Jaguar C-X75

Fast, Furious and Strictly Forbidden

"One Part Hybrid. One Part Formula One. All Unobtanium."

It's a bit of a contradiction this experimental hybrid. On the one hand, it's a supercar. On the other, it's powered by 1.6 liter four-banger. Yes, you read that right; a car claiming to be super is powered by the exact same engine format as a Hyundai Accent. 

And yet, the carbon-fibred two-seater gets to 100 kilometers an hour in less than three seconds, says Jaguar, eclipsing Bugatti's steroid-muscled Veyron. It'll also scream to an incredible-for-a-production-car 10,300 rpm and, given its head, top out on the scary side of 330 km/h.

But the design brief also said it could only emit roughly the same 89 grams per mile of CO2 emissions as a Toyota Prius. Indeed, the same directive also required that the C-X75 be able to drive 60 kilometers without even turning on that diminutive little gas engine. Impressive frugality to be sure, but an ambition diametrically opposed to supercar-like speed.

That was the directive originally handed over to Ian Cluett, head of Williams (as in Formula 1) Advanced Engineering's head of powertrain development. And, Mission Impossible or no, that's exactly what Cluett and his counterpart at Gaydon, Felipe Austin Bodely, Jaguar's vehicle integration manager, produced.

Their solution was to combine the designed-by-Williams 1.6 liter four-banger and two hyper-powerful electric motors. The Williams 1.6L, essentially a Formula One engine (remember that F1 was going to switch to 1.6 liter turbos) denuded of its costly pneumatic valves, pumps out 502 horsepower (an incredible 313 hp/L). Each of the two wafer thin electric motors produces 195 battery fueled ponies, one connected to the front axle through a single-speed gearbox while the other powers the rear tires through the same seven-speed transaxle as the rear mounted 1.6L. It's a supercar of incredible complexity (the gas engine with both a supercharger and a turbocharger, two electric motors, two lithium-ion batteries, two electrical inverters and no less than 14 radiators), but put them all together, says Cluett, and you're good for 890 "rootin tootin" horsepower.

That's enough to scream down the relatively short straight of Jaguar's high speed emissions track at 310 km/h with such ease and stability that yours truly took one hand off the steering wheel (only to make a point to Mike Cross, Jaguar's famed vehicle integrity engineer who was sitting in the passenger seat). We're in what Cross calls the C-X75's "full phat" mode, electric motors and gas engine all pumping maximum go-juice to all four wheels. And yes, as you might probably imagine, the super-revvy Williams 1.6L was howling like a banshee every time I paddle-shifted up a gear at 10,300; it's as close as a street car will ever get to reproducing an F1-like wail.

But the electrified Jag has another trick up its sleeve, accelerating the C-X75 to 100 km/h in about six seconds in EV mode. That's right, the C-X75 is faster than most cars on the road today before you even turn on the engine. Top speed, powered by lithium-ion alone, is about 150 klicks an hour.

It will also, as per the design mandate, crawl along at more sedate speeds for up to 60 kilometers. Indeed, in most of its EV/hybrid operation, the supercar is strikingly similar current plug-ins. The 650-volt battery - actually batteries, since there are two, saddle mounted on either side of the engine - boast a total 19.3 kW-h (significantly more than the 918 Spyder, by the way). And, just like a garden-variety Toyota, the C-X75's regenerative brakes recharge the battery when the free electrons start to get low.

What is different - and don't those crazy Brits think of everything - is something Jaguar calls an Interior Sound Synthesizer. Unlike the aforementioned 918, which remains resolutely silent in EV mode, the C-X75 takes the novel approach of vibrating its roof - yes, the whole roof - to produce varoom-like engine sounds even as you drive electrically. By times, it sounds like a two-stroke motorcycle with expansion chambers, others like a radial-engined Sopwith clawing for altitude.

But here's my best part, indeed, it may be my favorite aspect of the whole C-X75 concept. When it's parked and plugged into its high-speed charging port, the ISS emits a malevolent, low-frequency thrum akin to the sound effect every Hollywood director employs to scare moviegoers when the heroine is about suffer her terrible fate. Yes, even when it's refueling, the C-X75 sounds like a menace to society. 

Sadly, it would appear that no one outside of a few Jaguar engineers (and even fewer lucky auto journalists) will drive the C-X75 in anger. Jaguar has produced five prototypes, the last almost production ready with a fully finished interior and finalized exterior styling. But Jaguar has determined that the market for high-priced supercars isn't what it used to be (Porsche is struggling to sell out the 918, for instance). It's sad because my short test drive, even in a cobbled together prototype, tells me the Jag might have been the best of the lot.

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