Frankfurt Motor Show 2013: Why Jaguar's SUV is the most ambitious model in their history

Russell Bray
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Frankfurt Motor Show 2013: Why Jaguar's SUV is the most ambitious model in their history

The worst kept secret of the Frankfurt Motor Show was that luxury car maker Jaguar would unveil a concept of a four-wheel drive sports utility vehicle, to cash in on the worldwide demand for tall cars with an element of gentle off-road ability.

Officially Jaguar is wringing its hands about whether to depart from its luxury car roots, but show visitors we spoke to wondered more why it had taken so long.

'I have a family, dogs and a skate board (!),' one executive told Yahoo. 'What use is an expensive F-Type two-seater to me?'

German car maker Porsche, which only used to make sports cars, attracted heavy criticism ten years ago when it launched the Cayenne, which was based around Volkswagen’s Touareg to reduce production costs.

Despite pug-ugly looks it quickly became Porsche’s best seller and generated huge profits.

With obvious frontal similarities to the Jaguar XF, the concept car, badged C-X17 doesn’t have the same styling issues.

And for anyone old enough to remember, the rear lights are inspired by the Jaguar E-Type from the 1960s.

Price estimates at current values are £38,000 to £60,000, but the real story is under the car.

There you find a lightweight aluminium chassis that in about 18 months time, will form the basis for a family of smaller cars to take on the dominant BMW 3-Series and Audi A4.

This time the successor to the ill-fated X-Type will not be based on a front-wheel drive Ford Mondeo but will be rear drive.

It will be built at Solihull, near Birmingham, and use mainly a new generation of frugal two-litre, four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines to be built at Jaguar Land Rover’s new £355million engine plant under construction in Wolverhampton.

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In world terms Jaguar is still a very small player and needs to widen its model range quickly.

Jaguar sales at under 100,000 cars per year are less than BMW and Audi each sell annually in the UK.

Professor Garel Rhys, professor of motor industry economics at Cardiff Business School reckons Jaguar Land Rover could achieve global sales of 650,000 by 2015 – and perhaps 900,000 by 2020.

The C-X17 is due to be built at Solihull, near Birmingham, and will create thousands of new jobs in the area.

Though sure to appeal to school mums the C-X17 is aimed as much at China as Chelsea.

Martin Ward, manufacturer relationship manager at car value experts CAP has no doubt Jaguar should make the SUV.

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'The SUV is certainly a departure for Jaguar and their traditional design, but the market is changing rapidly and the buying public want something a little different, and more useable and practical.         

'If it appears in showrooms in the next 2-3 years, it will be another success story for JLR. I am 100% sure it will be produced.'

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But one car industry analyst warned Jaguar must be careful about quality.  'JLR is recalling 12,000 vehicles in China because of possible engine and oil leak problems.'

Apart from the huge wheels the exterior of the car broadly met with approval.

The cabin was typical show car fantasy in the main with thin seats mounted low down for an off-roader, and expensive vaned louvres in the roof.

Artificial interior lighting is trend these days but even the C-X17's seats had illumination.

Naturally the car is crammed with the latest technology and can link to social network sites while on the move.

The piano black console that runs right through the cabin can work as a series of inter-connecting touch screens beneath acrylic glass and connected by in-car wi-fi.

And so begins the most ambitious model expansion programme in Jaguar's 91-year history.

 As famous car entrepreneur Henry Ford said: History is bunk.

Jaguar must do what it must do.