- Ian Callum, Director of Design, Jaguar Cars
The launch of the New XJ Long Wheelbase marks not just the return of the seminal luxury British saloon but also an opportunity for Jaguar Cars’ Advanced Design Studio to use the most spacious vehicle the company has ever built as the base for an intriguing design programme – the Jaguar Concept Eight. This sumptuous luxury saloon blends the best in contemporary British creativity with the ultimate in automotive engineering to offer a compelling glimpse of future Jaguars.
The Concept Eight has been designed to reflect the unique position that Jaguar holds in the luxury car market. Developed from the New XJ Long Wheelbase saloon, it has been extensively reworked beneath its broad, single-piece, glass roof to produce a luxury concept car that is understated and tasteful, yet powerful, exciting and undeniably glamorous. Making the most of Jaguar's New XJ Long Wheelbase structure – with the longest wheelbase in its class – the Concept Eight introduces new luxury elements, new in-car entertainment technology, and new performance styling cues.
British design is acknowledged to be world-leading in creative areas as diverse as fashion and architecture, interiors and furniture making. The Concept Eight reflects Britain’s standing in design by using the most contemporary materials and trim to create an environment that is unlike any other luxury saloon. You won’t find lap-top computers, satellite uplinks and plasma screens inside the Concept Eight, instead you will enter a world of inch-deep handmade carpets, chilled champagne, Waterford Crystal and even essential oils to allow you to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.
'The Concept Eight is not about cramming in half an hour’s work on the way to and from the airport,' says Julian Thomson, Chief of Advanced Design, Jaguar Cars. 'It is a car that exudes British good taste and calmness. It has a very relaxed but contemporary feel about it. Jaguar is not an ‘all work and no play’ company and the Concept Eight reflects that. When you ride in it you should get the same feeling of well-being that you would enjoy if you stayed in the latest trendsetting hotel.
'The biggest luxuries in life are increasingly just having your own time and space – this is what the Concept Eight is meant to provide. This car is all about travelling in style to a movie premiere or a party. It’s about having fun.'
CONCEPT EIGHT DESIGN PHILOSOPHY
'We now have a car with more space in it than any Jaguar ever built, so we thought we’d have a bit of fun and conceptualise something that was about space and luxury and pampering.'
Ian Callum, Director of Design, Jaguar Cars
'The materials we are using, the way we have reshaped the interior, the atmosphere we are trying to create – these are all pointers to how Jaguars should look and feel.'
Julian Thomson, Chief of Advanced Design, Jaguar Cars
Ian Callum’s design department went through a long period of discussion and debate before work began on the Concept Eight. A great many ideas were discussed and discarded before the creative team settled on two key themes – comfort and indulgence. The large, cossetting, individual rear seats are perhaps the best example of that indulgence, for they represent a move away from a conventional bench-type seat. Ian Callum explains the significance:
'You could describe the Concept Eight as quite a selfish car. Just look at those rear seats. They’ve been split so that you can only carry two people… but they will be looked after very well.'
The Concept Eight’s exterior appearance has also been given considerable thought – and nowhere is that more apparent than its roof. The lightweight aluminium skin that stretches across the car’s upper surface has been replaced with a single, full-length piece of darkened glass to provide an even greater feeling of spaciousness within. Around the edges of the glass panel a strip of LED lighting provides an ambient red glow that equates with the mood lighting that you might find in a fashionable bar.
'That warm red glow will be visible from the roof as well as from the centre console and under the front seats,' explains Ian Callum. 'This sort of effect is something I would love to use on production cars in the future. The way people have employed these lighting techniques in other modern venues – uplighting, diffused lighting and so on – that is something I would like to have in our cars. And why red? Because it is a bit cheeky…'
Other exterior developments on the Concept Eight include brand new 21-inch five-spoke alloy wheels created especially for the project. Behind the front wheels sit chrome gills which aid engine cooling and also improve aerodynamic flow to the rear of the car. New chrome exhaust pipe finishers give the Concept Eight a purposeful appearance from the rear while a one-off metallic paint colour, Purple Haze – a blend of lush cherry and deep black – will show hints of both colours under changing light conditions.
THE CONCEPT EIGHT’S INTERIOR
'The Concept Eight reflects a modern attitude towards glamour. No dress code is required to enjoy the back of this car, just an appreciation of contemporary design, a need for atmosphere and a love of the unexpected.'
Mark Phillips, Principal Designer, Jaguar Concept Eight
Seen from any angle, the Concept Eight’s interior is as tasteful and welcoming as it is possible to be. Under the creative vision of Principal Designer Mark Phillips and Colour and Materials Designer Siobhán Hughes, the cabin of this long wheelbase concept limousine has become a place of contemporary luxury and warmth.
