Road tests

Jaguar C-X17 4x4 2014 review

We drive the Jaguar C-X17, a prototype of the Jaguar SUV due on sale in 2015

Seeing the Jaguar C-X17 moving under its own steam really brings to the fore just how striking its design is. The concept may be full of rough edges but the packaging and character of this car is clear to see from behind the wheel. If Jaguar’s design team can deliver on the styling and the engineering team can deliver on this new aluminium-mix architecture then the big three German brands will seriously have to start watching their backs.

We waited forever to see a Jaguar SUV, then finally the Jaguar C-X17 concept arrived at the Frankfurt Motor Show earlier this year. Now, the blue paintwork of that original show car has been ditched in favour of silver, and Jaguar has allowed Auto Express behind the wheel ahead of the production car’s debut late in 2015.

It’s worth remembering that this is a hand-built concept so we’re not expecting the most refined driving experience in the world, but it’s great for showing off how the C-X17 will look. Sitting in the blazing Dubai sunshine it looks every inch a Jaguar, from its large XJ-inspired grille to the muscular rear wheelarches and narrow taillights borrowed from the F-Type.

The design team behind this concept is keen to see it through to production almost unchanged as well; as Julian Thomson, Advanced Design Director revealed: “we’re not in the business of letting customers down, we can’t show this concept and then come out with something that looks nothing like it.”

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Step in to the cabin and you start to get a sense of what the C-X17 is about; it’s the four-seat layout and sporty F-Type steering wheel that reveal this isn’t so much an SUV but a dynamic crossover. You sit relatively low down so you feel a little more connected to the action than you do in a Range Rover.

Underneath the bonnet is the 3.0-litre supercharged V6 engine used to great effect in the F-Type but also available detuned in the XJ limo and XF. In the production car it would be bolted in to Jaguar’s new iQ[Al] aluminium architecture – set to underpin all future Jags except the sports cars – but here it’s a mixture of unique parts and XF leftovers.

Without any sound insulation the roar of the V6 is always with you and there’s no polish on the ride or steering but you really get the sense of being cocooned within the C-X17, much like you do in a sports car. That’s no accident, as design and engineering teams have worked together from day one to help create these proportions, including the long bonnet and a shallow glass area.

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In terms of what a drive like this can actually teach us about how the C-X17 will drive, there’s actually very little to learn. But it is interesting to talk to the team behind the project and hear how they want the production version to be “the most dynamic, the most efficient and the best-looking” car in its class.

Those are ambitions that Jaguar holds for each one of its future line-up, and with a generous head of steam behind it, you wouldn’t bet against a seriously strong future for Jaguar, bolstered by models like the C-X17.

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