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Jaguar design chief details F-Pace evolution

Grand designs: Jaguar design director Ian Callum, pictured in Sydney with the F-Pace, initially rejected the idea of designing an SUV.

Design chief looked to Jaguar F-Type sportscar for inspiration for F-Pace SUV


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19 Jul 2016

JAGUAR’S all-important F-Pace SUV went through years of development and a number of iterations before arriving at the production model which is “exactly the way we wanted it to be”, according to the man charged with designing the British prestige car brand’s first crossover.

Speaking at the Australian launch of the F-Pace last week, Jaguar’s design director Ian Callum took local journalists on a walk-through of the company’s latest model, which is expected to make up about 50 per cent of its overall sale volume here and be its best seller globally.

He detailed the gestation period of Jaguar’s first high-riding wagon and provided insight into how the critical model came together, while the design team tried to avoid copying anything that was already on offer in the segment.

Mr Callum said he was asked by Jaguar executives 15 years ago his thoughts on introducing an SUV, about the same time Porsche was releasing its game-changing Cayenne, and said at the time that he was more interested in designing sportscars than SUVs.

“Until about five years ago and the difference was this,” he said. “We were producing a set of cars based on the D7A platform or architecture (XE, XF) and then therefore we had an opportunity to start from scratch and do a proper SUV the way we wanted to.”

The Jaguar team noticed that the SUV market “started to increase dramatically”, particularly in China which was one of the company’s biggest markets, according to Mr Callum.

“We made the decision with this new D7A platform to produce an SUV. We even discussed whether we should do an SUV first and do XE and then XF. XF timing was determined by the previous one. We decided, rightly or wrongly, to go first with the smaller car,” he said.

“The good reason for that is if you start off on producing a car like this (F-Pace) and try and derive a smaller car, or less expensive car off it, it usually doesn’t work. You end up putting so much into the attributes of this to bring it down to a smaller car (and it) becomes very difficult and very costly.

“Start off with a smaller or less expensive car and build it up. There is something grander and you have a much more successful product on both sides because you can add to it.” The Jaguar design team was afforded a level of freedom that is uncommon when developing a completely new model and Mr Callum said the designers were careful to avoid creating something similar to what was already on offer from rivals.

“Four years ago we set about on this journey as a design team. We started off with a completely clear sheet of paper. We had no reference. I said to my team, ‘I don’t want any reference from outside. I don’t want to know what Porsche or Audi is doing.’ We do know subconsciously what they are doing, of course,” he said.

“And of course we didn’t even want to really pick any reference to what Land Rover was doing. They do a great job doing they what they do but we didn’t want this to look or feel in any way like a Land Rover. I am sure Gerry (Land Rover design director Gerry McGovern), my compatriot in arms, would agree with that.”

Mr Callum said the freedom the team was afforded aided the design process, while the shared platform has helped make manufacturing much more efficient.

“The great advantage with new platform was we could decide the size of it – overall dimensions, where the wheels could be, how it could sit together etcetera,” he said.

“It’s a completely different floorpan than the XE with this car. XF and XE are put together exactly the same way. The manufacturing process is a lot more efficient.”

Mr Callum praised his “great team” and said that while there were regular debates during the design process, it made for a better end product.

“We all pull in the same direction most of the time. I mean designers are designers. We all try and get the same goal. We are fairly forceful and tenacious. And I have trained them to be that way,” he said.

“They understand the engineering of the car inside out, probably holistically more than many engineers do because they have got their part but designers understand how the whole car is put together. So they can manage all that.

“Of course, it is not easy. You have got to really debate and consult and discuss and there is the occasional argument but we get where we want to be.

This car is exactly the way we wanted it to be. And most cars we do are actually. We have a very empathetic group of engineers in manufacturing.”

Mr Callum said he pushes his team to go over the top with their designs in the initial stages of development as they will likely be softened by the time it hits production.

“I say this to my team: ‘You have got to exaggerate it. You have got to push your limits as best you can because when it comes out the other end, it should just about be right. If you don’t take that liberty of exaggeration, it will come out too tame.’“When we were doing the grille of this car (F-Pace), it was a big grille. I look at it now and it feels perfectly normal but designing it three years ago it was the biggest grille in the world.”

Getting to the final F-Type via the striking C-X17 concept from the 2013 Frankfurt motor show was not easy, according to Mr Callum, who said his team worked on a number of iterations before ultimately taking inspiration from one of its existing products.

“Once we got the proportions right, we started off with three or four models of this (F-Pace). Admittedly it started off a bit stiff, a bit matter of fact, lacking a bit of sensuality because we were doing something we didn’t really know where to go with,” he said.

“I kept coming in and looking at it and suggesting ideas and I got very involved in the design of this car.

“I said, ‘We have got this F-Type here.’ I brought one in and I said, ‘It is gorgeous. Look at it, look what it has got, it has got that movement in it.’ So we literally started to emulate some of the feeling of the F-Type to capture some of the sensuality that it needed.

“So although the proportion was there, that sense of relaxed confidence wasn’t there, so we worked that through and that’s how we got the car we’ve got today.”

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