Jaguar is making a bid to restore a high-tech image to its brand by using cutting-edge aluminum technology for its next flagship XJ sedans.
For many years, Jaguar has been known primarily for wood and leather interiors, and its elegant British coachwork. But in the 1960s, Jaguar rode the leading edge of technology with its E-type sports cars. Now, under the ownership of Ford Motor Co., Jaguar is aiming to revive its reputation for innovation.
The next generation XJ series sedans, code named X350 by Jaguar, will feature an aluminum monocoque structure held together by about 2,000 rivets, bonded together with an adhesive and then heat treated for rigidity. The lighter, stronger structure will help Jaguar create a serious flagship sedan that can compete with the BMW 7 series.
The current XJ8 is caught between the BMW 5 series and 7 series segments, and needs to move upmarket to create space for the mid-sized S-type executive sedan.
Jaguar plans Job One for its large sedan in March 2002 at its Browns Lane factory in England. Production targets call for fewer than 30,000 of the cars annually.
Sources say the new XJ will be about 200kg lighter than the current model as a result of the weight savings gained by using aluminum. The vehicle will carry a cost penalty of about $1,000 over a similar car made with steel, according to a source.
Jaguar is also looking closely at aluminum for its F-type sports car and possibly even its XK series.
Aluminum has not been proven cost effective in volume production, although Audi is attempting it now with its new A2. The Audi A8 is also built on an aluminum spaceframe.
Audi and Ford have been industry leaders in the use of aluminum. But the Audi spaceframe utilizes spot welds, while the Jaguar design will not. There is an internal debate within the auto and aluminum industries over the virtues of different methods.