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Concept Car of the Week: Jaguar R-D6 (2003)

Fri, 15 Nov 2013

Ten years ago Jaguar was still under the (s)mothering wing of Ford's Premier Auto Group. Its range comprised of the technically-advanced but stylistically geriatric XJ sedan, the golfers' favourite waftmobile XK8, the droopy S-Type with what appeared to be a lavatory seat on its nose and a Ford Mondeo in a bowler hat known as the X-Type.

However things were changing in the back rooms of Coventry. The suited, moustachioed old-school stylists were making way for a new wave of hot-shot, open-collared designers. Ian Callum had become design director in 1999 and Julian Thomson soon became his right hand man as head of advanced design the following year. The first fruits of the new dream team came in the form of the comely R-Coupe concept at the 2001 Frankfurt motor show, but it was the R-D6 two years later that marked a truly new, more youthful direction for the brand. Here's what Car Design News' Nick Hull said at the time:

At first glance, the R-D6 shows many similarities to the R-Coupe of two years ago, but size-wise it's closer to an Alfa 147 or Mazda RX8 at 4330mm long. The large 21" wheels, 2840mm wheelbase and short overhangs give a new proportion for a compact premium car, while the pronounced rear haunch provides a very dynamic emphasis to the rear quarters.

The front face is particularly successful. It's hard to get that C-type grille to sit comfortably on a modern front end but this iteration finally seems to work, partly because the grille is broader and sits more vertically than when used before.

The twin headlamps, with a linking trapezium frame, are much more alert and feline than the R-Coupe's of two years ago and use an array of LED lamps for illumination. Designer Matthew Beaven admitted he's pleased with the result and this face may well be seen on future models such as the next S-Type.

The cropped tail end produced more controversy amongst IAA show observers, some feeling it lacked the crispness of the rest of the car. Clear elements of the E-Type are echoed here with a 'coffin lid' rear hatch, 'spear and roundel' taillamp graphics and squared exhaust finishers.

The interior, by designers Alister Whelan and Hugo Nightingale, features a deeply bucketed driver's seat, with a ‘spine' of tensioned leather that exits through the rear of the seat and loops forward at the top to provide an integral head restraint. The floor is wood but in the area immediately below the seats the wood is obscured by a ‘floating floor' of thick saddle leather that flows over the transmission tunnel and exits at the outer edges of the cabin floor.

The 25mm gap between the leather and the wood forms part of the climate-control system.

The facia hood – which stretches back to a veneered wood surround at the base of the windscreen – is of black saddle leather, which is again designed to give the appearance of being a floating structure.

The ambient floor lighting provides a welcoming, deep red glow. The overall effect is suitably cool – more lap dance club than gentleman's club. Finally, the twin rear bucket seats slide forward to snuggle up to the fronts when more luggage space is required – again, much like a 2+2 E-Type.

It's great to see Jaguar tackling a genuinely new concept rather than looking at how to re-style familiar formats such as a luxury coupe or roadster.

The combination of new proportions, freestyle doors, a contemporary engine, cool-chic interior, plus hints of E-Type has a good chance to connect with younger buyers as never before and makes this concept so much more compelling than other recent Jaguar studies. I think Sir William would have approved.

And now, 10 years on, Jaguar is under Indian management with a broader range of far more contemporary designed by a team still led by Callum and Thomson. However we are still waiting for the promised compact Jag to reach production. Let's hope that when it does finally appear there's at least the spirit of the R-D6 in its heart.

First seen Frankfurt 2013
Exterior designer Matthew Beaven
Interior designers Alister Whelan and Hugo Nightingale
Engine 2.7-liter, V6 twin-turbo diesel
Length 4,330mm
Width 2,150mm
Height 1,390mm
Wheelbase 2,840mm

By Owen Ready