Britain’s angry cat moves the engine to the middle

When it comes to using four wheels to get around a track as fast as possible, the blueprint is pretty well established at this point. All you have to do is look to the top echelon of racing to figure it out. Formula 1, Le Mans prototypes, winning GT cars – all of ‘em mount the powerplant towards the middle of the chassis. Why? Because when a car’s weight is balanced between the axles, the tires and suspension can do their job more effectively. The mid-engine solution has worked wonders in competition, and as such, it’s trickled down to street cars as well. Now, it’s looking like Jaguar might be the latest to offer a mid-engine performance machine, and although it’s not yet confirmed, the cat badge could very well mix it up with a new halo mid-engine supercar sometime relatively soon.

The idea for such a project can be traced back to none other than legendary car designer Ian Callum, the current head of design at Jaguar. Callum is highly respected throughout the industry given his brain is behind some of the most sensuous automotive designs of the past several decades, with just a few entries on his resume including the Jaguar C-X75 and XK, the Aston Martin DB7 and Vanquish, and the Nissan R390.

Road & Track recently got a chance to speak with Callum at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show, and during the interview, he dropped a few tantalizing hints that Jag could indeed be working on a new mid-engine supercar.

While a proposition like that is still very much up to us to fill in the details, it’s nonetheless an all-around exciting idea. But what would such a vehicle bring to the table? Read on for the details.

Continue reading to learn more about the Jaguar J-Type.

Why Is A Mid-Engine Jag A Big Deal?

During the interview, Callum and Road & Track discussed the 911 and how it may have limited Porsche in its ambitions. Callum argued that Jag has more leeway than ze Germans, as Porsche must soldier on with the classic rear-engine design of the 911, lest the purists revolt.

“I think the 911 is more confining than it is for us. I think we’ve got more permission to break the mold,” Callum said. “Our F-Type, before the one that became the production car, the previous design concept was mid-engine. It never happened. It would have been very different. But I think we’ve got permission to do that, because we’re a sports car company.”

2020 Jaguar J-Type Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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I don’t feel tied to it,” Callum continued, referring to Jag’s current design ethos. “We’ve had a discussion – will the next F-Type be mid-engine or front-engine? We’ve had that discussion. We haven’t decided yet.

“I don’t feel tied to it,” Callum continued, referring to Jag’s current design ethos. “We’ve had a discussion – will the next F-Type be mid-engine or front-engine? We’ve had that discussion. We haven’t decided yet. And even within the design studio we disagree with each other.”

The “mold” Callum is referring to is the classic front-engine, RWD sports car profile Jag is known for. By contrast, a mid-engine platform would definitely be considered a break from Jag tradition.

A mid-engine platform would definitely be considered a break from Jag tradition.

It all goes back to the old E-Type that was first introduced in the early ‘60s. Like the modern F-Type, the E-Type was equipped with a front-engine, RWD layout, while the aesthetics were comprised of a short rear end and an extended hoodline. Jag’s current halo model, the top-dog F-Type SVR, is leading the brand’s 200-mph charge with the same basic formula as the E-Type (albeit with AWD instead of RWD).

But that doesn’t mean things aren’t about the change.

After all, Jaguar just introduced it’s all-electric SUV concept, the I-Pace, at the same auto show where Callum and Road & Track had the above conversation, so it’s entirely possible the brand is gearing up to branch out a bit.

Jaguar just introduced it’s all-electric SUV concept, the I-Pace, at the same auto show where Callum and Road & Track had the above conversation, so it’s entirely possible the brand is gearing up to branch out a bit.

Not only that, but a mid-engine supercar wouldn’t be terribly new for Jaguar – it’s already dabbled in the formula before with the XJ220 and XJR-15, plus racing cars like the XJ13, XJR8, and XJR11.

So, considering a history like that, my first inclination was to name it the “XJ-Type,” but as Ciprian pointed out, Jag usually reserves the letter “X” for its sedans these days. Therefore, we thought it more appropriate to dub our speculative mid-engine monster the “J-Type.”

