Julian Thomson on the Jaguar F-Type

These are images of the upcoming F-Type, a contemporary take on arguably Jaguar’s most notable car, the E-Type. This convertible sports car is a meticulously executed product that successfully avoids making retro references to its predecessor. I caught up a little while ago with director of advanced design, Julian Thomson, who explained the design thinking: ‘We study Jaguar design through our heritage, we look at the background of what’s out there and we look at British design – these facets come together to create a general theme.’

He says Jaguar’s heritage is about innovation. ‘We made huge steps each time in our so-called golden years. The cars were like spaceships when they came out.’ By the 80s, however, the marque had become a victim of its own success. ‘When we tried to expand in the US the company began to submit to customers,’ explains Thomson, ‘and the direct result was that the XJ, in particular, remained the same for almost 10 years.’

It was at this stage that he and director of design Ian Callum joined the Jaguar group – Thomson came directly from the Volkswagen advanced design studio. ‘When I first got here they gave me a brand book – a toy chest with design cues that almost told you how to design a Jaguar. You just can’t do that!’

With the new F-Type the design team are trying to make that emotional connection Jaguar had with its cars in the 50s, 60s and 70s ‘based on aesthetic values of proportion and stance which are very particular to Jaguar,’ he stresses. ‘Even inside the car it is all about an experience and about ambiance.’

Looking at the car that sits before us, the cabin is much more singular than Jaguar’s executive saloons, meaning the cockpit runs around the driver instead of being horizontal. The F-Type’s interface is full of tactility so the driver can feel the mechanics with the gear changes and pedals. ‘You want to feel you’re in control,’ says Thomson. ‘This is a real car.’

He continues: ‘You hear things about surface entertainment; they twist metal into weird shapes to shock the audience into submission.’ Jaguar, he notes, ‘is about purity and beauty in design and a sports car is the best way to demonstrate it. Sports cars should have a greater sense of poise, so this is the pinnacle of our design philosophy.’

Thomson’s favourite aspect of the F-Type is the sculptural rear of the car: ‘It is reminiscent of the E-Type without being a pastiche.’ For the future he reveals that Jaguar will have to create products that appeal to young people, a Golf type car, he admits. ‘We would love to do a city car.’

The F-Type will go on sale later this year.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Ian Callum discusses Jaguar design here.

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