At the global launch of the Jaguar E-Pace, I put some questions to Jaguar design head Ian Callum. Callum’s automotive achievements are jaw-dropping and too long to list, but here are some tasters: Jaguar’s F-Pace, F-Type, C-X16 Concept, C-X75 Concept, XJ, XF and XK. Plus, inputs into Aston Martin’s DB7, DB9, Vanquish, Ford Puma, Nissan R390 race car, Ford Escort Cosworth and Ford RS200... the list goes on. However, Callum calls the Aston Martin DB7, “His first business card”.

More than a designer, Ian Callum is a car guy. The evidence is his own excitingly modified Jaguar Mk2. He is ego-free. Talking to him is a delight. He is the opposite of a puffed-up company suit who is full of his own importance, whilst spouting corporate babble.

Callum takes me behind the scenes of the car designing world. He points out minute details that a mere mortal would miss; design details that transform a horror show into a beauty. His F-Type sportscar is a veritable masterpiece and he has carried over some of that Jaguar DNA into the E-Pace. Callum points out that cats have big eyes and large paws which are out of proportion to most creatures; “yet this is why we love them.” The E-Pace’s headlamps and tall wheels (up to 21 inches) are its eyes and paws. Chamfering the extremities has helped reduce the overhangs, delivering a purposeful stance. Design has an enormous impact on sales, and the designer carries a heavy responsibility.

Callum says he loves the look of the E-Pace from the three-quarter rear. His favourite piece is the low-down swages in the doors which remove ‘heaviness’ from this otherwise vast area. He tells me about the countless hours spent getting the grille and headlamps sizes and positions just so. He explains how movements of a few millimetres change the look dramatically.

The sportscar-inspired E-Pace carries over the classic Jaguar central bonnet bulge. Sporting features are so subtle. Horizontal lines are an important key. The side swage lines that start at the headlamps and run along the sides of the car end in a clever way. They slightly overlap the rear swage line that rises to create the cat’s haunches, which helps lift the tail section.

Callum mentions the many frontal air intakes which make the car look assertive but not aggressive, “No Jaguar must look aggressive.” Those rear lights also carry Jaguar DNA. They are similar to those on the beautiful F-Type. It does not stop there because the F-Type got them from the most iconic car of the 20th century — the 1961 E-Type. The illuminated side lights have the look of a chicane on a race circuit; very subtle that one, but by golly does it work…. Those race circuit lines continue inside the car on the dashboard with its swoopy stitching and dash top ‘S-bend’. Much design thought has gone into the wrap-around cockpit with its touchy-feely rotary dials that feel like an SLR camera lens, as well as the tactile switchgear.  Much effort has gone into making the interior of the E-Pace feel like a special place.

Ian Callum

What were your thoughts as you entered the design world of SUVs?

The reasons we designed the F-Pace and E-Pace SUVs are because we listened to people and understand the market. I am a reluctant SUV designer as I like designing sportscars and big long saloons. This is what Jaguar is famous for. But you have to make what people are looking for. However, a Jaguar SUV has to be in Jaguar proportions, not just another SUV. Every line on the car must tell a story. If it doesn’t, it must be removed. The SUV’s physical appearance must be that of a Jaguar. This got me enthusiastic about designing SUVs. The thing with Jaguars is exaggeration. They have to be beautiful and desirable. People want practicality, so compromises have to be made to keep them on-side. This was a big lesson for us and I believe we have become SUV experts. The E-Pace has a lot of attitude. We call it the cub, an analogy of a tough little cat, like a teenage jaguar, slightly rebellious.

 

How did Jaguar shift away from the retro designs of previous models?

I had already shifted. I inherited the retro era and told Jaguar that the retro days are over. I told them that there is no choice; If you continue, you will fail. The change came with the XF, which was the start of the revolution. Under Ford ownership, they did not understand Jaguar of 1962. I did. It was big battle, which ended successfully.

 

What are your views regarding a retro E-Type?

You couldn’t make it. The legal requirements are now too great. The closest we got to the E-Type is the F-Type. A retro E-Type could not meet the safety requirements, crash requirements, aerodynamics, wheel sizes, power etc.

 

At London’s Heathrow Airport, driverless vehicles can ferry you to and from the car park. No one looks at the badge on the vehicle. What will happen to car manufacturers when we have fully autonomous vehicles?

We move a lot of celebrities who don’t drive. They want to be in the back of a Jaguar. People will still want style, even if they are not driving. Those who don’t care, will have an alternative. It is already here. It is called Uber.

 

Ask a 5-year old child to draw a car, and he or she will draw a three-box saloon. When will 5-year-olds draw monovolumes?

I would say, quite soon. Good question.