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Image: Jaguar C-X75 supercar
BEN STANSALL  /  AFP - Getty Images
The new Jaguar C-X75 Hybrid Supercar is pictured at an event in London last week. The car will sell for over $1 million.
Image: Paul A. Eisenstein, msnbc.com contributor
By
msnbc.com contributor
updated 5/11/2011 7:15:29 AM ET 2011-05-11T11:15:29

It’s been 50 years since the Jaguar E-Type revolutionized automotive design, and now the British carmaker is shaking things up again with the announcement that it will put its widely acclaimed C-X75 concept vehicle into production.

Initially, Jaguar officials said they had no formal plans for the striking supercar, which made its debut at last autumn’s Paris Motor Show, but they’ve switched course reflecting the strong response the prototype has received from the public. It will now join 40 other all-new products, variants of existing models and major technology programs scheduled by Jaguar and its sibling brand, Land Rover.

“People expect Jaguar to be innovators — that is when Jaguar is at its best,” said Jaguar global brand director Adrian Hallmark. “No other vehicle will better signify Jaguar’s renewed confidence and excellence in technological innovation than this.”

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The 2-seater — of which Jaguar plans to build just 150, at 700,000 pounds sterling apiece (about $1.2 million at current rates) — will be developed jointly with racing’s Williams F1. The C-X75 uses a plug-in hybrid drivetrain — but it’s not another Chevrolet Volt. While it will get more than 30 miles per charge, it will also launch from 0 to 60 in less than 3 seconds, reaching a top speed in excess of 200 mph.

A key difference between the show car and the production version of the C-X75 will be the use of a relatively conventional internal combustion engine to provide back-up power, rather than twin micro-turbines, technology not yet ready for the road, according to Jaguar officials.

The timing of the C-X75 announcement gives Jaguar a much-needed boost. Two years ago Ford sold the carmaker to ambitious Indian automaker Tata Motors. Ford’s own ambitions for Jag once called for massive sales increases, but those plans came to naught, largely due to flawed products like the compact X-Type. They were basically rebadged versions of mainstream Ford models.

Recognizing the price tag for getting things right, Ford decided to sell off Jag and Land Rover. Tata, in turn, is betting it can use its new marques to gain a global foothold — and improve the design and technology of its more modest Indian product lines.

Among the many Jaguars under development, Hallmark confirmed, is a new entry-luxury model. Don’t call it a replacement for the unloved X-Type, however. That model was, to Hallmark, symptomatic of the many mistakes that nearly destroyed Jaguar. The new small car, along with everything else to follow, will have to deliver the look, the feel and the performance that fits the brand, stressed the British-born executive.

Getting back into the compact market — long dominated by BMW’s 3-Series — is essential, added Hallmark. That segment “is massive” and could become “the most important piece” of Jaguar’s planned product expansion effort, he said. A sedan is a must off the new platform, but Jaguar would “love to do multiple body styles,” Hallmark hinted.

Asked what else is coming from Jaguar, Hallmark suggested a higher-end crossover, targeting the likes of BMW’s X5 and Audi’s Q7, is under development, while a smaller crossover is also a strong possibility. That’s a distinct shift in strategy as Jaguar has long steered clear of anything truck-like, yielding that part of the market to Land Rover.

“Just because we’re part of Jaguar/Land Rover doesn’t mean we can’t look at crossovers,” said Hallmark, who joined the British carmaker last October after a brief stint with the reborn Saab.

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“We will not overlap,” echoed Dr. Ralf Speth, the Jaguar Land Rover CEO, in a separate interview. There will be “distinct DNA” that won’t let customers confuse crossovers sold by the two brands — which will maintain separate showrooms.

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Hallmark also suggested that while Jaguar wants to dip below its current range, “We can also [extend] above where we are now.”

Notably, the 41 new programs — with the C-X75 added in — include major new powertrains. That’s essential considering tough new mileage and emissions standards coming in the U.S., Europe and other parts of the world. Expect the supercar to be just one of several to use advanced electric drivetrains, though Speth cautioned that neither Jaguar nor Land Rover are ready to commit to a pure battery-electric vehicle. More diesel powerplants are also in the works.

