Denied : 2003 Jaguar R-D6

My intention was to revisit a DTW piece from 2014 celebrating Matthew Beaven’s 2003 Jaguar concept. But further reflection suggested it made far more sense to start afresh.

jaguar rd6
(c) Jaguar Heritage

It’s been fourteen years now since the Jaguar R-D6 concept debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show – a debut I can recall vividly. After years of stylistic Disneyfication under the staunchly conservative guidance of the likes of William Clay Ford and J. Mays, here was the first clear indication that Jaguar stylists saw a way out of the retro straitjacket.

It has been a popular past-time to scapegoat (former Design Director) Geoff Lawson, one I myself have at times indulged in, but more recent evidence suggests he had been fighting a rearguard action against the forces of cosy nostalgia within Dearborn’s ‘Glass House’ for about a decade and had just secured funding for a separate advanced design studio at Whitley before his fatal illness struck.

This period of Jaguar’s history was far from uncomplicated. Ford management would begin to seriously reconsider their commitment to the leaping cat and the automotive world would embark upon a realignment away from traditional luxury car formats. All of which would impact notably upon the nature of Jaguar production designs, regardless of what Ian Callum’s Whitley studios could subsequently dream up, or indeed what Detroit wanted.

Overseen by former Lotus designer, Julian Thompson, R-D6 was one of the advanced design studio’s early fruits. I won’t spend a lot of time describing the car, since it’s already quite well known, but suffice to say, in 2003 terms, it was a revelation. An evolution of themes explored in the 2001 R-Coupe, R-D6 was far more confident and ambitious in its proportions, its surfacing, not to mention its intended positioning.

Planted and muscular, its abruptly truncated tail, which could have appeared visually discordant in lesser hands, here lent R-D6 a marvellously athletic stance. Only the nose treatment really dates the car, but even allowing for the usual concept tinsel, the compact looking (it’s anything but in reality) Jaguar was stunning. Even now, it remains Jaguar’s finest purely conceptual design, bar none.

Calls for it to be productionised went unheeded. Jaguar couldn’t afford it.  Neither Ford (nor JLR) would sanction anything so leftfield and as years passed, hopes faded. But it has remained a talisman for many Jaguar aficionados – a symbol of a possible, if improbable future. It’s increasingly clear it has also continued to occupy the minds of Callum and his deputies, who undoubtedly produced innumerable derivations upon similar themes in the hope that Ford and latterly, JLR management would have a change of heart.

Image: Jaguar Land Rover

In fact, you can trace its influence in subsequent Jaguar concepts and production cars – especially in the current F-type. It’s there too – albeit diluted – in the F-Pace and forthcoming E-Pace crossovers, although that requires a good deal of squinting. But perhaps the closest representation of the R-D6’s themes to see production lies with the impending electrified i-Pace model. The proportions are different, as you’d expect for an electric car, and the surfacing less voluptuous, but I would contend, (unless they screw the pooch of course) there is a more than a sprinkling of R-D6 buried not so deep within.

A great concept can do wonders for a company’s image, but it can equally become a millstone. It’s become quite clear to me that rather than the F-Type or indeed the XF, (as this scribe once suggested), R-D6 represents Jaguar’s stylistic leitmotif. It’s a design that continues to resonate both within Whitley’s studios and beyond, standing both as testament and reproach.

It’s also perhaps the reason Ian Callum’s studios no longer show speculative concepts to the public – only thinly veiled production cars. Because whatever way you slice it, R-D6 also represented an open goal Jaguar’s successive masters failed to act upon in 2003, and are only half-heartedly aiming for now. And while it is their lapse, it’s our loss.

Image: Jaguar Heritage

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

3 thoughts on “Denied : 2003 Jaguar R-D6”

  1. My 19-year-old self was almost in tears (of joy) back in 2013 – now that one was a return to form!

    I still believe that this could actually be Jaguar’s Evoque. Sell it as a hybrid to the young/urbane/well-off, with pothole-ready suspension and the interior ambience of a Rocco Forte hotel lobby, and the punters will come.

