The chance of a lifetime. crankandpiston.com drives Jaguar’s first ever SUV concept – the C-X17 – in Dubai, UAE.
“It’s all Jaguar”
It’s a decisive answer to a question most – if not all – Jaguar fans have asked of the marque’s new C-X17 SUV concept. Given that sister company Land Rover last year brought out a new, more luxurious Range Rover, speculation concerning whether the C-X17 was just a rebadged version was rife at the model’s Frankfurt Motor Show global debut. Scratch beneath the C-X17 surface though and you’ll apparently find a big cat grinning back at you.
“The architecture is new, and it’s been designed specifically for a Jaguar,” says Ian Callum, director of design for the company. “It’s not as if we were unaware of Land Rover being there – of course we were – but with the C-X17 it wasn’t something that occurred to us because we were designing a Jaguar. For the first time in our history, we’re designing an architecture that will actually span us not just in years but in car types.”
Note the repeated key word there. Having been in development for three years, Jaguar’s all-new advanced aluminium architecture – a stiffer, more versatile aluminium base on which future Jaguar models will be built – marks a big direction change for the British marque. Rather than working on a car-by-car basis, swapping platforms and powertrains and bending the bodywork to match, the new architecture allows greater flexibility and consequentially a broader design portfolio: whereas before a saloon and a coupe would require two separate platforms, the new advanced aluminium architecture – codenamed iQ[Al] – can facilitate both with limited faff. Having removed compromise, the new architecture allows more freedom to the design department, a more streamlined approach to production, and hopefully an end of year balance much further in the black. So convinced is Jaguar that its new structure is the bees knees that their first design studio showcases the most extreme example of its capabilities: the C-X17, the first such SUV example in the company’s 91-year history (though the top cats are understandably tight-lipped on whether the concept will make production).
But is this the right direction for the British staple of refined saloons, coupes and sporty convertibles? Does Jaguar’s first ever SUV concept ably demonstrate the new architecture’s capabilities? Today we’re here to find out. Today, we’re going to drive the C-X17.
You read that correctly. In a hugely generous offer from Jaguar, crankandpiston.com is just one of eight global publications invited to test the new concept ahead of its regional debut at the Dubai Motor Show.
Let’s just hammer that point home. The C-X17 is not a production ready Jag, nor a pre-production model with a couple of rough edges to smooth out. Focus is explicitly on the looks rather than the engineering, and what we have here today is a model some three or four years away from hitting the production line, should it even do so. What we have here is essentially a design study that moves, and which should not be judged as anything more than that.
This is also a very, very rare opportunity. Manufacturers, as a general rule, don’t let the likes of me anywhere near products like this since they’re not even close to the finished article (none of my illustrious colleagues have ever been given the opportunity). I am indeed privileged and, if nothing else, intrigued as to what this will be like.
When crankandpiston.com turns up for its low-speed run just in front of Dubai’s famous Meydan Hotel, we are greeted by only a handful of Jaguar representatives, a small seating area with water aplenty and choice nibbles, the sound of a small crowd nearby keen to see what all the fuss is about, and a closed off air-conditioned canopy, inside which lies the C-X17. Given that the rolling model we’ll be driving is the only one in the world, Jaguar is understandably a bit nervous. My full briefing entails instructor Kevin asking me to please be ‘very gentle’ when I’m behind the wheel. It’s looking increasingly unlike we’ll get any 0-100kph times in today.