While Jaguar might not have an unlimited budget, it’s in a better position than it was just three years ago. “It’s gone from survival to unbridled ambition in three years,” Hallmark said.

To help fund the ambitious product program at Jaguar/Land Rover, Tata is preparing a global bond issue, with J.P Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Credit Suisse Group and Standard Chartered Plc hired to manage the deal. While the British operations are now operating in the black, the bonds would help offset the cost of Tata’s $2.3 billion acquisition and free up more funds for research and development.

At one point, former Ford CEO Jacques Nasser laid out plans to push Jaguar sales to 200,000 a year and beyond. Today, however, it is barely at the 50,000 mark. The product offensive could transform the automaker from a niche player to something more on a par with its German rivals. “We won’t be selling 1 million Jaguars a year,” though, Hallmark cautioned.

“But we want to sell big multiples” of the current numbers, he quickly added. “A lot more than today.”

© 2013 msnbc.com.  Reprints

Explainer: Ten cars with surprising gas mileage

  • Image: 2011 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe
    GM  /  Wieck
    The 2011 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe delivers an impressive 26 mpg on the highway.

    Everyone and his goldfish knows that you can get good gas mileage by driving a Toyota Prius. But many of us want to buy cars with features that typical high-mileage economy cars don’t provide.

    Those requirements don’t have to doom us to terrible fuel economy; we just have to choose our cars more carefully. So here’s a list of 10 vehicles with unexpectedly good fuel economy for their size and/or vehicle type.

    (Note: This is not a list of the 10 vehicles with the best fuel economy; you can find that list on the EPA’s website).

  • Audi Q7 TDI

    Audi

    EPA MPG city/highway/combined: 17/25/20
    Drivetrain: 3.0-l V6 diesel, 8-sp man.
    Vehicle category: 7-seat SUV

    With the Q7 you really can average 25 mpg on a long trip in a sure-footed quattro all-wheel-drive, three-row, seven-seat SUV. You do have to fuel it with diesel, which costs a bit more than gasoline, but you will only have to do that every 600-something miles. And you won’t pay any other penalties because the performance and smoothness of the drivetrain are indistinguishable from that of a comparable gas turbo V6.

  • Buick LaCrosse eAssist

    GM  /  Wieck

    EPA MPG city/highway/combined (estimated): 25/37/31
    Drivetrain: 2.4-l 4-cyl. Hybrid, 6-sp auto
    Vehicle category: mid-size car

    Here’s a midsized Buick — with all the luxury the brand implies — that delivers 37 mpg on the highway. The old advertising slogan was “Wouldn’t you really rather drive a Buick?” The answer to that question for many

    years was “no,” but now that the company’s products have become excellent, if the alternative is some cramped, buzzy econobox, here’s your 37 mpg solution. Because of the compact size of the “eAssist” mild hybrid system, the rear seats fold flat for a pass-through from the trunk — a feature that isn’t available in full hybrid sedans because the space behind the seat is occupied by electric drive electronics.

  • Chevrolet Equinox

    GM  /  Wieck

    EPA MPG city/highway/combined: 22/32/26
    Drivetrain: 2.4-l 4-cyl, 6-sp auto
    Vehicle category: SUV

    Compact SUVs are the new family cars for many consumers, but even though they aren’t gargantuan ground-pounders, they can still get pretty mediocre fuel economy, especially when equipped with a V6. Chevy has dropped in a brawny-but-smooth four-cylinder that delivers 32 mpg in highway driving, and buyers have been snapping them up as fast as the company can build them.

  • Chevrolet Corvette

    GM  /  Wieck

    EPA MPG city/highway/combined: 16/26/19
    Drivetrain: 6.2-l V8, 6-sp man.
    Vehicle category: two-seater

    No one buys sports cars for their fuel economy, but wouldn’t it be nice if some ludicrously fast 430 hp rocket also delivered 26 mpg on the highway? Well, here it is. The Corvette will crank out mile after mile of mid-20s mileage while you’re on the highway driving to the best curvy mountain roads or some distant race circuit for a bit of track day fun.

