The launch of the New XJ Long Wheelbase marks not just the return of the luxury British saloon but also an opportunity for Jaguar Cars’ Advanced Design Studio to use the most spacious vehicle the company has ever built as the base for an intriguing design programme – the Jaguar Concept Eight. This saloon blends contemporary British creativity with updated automotive engineering to offer a glimpse of future Jaguars.
The Concept Eight has been designed to reflect the position that Jaguar holds in the luxury car market. Developed from the New XJ Long Wheelbase saloon, it has been extensively reworked beneath its broad, single-piece, glass roof to produce a luxury concept car that is understated, powerful and glamorous.
Ian Callum’s design department went through a long period of discussion and debate before work began on the Concept Eight. A great many ideas were discussed and discarded before the creative team settled on two key themes – comfort and indulgence. The large, cossetting, individual rear seats are perhaps the best example of that indulgence, for they represent a move away from a conventional bench-type seat.
The Concept Eight’s exterior appearance has also been given considerable thought and nowhere is that more apparent than its roof. The lightweight aluminium skin that stretches across the car’s upper surface has been replaced with a single, full-length piece of darkened glass to provide an even greater feeling of spaciousness within. Around the edges of the glass panel a strip of LED lighting provides an ambient red glow that equates with the mood lighting that you might find in a fashionable bar.
Other exterior developments on the Concept Eight include brand new 21-inch five-spoke alloy wheels created especially for the project. Behind the front wheels sit chrome gills which aid engine cooling and also improve aerodynamic flow to the rear of the car. New chrome exhaust pipe finishers give the Concept Eight a purposeful appearance from the rear while a one-off metallic paint colour, Purple Haze – a blend of lush cherry and deep black will show hints of both colours under changing light conditions.
Under the creative vision of Principal Designer Mark Phillips and Colour and Materials Designer Siobhan Hughes, the cabin of this long wheelbase concept limousine has become a place of contemporary luxury and warmth.
Between the rear seats runs a centre console that extends all the way to the front of the cabin – an evolution of a similar design first seen in the Jaguar R Coupe concept car. This clean, sweeping section is covered with a well-recognised wood veneer – American walnut. But unlike existing Jaguar interiors, the concept car’s walnut trim has a matt finish. Warm and smooth to the touch, it is a 21st century spin that Ian Callum says indicates how future Jaguars could both look and feel.
The power-adjustable, reclining rear lounge seats are wrapped in aniline leather – as is the upper instrument panel – demonstrating all the natural markings inherent in a raw material. The lower instrument panel, console, and lower door casings are all trimmed in nubuck, a soft leather that has been gently buffed on the grain side to give a velvety surface. Conker, the dominant rich, brown colour, takes its name from the seed of the Horse Chestnut tree that is indigenous to the British Isles. Jonathan Connolly is the sole provider of the Conker leather, providing a rich textural mix with accents provided by chrome gloss and aluminium. To further create a feeling of space and light, an ivory-coloured leather covers the roof pillars and head-lining.
The final new material used in the Concept Eight is the remarkably luxurious carpet. Handmade by craftsmen in Chelsea Harbour, London, its inch-deep Ivory Grey wool is designed to be as soft and inviting under foot as a favourite rug or throw.
The Concept Eight shares the same 3159mm wheelbase as the New XJ Long Wheelbase – 125mm longer than the standard wheelbase XJ version. But despite that extra length, the driver and passengers will sacrifice little in terms of the class-leading dynamics and technologies found across the XJ range. Its aluminium chassis and bodyshell mean that performance remains uncompromised, while the Concept Eights use of the 400bhp 4.2-litre supercharged AJ-V8 engine guarantees a blend of acceleration and cruising.
The supercharged V8 achieves its maximum 400 hp (298kW) at 6100rpm, a 33 percent increase over the naturally aspirated variant. At least 86 percent of peak torque is available from 2000rpm to a peak of 407 ft lbs (553 Nm) at 3500rpm.
Despite its extra length over the standard wheelbase XJ, the Concept Eight weighs hardly any more and also benefits from re-engineered and lowered suspension to give it added visual impact.