all the way back in 2010, but all hope seemed lost with the cancellation of the project. I'd love to see these leaks as another beam of hope, but in all honesty, I'm not holding out much hope as the car doesn't quite look ready for production. I hate to say it, but I think this car is nothing more than just an early concept. Telltale giveaways are the obviously futuristic design and the omission of branding.
Let's take a deeper look at that design. The grille and rear lights are distinctly Jaguar. The shape of the rear quarter and the top are especially reminiscent of the XJ220 and the C-X75. The rims are a carbon copy of the ones from the Vision Gran Turismo. All of this begs the question - What is Jaguar planning to do with this design? Perhaps it will remain just a digital concept, although I would love to see Jaguar present a life-size concept car. Above all, what I really want is for Jaguar to put this car into production.
This car really has come out of nowhere, so it's important not to quickly draw up conclusions as to what Jaguar plans to do with it. After all, this is the company that took over 20 years to create something even remotely close to a successor to the XJ200, so there is absolutely no way of knowing the company's plans for sure. What worries me is that as far as JLR CFO Adrian Mardell and investors of the company are concerned, there's simply no room for a low-volume supercar like this in Jaguar's plans for the future.
JLR is in a painful situation of having to maintain high sales while also having to transition itself into the EV era. Overall, progress looks alright for the most part, but adding a low-volume supercar into the mix would surely cause more problems than solve, I'd assume. Yes, a battery-powered supercar would tick half the boxes by being electric, but it's the problem with sales and revenue that would put the company at risk.
Although we haven't seen anything come to fruition from these leaks, we can all probably live in peace knowing that the British automaker hasn't forgotten how to make a proper halo car. I hope to see the day that Jaguar builds a thoroughbred supercar using the performance and technological prowess that we've come to know the iconic brand for.
All images used in this article are not my own. All rights reserved.