    1. As I’m sure I don’t have to tell you Kris, photos of R-D6 do not do it justice. In the flesh, this car is stunning. The fact that it remains a ‘what if’ is maddening. Look at what we got instead. Everybody’s fourth choice. Even the ‘much-loved’ X-Type had a better initial sales reception than XE. Three years in and with sales plateauing, it’s clear that it has fallen well short of projections, although nobody dares suggest it and JLR certainly won’t admit it.
      What to do? The platform costs have to be amortised, but they have elected to spin their forthcoming Jaguar-branded crossover on the Evoque/Disco Sport platform, so that is not an option.

      Here’s a crazy idea. Take one XE body in white. Redesign as necessary to allow for changes to the roofline/door openings. Reskin the outer panels along updated R-D6 lines. Delete the lower powered diesel power units from the specification, but retain XE’s mechanicals, albeit with at least the option of ride-focused suspension settings. Hybrid is also essential. Start from scratch with the interior – for reference, look inside an X351 XJ – or a Velar.

      Market it against the likes of the BMW 4-Series and its ilk. The F-Type starts at just under £50k. I-pace is likely to more expensive still. So let’s say from around £35k – £48k, depending on specification. Get the styling right and I reckon they’d manage at least 50,000 a year at a tellingly higher price point than XE.

      Someone out there might be able to point out why this wouldn’t be feasible, but for the life of me, I can’t see it.

  2. XE sales do seem to have plateaued in North America at about 1,000 a month. But saloon sales of all makes are falling fast with only a few exceptions, while SUVs are replacing them. The tragically named F-Pace is doing 50% greater volume than XE.

    Worldwide, Jaguar sales are about double the usual old stinky 70 to 80 thousand a year up to 2015. In my opinion, rather than redo the XE it needs to gain a much better interior not constructed from plastic off-cuts below the waterline, even if the price increases. People expect real coffee in a Jaguar, not chicory, and over here certainly not a clattery old 180 bhp diesel (yes I know it’s a new Ingenium, but still) which was the only alternative to that physically huge V6 petrol until this month.

    Still, with the continuing obvious increase in SUV sales (new cars are becoming quite uncommon around here unless they’re Honda Civics orToyota Corillas), if I were working for JLR product planning I’d nix big investments in new or hugely updated saloons even if they have the updated fine bones of this lovely concept car. Nobody’s buying. Like it or not, people want to flounce around in hatches on stilts looking faux butch. Jaguar needs a bigger ground-pounder SUV like a Porsche Cayenne before they waste more money on electrifying what they’ve got.

    Sure, all the futurists are going on about EVs, automated driving, automated EVs driving up to your door – I see a dystopian vision of robotic automatons queuing at the Electric Charging Centre, some quivering with urgency as the majority of their electrons have already fled from cathode to anode and they are in robotic indecision as to what to do next before they expire on the spot. Perhaps like wifi everywhere, charging pads will be everywhere, in which case someone had better come up with a way to make contactless charging one hell of a lot more efficient than it presently is. As well, the higher the ground clearance the less efficient the charging. Oh dear.

    Still, so far the general public has not got serious about EVs, despite all the slick promotion from people more au fait with smartphones than vehicles. The fuel (electrons) has no road taxes on it or taxes of any kind beyond VAT, at least here, so all the early EV adopters are living in false euphoria at low cost operation. When the dunces of bureaucracy see tax receipts slipping due to greater EV adoption, we can all expect their extended tea break will come to an end and some quite silly taxation ideas will be dreamt up to apply to EVs, plus VAT on top of everything. Bet on it, Volvo, you posing ecofreaks! All electric by 2020. Sure, in your eco-dreams, but unlikely to occur unless the company wishes to commit suicide. Hybrid maybe, all pure EV – not a chance.

    Jaguar, follow Porsche and make a Cayenne fighter! Hybrid as required. That’s my advice if you wish to increase sales. Make it pretty. It can be done using this concept’s updated design language.

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