Exterior

I’m just gonna come out and say it – I think our rendered mid-engine Jaguar looks sexy as hell. That’s no surprise though, given I find the aesthetic appeal of modern Jags to be endlessly attractive. Even so, this mid-engine monster has every cue needed for a modern supercar – it’s wide and low, standing just above the pavement with a menacing appearance that seems to promise enough performance to melt your face with ease. It’s sleek and curvy, drawing similarities to other mid-engine Jags of the past, in particular the hybrid C-X75 concept that debuted at the Paris Motor Show in 2010.

2010 Jaguar C-X75
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2020 Jaguar J-Type Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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Note: C-X75 Concept pictured on the left, rendered Jaguar J-Type pictured on the right.

It’s sleek and curvy, drawing similarities to other mid-engine Jags of the past, in particular the hybrid C-X75 concept that debuted at the Paris Motor Show in 2010.

“We do assertive, we don’t do aggressive. We do extremity, we don’t do vulgar,” explained Callum in his Road & Track interview. “It’s a very fine line.”

To my eye, we’ve captured the essence of that philosophy in our rendering. It’s elegant, while at the same time, somewhat aggressive- er, I mean, assertive. Right. The point is there are plenty of performance cues to be found, but nowhere is the J-Type over complicated. Indeed, Callum is a man that seems to prefer subtlety, a difficult thing to capture in a hyper-powered sports car.

Let’s start in front, where we find a very Jaguar-esque front fascia. The look is definitely in tune with the current F-Type SVR, with an oval mouth, enlarged side intakes, and long, drawn-back headlights lined with LED daytime running lights. The naturally flat and wide supercar proportions enhance each of these features, but the inherent grace they offer isn’t lost in the more striking proportions. Across the front intake is a single dividing carbon fiber bar, behind which is a glossy black diamond grille insert. The insert is also repeated in the lower front side intakes. Below the grilles is a well-defined splitter to help smooth airflow and add more front-end grip.

Callum is a man that seems to prefer subtlety, a difficult thing to capture in a hyper-powered sports car.

Moving away and to the side, we can get a better look at the car’s obvious allusions to the C-X75. Starting things off is the way the cabin was moved from the rear (like on the F-Type) towards the front of car, balancing out the profile in a classic supercar shape. This sort of design is obviously much easier to pull off with a mid-engine layout, given the front end can be shortened to accommodate the repositioned interior, but it’s also worth noting how it breaks from the traditional short rear end design that Jag has a reputation for producing. Basically, if you wanted to distill it down, this one feature would be the best visual representation that the brand is trying something different.

Below the sexy teardrop roofline are equally voluptuous fender lines, which continue the curves first set by the headlights. The fenders swallow the plus-sized wheels with ease, adding a sense of purpose to the corners. Speaking of the rollers, the design picked here is the same split five-spoke look used on the F-Type SVR, and look to be measured at roughly 20 inches in diameter.

Further down is a bit of visual flair not normally found on Jag’s, with the exception of the aforementioned C-X75 concept. These elements include a prominent indentation that begins at the front wheels and deepens as it stretches towards the rear. The indentation then terminates with a large side intake, which, like the aforementioned concept, is surrounded in black.

The cabin was moved from the rear (like on the F-Type) towards the front of car, balancing out the profile in a classic supercar shape.

In back, we find an extended rear deck bearing extremely flat and extremely wide proportions. The taillights would appear very thin, and the rear diffuser would be impossible to miss. Essentially, it would quite a bit like the C-X75.

2010 Jaguar C-X75 High Resolution Exterior
- image 376079

Note: Jaguar C-X75 pictured here.

The tail would look clean when parked, with just a small spoiler bolted to the trailing edge of the deck. However, at speed, this spoiler would extend upwards, adding more downforce and grip to the rear as needed. The active rear aero would work in conjunction with further spoilers and winglets elsewhere on the car to maximize grip when and where it’s needed.

Interior

In terms of look and layout, the interior of the J-Type would most likely sport something akin to a fighter jet cockpit. It’s a car you’d most definitely feel like you were sitting “in” as opposed to “on,” with massively bolstered sports seats (just two of them), a flat-bottom steering wheel, and a center stack that stretches rearwards to give the driver a sense of being strapped into the vehicle.

