Jaguar and Land Rover hit the 2011 LA Auto Show with eager, distinctly English flair – ready to show off a promising super car one moment, and to herald the return of a legend the next.
The automobile press gathered at a movie studio lot on the outskirts of Hollywood to get a first-hand look at the 2013 concept vehicles from both of the British automotive legends. Jaguar debuted the C-X16 sports coupe, while Land Rover introduced a redesign of its classic Defender for North America.
Introduced by Jaguar’s lead designer, Ian Callum, the C-X16 strikes a powerful pose with its mistakable, rounded and sloping grill. Three layers of graceful lines blend to a bluntly tapered, quad exhaust back end.
“Countless hours went into designing the lines of this car,” Callum said. “It’s amazing how much time can into something so simple.”
Callum and his design crew were shooting high on the C-X16 – intending for it to step in and replace an automotive legend. As Callum put it, “I think this is the most beautiful car Jaguar has produced since the E-Type.”
That E-Type Jaguar is an automotive icon – an eternal symbol of 1960s Great Britain. When it debuted in the 1960s, it could out-perform its rivals from Germany and Italy at a fraction of continental pricing.
While every bit as sleek and inviting as an E-Type, the C-X16 doesn’t quite match that classic Jag’s unique styling. Eyeing it from the side, you might mistake the concept coupe for an Aston Martin (not that such an ID is the worst problem to have). Also, eyeing the E-Type and any modern Jaguar side by side reminds us how performance cars have evolved over the years – growing wider and hunkering down on wide-rimmed tires. You could drop an E-Type inside the C-X16’s frame with room to spare.
The C-X16 suffers from only one design flaw – one blemish obscuring the lines Callum and company worked so hard to perfect. Its swollen rear wheel wells make the otherwise beautiful car look a little hippy, not unlike the much more common Camaro – a car Jaguar wouldn’t want to associate it with from across the ocean.
There’s no word yet on whether Jaguar will put the C-X16 into production, but Callum did report its test mules are pushing their supercharged V6 engines to their rev limit as we speak on hard laps overseas. We shall see.
Land Rover and its lead designer (Gerry McGovern) introduced a concept vehicle with a more certain future. The Land Rover Defender is the classic utility vehicle based on the 1948 design that put the company on the international map. Essentially a stack of boxy, geometric shapes with a wheel at each of its four corners to enable easier vertical mobility over obstacles, the incredibly tough and stripped down Defender debuted in 1983 and became legendary all-purpose transport.
The problem for North American buyers was that the real Defender was not made available in the U.S. due to American safety regulations. A significantly modified version was put on sale under the Land Rover badge until 1997, but nothing resembling the Defender has been available on this side of Atlantic since then.
The 2013 DC100 Concept Defender is very close to what Land Rover plans to sell around the world by 2015. The central concept of the rectangle on wheels is still in place, but the overall frame is lower, wider and more rounded around the edges. It’s grill, bumpers and accents are much less angular than its ancestors, making the new Defender seem almost too stylish to be the rugged, all-terrain car its owner will expect.
But, Land Rover guarantees it’ll tear up the countryside whenever needed thanks to Auto Terrain Response drive system, Wade Aid to judge water crossing requirements and (my favorite) a Spike on Demand system that deploys tire spikes when crossing snow and ice.
Land Rover also showed off a DC100 Sport version – essentially a convertible version of the Defender with sportier power and suspension. However, the vibe at the event indicated the chances of that model seeing the assembly line are slim.
Photo credit – John Scott Lewinski