  • Ford Fusion Hybrid

    Ford  /  Wieck

    EPA MPG city/highway/combined: 41/36/39
    Drivetrain: 2.5-l 4-cyl. hybrid, CVT
    Vehicle category: midsize car

    Here’s the most efficient vehicle on this list, with 39 mpg in combined driving — the 41 mpg city, 36 mpg highway Ford Fusion Hybrid. It doesn’t carry the humpbacked styling or overt political connotations of a Prius, but it does deliver nearly the same gas mileage in a vehicle with a more comfortable ride and vastly better handling.

  • Ford F-150

    Ford  /  Wieck

    EPA MPG city/highway/combined: 17/23/20
    Drivetrain: 3.7-l V6, 6-sp auto
    Vehicle category: full-size truck

    It takes energy to move a load, and that energy comes from gas. Trucks burn more gas than cars even when they aren’t hauling loads because they are built big and sturdy enough to withstand heavy-duty use. That has typically meant that gas mileage ranged between “dismal” and merely “bad.” But Ford’s new V6-powered F-150 has achieved the widely accepted threshold of “decent” gas mileage — 20 mpg. That’s the truck’s combined EPA rating, and they EPA says it can do even better on the highway at 23 mpg. Our testing scored 20 mpg highway too, but other reviewers did better. Regardless, it is a big step forward considering that old trucks wouldn’t go 20 miles on a gallon of gas even if they started driving atop the Continental Divide.

  • Honda Odyssey

    Honda  /  Wieck

    EPA MPG city/highway/combined: 19/28/22
    Drivetrain: 3.5-l V6, 6-sp auto
    Vehicle category: minivan

    Remind me: Why do we call these things “minivans” again? They were pretty small when they started out, but now they are 4,500-pound, eight-passenger behemoths. It would be asking a lot for something this big to get reasonable gas mileage, but the Odyssey delivers, using cylinder deactivation to run on three cylinders when possible, along with a six-speed transmission to get the power to the wheels as efficiently as possible.

  • Hyundai Sonata

    David McNew  /  Getty Images

    EPA MPG city/highway/combined: 24/35/28
    Drivetrain: 2.4-l, 6-sp man.
    Vehicle category: large car

    The Hyundai Sonata has a smidge more interior space than the Fusion or LaCrosse and rates 35 mpg highway with its base engine and transmission. Hyundai also offers a hybrid version, but the everyday model provides 35 mpg on the window sticker, and anecdotal evidence says it will even get 40 mpg on the highway.

  • Hyundai Elantra

    Hyundai

    EPA MPG city/highway/combined: 29/40/33
    Drivetrain: 1.8-l 4-cyl, 6-sp auto
    Vehicle category: Compact car

    Forty mpg might be a stretch for the Sonata, but the compact Elantra should do that without breaking a sweat, according to the EPA’s 40 mpg highway rating. As with the bigger Hyundai, the Elantra achieves its segment-benchmark fuel economy rating with its base drivetrain, so the hundreds of thousands of Elantras the company sells will all contribute to the fleet of 40 mpg cars on the road. This is in contrast to the special, high-efficiency models from competitors, which cost more and will account for a paltry few percent of sales.

  • Volkswagen Passat

    Volkswagen

    EPA MPG city/highway/combined (estimated): 31/43/35
    Drivetrain: 2.0-l 4-cyl. diesel, 6-sp. dual-clutch auto-manual
    Vehicle category: large car

    If the diesel engine in the Q7 can get 26 mpg on the highway, what could one in a slippery sedan achieve? According to VW, the answer will be 43 mpg when the EPA’s official numbers are announced. That means the Passat will go more than 800 miles on a tank. Those of us who love pumping gas in the freezing cold or blazing heat might miss standing out in the weather regularly, but for the rest of us, incredible efficiency matched with a large fuel tank combine to provide unprecedented freedom from pumping fuel.

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