The J-Type would most likely sport something akin to a fighter jet cockpit.

However, despite the military connotations I just mentioned, the appointment would be anything but spartan. Materials used would include top-shelf items like leather, Alcantara, and brushed aluminum, while a healthy dose of carbon fiber would pervade throughout. The instrumentation would be totally digital, and include the very latest infotainment features. Ambient lighting would be configurable to fit the driver’s taste, while further personalization options would keep interested customers coming back for more unique touches.

Meanwhile, basic driver assist programs would be in the background when needed, but wouldn’t override the driver’s inputs in any way.

Drivetrain

The question of what would fit into the J-Type’s mid-mounted engine bay is a bit of a mystery. The brand’s top-spec supercharged 5.0-liter V-8, the same powerplant fitted to the current F-Type SVR, might work, given it produces 567 horsepower and 500 pound-feet and could probably get squeezed for a bit more to help the J-Type hang with the big boys. However, the traditional engine of choice would carry 12 cylinders arranged in a vee formation.

And why not? Not only does a V-12 provide the right soundtrack for a mid-engine supercar, but Jaguar has a long history with the configuration as well.

But there’s a problem. You see, it’s been some time since Jaguar has produced a V-12. Luckily, JLR can turn to BMW for a little help in that department.

But there’s a problem. You see, it’s been some time since Jaguar has produced a V-12. Luckily, JLR can turn to BMW for a little help in that department.

The two automakers are all buddy-buddy for the moment, with the Brits planning to buy up the Bavarians’ turbocharged engines as a replacement for the current blown V-8 just mentioned. Funny enough, BMW also produces one of the few remaining modern V-12’s – the twin-turbo 6.6-liter unit currently fitted to the M760Li xDrive.

Which begs the question – why not drop that bad boy into the J-Type?

In the M760Li, the engine produces a heady 600 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque, but I’ll bet JLR would be game to squeeze a little more juice from it. Around 700 horsepower feels about right.

It makes a lot of sense. In the M760Li, the engine produces a heady 600 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque, but I’ll bet JLR would be game to squeeze a little more juice from it. Around 700 horsepower feels about right.

Here’s another little twist to thrown in – hybrid power. Everyone is doing it, including Porsche, Ferrari, and McLaren, and considering Jaguar is clearly interested in the potential that battery-powered operation has going for it, I wouldn’t consider it totally out of the realm of possibility.

In fact, in the above-cited Road & Track interview, Callum even concedes that Jaguar will indeed go electric eventually. While he’s quick to point out that the company’s next sports car will most likely not be the first to dive into the segment, he does admit that internal combustion will eventually get phased out, and Jaguar will need to adapt accordingly if it wants to stay relevant.

Of course, this opens up a whole other can of worms, as Callum adds that mounting a battery pack in the floor creates unique tension for a sports car, given it raises the driving position, making it a bit awkward for the driver (Callum also says it’s a characteristic much better suited to high-riding SUVs, like the I-Pace). Of course, battery power (and specifically all-electric motivation) opens up the door for unique packaging opportunities, so you gotta take the good with the bad, I suppose.

A new mid-engine Jaguar is a major undertaking, and I doubt JLR would have the gumption to add hybrid or all-electric motivation to the “to do” list.

That said, if I were to speculate, I’d wager an J-Type would stick with internal combustion exclusively. A new mid-engine Jaguar is a major undertaking, and I doubt JLR would have the gumption to add hybrid or all-electric motivation to the “to do” list.

One final thing – RWD vs. AWD. Jaguar is clearly quite proficient in both arenas, given its proclivity for front-engine, RWD goodness found across its lineup, plus the over-the-top insanity that is the AWD F-Type SVR. So which route would the J-Type take?

My guess is AWD. Putting 700 horsepower to the ground is no easy task, but running it to four corners as opposed to two should make it a whole lot easier. Not only that, but AWD performance is the standard these days, what with icons like the Porsche 918 and Lamborghini Huracan both powered by four contact patches as opposed to two. It makes over-powered sports cars that much easier to wrangle, and since no one seems to be complaining all that loudly, it makes sense on a halo vehicle like this one.

