Designing fast for the future

4 min read

Tom Shelley reports on a concept car design that not only had to be completed in 24 weeks in time for a show, but which could also shape the future of UK motoring

The design and construction of the R-D6 Jaguar diesel concept coupe had to be completed in only 24 weeks, finishing with a vehicle that could not only be demonstrated at the Frankfurt motor show, but driven by motoring journalists and others to promote the business and provide feedback on possible paths production cars might follow. The task the business has had to face, according to Mark Phillips, principal designer at Jaguar Advanced Design, is that, "Everyone wants to be premium," because that is where the profit margins are. The occasion of his statement was an address given to a meeting organised by the Institute of the Motor Industry in Ashford, Kent. Whereas in the 1970s, according to Jaguar colleague, Ted Mannerfelt, the company had about four competitors in its field, it now has at least a dozen. The Advanced Design Team at Jaguar is only five strong. There are another ten designers 100m away who design the cars that are committed to go into production, but it is the Advanced Design Team that has the task of coming up with the innovative ideas that will hopefully grow the business. Ted Mannerfelt showed a slide about how the company assessed competing products and where to position theirs, putting them on a grid that had 'practical' at the top versus 'performance' at the bottom and 'avante garde' on the right versus 'traditional' on the left. Mark Phillips said, "Customers know what quality stands for", but there are, "Signs of a shift towards modesty and moderation. Slick displays of wealth are no longer desirable." He spoke of the "Luxury Reductionism" of the Ipod, and said that the public wants "Luxury but premium environmentalism at the same time." There is apparently no plan to address the super premium top end price market typified by Maybach, Bentley and Aston Martin. Mark Phillips said that designing another XJ220 or 'E' type would have been, "Easy", but what is wanted are cars that have all the right Jaguar associations - fast, sleek, sexy, luxurious, while being suitable for customers with a family and a budget, and concerned about the environment. The concept they came up with on this occasion was of a coupe having four seats, but it also had to be the fastest diesel on the road, top speed 155 mph and 0 to 60mph in less than 6seconds. The 2.7 litre bi-turbo engine was to be a tuned version of that which later made its debut in the S-Type in 2004, and delivered 230bhp and 500Nm torque. Even for a one off, the time scale was challenging, and required overlapping the processes of design, modelling, engineering, tool making, dry fit, trim/veneer/paint and final assembly and promotion. Sketches were begun by hand as usual and subsequently enhanced using Photoshop. 3D design was undertaken using Alias in order speed feedback to engineering, following by more sketching, more 3D modelling and a clay physical model that could be cut and carved to get the shape right. This was 'split', so that one side represented one concept while the other side represented a possible variant. Details were added using paint and foil followed by 3D digitisation to produce photorealistic visualisations for marketing. The wheels were designed in Alias but the mould to produce the GRP body was taken from the clay. The understructure was aluminium from an XJ, although the coupe was made 342mm shorter than an XJ by cutting off the back of the trunk, while leaving the interior space about the same. The interior fittings were also being prepared at the same time following a sketch, clay, Alias design route, leading to milling parts out of aluminium. The various features were promoted with the help of a detailed Alias animated video. The team were working late nights by the end of the project to get it ready for the 2003 Frankfurt motor show, which they did, resulting in excellent motoring press coverage, whose value was in Ted Mannerfelt's opinion, sufficient to pay for the entire exercise in addition to the feedback obtained to put into future concepts and production cars. Will this particular concept ever see the light of day as a production car? The answer is no, especially as regards the rear doors hinged at the back, although we could be wrong even about these. Mark Phillips said that one of the pleasures of working on concept cars was that one was not limited by a cost budget, and could try out ideas that might turn out to be too expensive to incorporate into production models. But are some of the concepts, such as lighter weight performance cars powered by advanced diesels while retaining Jaguar's look and feel and spacious interiors going into production? There the answer is undoubtedly 'Yes'. The two presenters declined to be drawn about future production Jaguar designs but Mark Phillips did say that the when a concept was taken into production, the appropriate member of the advanced team would work with the main team to take it through, and that the path took three or four years to follow. The advanced and main design teams work to Jaguar guidelines, Ford guidelines, engineering guidelines, safety guidelines, and issues relating to repair and maintenance. We gathered that one of the core values in the company remains designing in aluminium as opposed to high strength steel or composites. The result of the team's latest efforts, under the direction of Director of Design Ian Callum, is the ALC, or Advanced Lightweight Coupe. Apart from an appearance that is superb, the body is 40 per cent lighter and 60 per cent stiffer than a standard steel body. The car should reach 60 mph in less than 5 seconds and top speed should be more than 180 mph. Joe Greenwell, chairman and CEO of Jaguar Cars said of it, "The Advanced Lightweight Coupe is the sort of Jaguar we want to build. But that means we must do more than just come up with a beautiful design, we must have the tools in place to turn that creative spark into something tangible. What people should recognise is that we have the people in place to allow this to happen. The company's engineering team is as strong as it has ever been and this new generation of engineers is all set to follow in the footsteps of great names from Jaguar's past." "Today's team, with extraordinarily talented people such as Phil Hodgkinson, Jon Carlin, Russ Varney and Mike Cross, will drive Jaguar's product direction. These are the people who will take Ian Callum's designs and ensure that the end products are as desirable as the concept cars that precede them." Concept cars evidently still have their place as part of the development process. Virtual Reality has its uses but building cars and getting people to drive them in the real world remains an essential part of the process. We gathered from Ted Mannerfelt, that the design to build process is now being shortened even further than 24 weeks. Kestrel 3D