'The biggest change is the rear seats,' explains Chief of Advanced Design, Julian Thomson. 'They are very simple forms, very confident, like pieces of furniture. By splitting them we have tried to generate an ever greater appreciation of the space and comfort you get in the back of a Long Wheelbase XJ.'
Between the rear seats runs a centre console that extends all the way to the front of the cabin – an evolution of a similar design first seen in the Jaguar R Coupe concept car. This clean, sweeping section is covered with a well-recognised wood veneer – American walnut. But unlike existing Jaguar interiors, the concept car’s walnut trim has a matt finish. Warm and smooth to the touch, it is a 21st century spin that Ian Callum says indicates how future Jaguars could both look and feel.
'People expect wood and leather to be part of the Jaguar culture,' says Callum, 'and that is what we are using – but not in the way that people might expect. The wood capping that runs right throughout the Concept Eight has a very contemporary matt finish. It’s very pure and almost blatant in its use, but not overly stylised.'
The power-adjustable, reclining rear lounge seats are wrapped in aniline leather – as is the upper instrument panel – demonstrating all the natural markings inherent in a raw material. The lower instrument panel, console, and lower door casings are all trimmed in nubuck, a soft leather that has been gently buffed on the grain side to give a velvety surface. Conker, the dominant rich, brown colour, takes its name from the seed of the Horse Chestnut tree that is indigenous to the British Isles. Jonathan Connolly is the sole provider of the Conker leather, providing a rich textural mix with accents provided by chrome gloss and aluminium. The combined effect is one of warmth, comfort and sophistication. To further create a feeling of space and light, an ivory-coloured leather covers the roof pillars and head-lining.
The final new material used in the Concept Eight is the remarkably luxurious carpet. Handmade by craftsmen in Chelsea Harbour, London, its inch-deep Ivory Grey wool is designed to be as soft and inviting under foot as a favourite rug or throw.
It’s not just materials that give its interior such a sense of modernity and luxury – the Concept Eight also contains hidden extras designed to surprise and delight. Built into the centre console is a refrigerated compartment that holds a chilled bottle of Mumm champagne and two specially designed Waterford Crystal glasses in an aluminium holder. To cater for the unique design of the glasses – they are champagne flutes without bases – a bespoke drawer is built in ahead of the fridge in which to stand them without spilling a drop. The pampering continues inside two cabinets hidden in the rear of the front seats, which contain luxury items such as essential oils and perfumes, a digital camera for recording the highlights of your evening and even a writing set.
The ambience of the Concept Eight would not be complete without a peerless sound system. This has been provided in the shape of a dramatic new system created exclusively for the car. The spectacular 860W Alpine concept system employs 14 speakers to recreate sound precisely as the artist intended. The latest speaker and amplifier technologies have also been incorporated to create this no-expense-spared installation that takes sound reproduction to new heights.
The two-way front speaker set-up is complemented by a centre fill speaker located in the middle of the dash. The rear compartment has also been extensively remodelled to incorporate additional mid speakers in the rear shelf while increased diameter subwoofers provide a stirring deep bass sensation. The Jaguar’s rear doors also feature the latest DDLinear drivers and soft dome tweeters. As featured on current Alpine Jaguar Premium Sound Systems, time alignment means all occupants receive the sounds at precisely the right moment, wherever they are seated.
Speaking about the system, Alpine’s Business Development Manager Nick Bailey said: 'Collaborating on the Concept Eight has been a great privilege and has allowed us to showcase some of our latest technologies. Our team of designers and engineers is extremely proud to have been approached by Jaguar to create a system to complement such an incredible car.'
ENGINEERING THE CONCEPT
The Concept Eight shares the same 3159mm wheelbase as the New XJ Long Wheelbase – 125mm longer than the standard wheelbase XJ version. But despite that extra length, the driver and passengers will sacrifice nothing in terms of the class-leading dynamics and technologies found across the XJ range. Its ground-breaking aluminium chassis and bodyshell technology mean that straightline performance and handling are uncompromised, while the Concept Eight’s use of the 400bhp 4.2-litre supercharged AJ-V8 engine guarantees a blend of crushing acceleration and effortless cruising.
The supercharged V8 achieves its maximum 400 horsepower (298kW) DIN at 6100rpm, a 33 percent increase over the naturally aspirated variant. At least 86 percent of peak torque is available from 2000rpm to a peak of 553Nm (408lb ft) DIN at 3500rpm.
Despite its extra length over the standard wheelbase XJ, the Concept Eight weighs hardly any more and also benefits from re-engineered and lowered suspension to give it added visual and dynamic impact. And remember in standard form, the new XJ is some 200kg (441lbs) lighter than the previous generation XJ and around 100kg (221lbs) lighter than its nearest rivals.