Chassis And Handling

Jaguar has been pretty vocal when it comes to pointing out how much it likes to use aluminum in its construction. I’d expect the J-Type to be equally laden with the material, not to mention other spacey stuff like carbon fiber, magnesium, and titanium. This is, after all, more or less rocket ship for the road, is it not?

Stuff like that should make the J-Type relatively lightweight, with a curb weight around 3,200 pounds feeling about right.

That should make it sprightly in the corners, a feature that’ll be enhanced by active suspension that works with the aero for maximum stick and ultimate feel.

Prices

While daydreaming about the specs of a mid-engine Jaguar supercar is fun, in all likelihood a car like the J-Type wouldn’t see the light of day until the next-gen F-Type is rolled out sometime around 2020 – if it gets made at all.

If Jag does decide to make something like this, expect pricing to start around $250,000.

Competition

Audi R8

2017 - 2018 Audi R8 Exterior
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While you’d be crazy to consider the R8 as anything less than one of the finest automobiles in the world, in this company, it could be considered a cheaper alternative. Okay, maybe cheap is the wrong term – less expensive is probably more accurate. Starting off the range is the entry-level V10 model, which boasts a 5.2-liter 10-cylinder with 540 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque. Magnetic suspension and Audi’s virtual cockpit system come standard. Or, you could opt into the V10 Plus for 610 horsepower, 413 pound-feet of torque, and ceramic brakes. Pricing for the entry-level model starts at $168,900, while the V10 Plus is $189,900. What a bargain!

Read the full review here.

Ferrari 488

2016 Ferrari 488 GTB Exterior
- image 620088

When it comes to high-end mid-engine dream machines, quite a few of ‘em have a Prancing Horse fixed to the nose. The 488 is one such bedroom poster. Offered as a replacement for the much-loved 458, the 488 arrived in 2015 boasting a more powerful 3.9-liter twin-turbo V-8, 661 horsepower, 561 pound-feet of torque, and a top speed over 200 mph. The 488 is pure racing technology from tip to tail, with an Formula 1-derived seven-speed automatic gearbox, ceramic brakes, and slippery, drag-reducing exterior shape. Pricing starts at $245,400.

Read the full review here.

Lamborghini Huracan

2015 - 2016 Lamborghini Huracán LP 610-4 High Resolution Exterior
- image 674486

With a name that means “hurricane” in Spanish, this Raging Bull has what it takes to bring the fight to Ferrari. Under the skin is the same Audi-derived 5.2-liter V-10 engine as the Gallardo, pumping out a R8 V10 Plus-matching 600 horsepower. Either RWD or AWD is offered. While related to the Four Ring’s top offering, the Lambo is quite a bit more expensive, starting at $241,945.

Read the full review here.

Chevrolet Corvette Zora ZR1

2019 Chevrolet Corvette Zora ZR1 Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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Bet you weren’t expecting to see a Chevy on this list. Thing is, the Bowtie has been mulling the idea of making a mid-engine ‘Vette since the ‘60s, and the jury is still out as to whether or not GM is gonna pull the trigger any time soon. If it does, expect a genuine American supercar, complete with a 700-horsepower V-8, RWD, and a price tag around $150,000.

Read the full review here.

Conclusion

2020 Jaguar J-Type Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
- image 697445

You’d be hard pressed to find a gearhead out there that thinks a new mid-engine Jaguar supercar is a bad idea. That said, folks like us tend to focus more on attributes like awesomeness, coolness, and speed, rather than feasibility and profitability, and unfortunately, it’s those latter two traits, as determined by the bean counters over at Jaguar Land Rover, that’ll be the ultimate deciders.

But don’t give up hope. Although it’s a bit of a long shot that could take several years to appear, it’s definitely not impossible. And given the above-pictured rendering, I think it’s an idea worth considering.

Your move, Mr. Callum.

  • Leave it
    • * Even if it is made, it’s a long ways off
    • * Likely extremely expensive
    • * Where will the competition be in several years’ time?
What do you think?
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