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Jaguar, Land Rover, Tata…Ferrari?

Ownership of Jaguar and Land Rover are about to transfer from Ford to Tata, just as a new model onslaught is beginning.

Ownership of Jaguar and Land Rover are about to transfer from Ford to Tata, just as a new model onslaught is beginning. The XF sedan, based on the underpinnings of the outgoing S-Type, will soon hit the market; it will establish a new design direction for the English brand. From this car forward, the strong rectangular grille of the XF will become even more prominent, and the bodywork leaner and more flowing.

In 2010, Jaguar will launch X351, the replacement for the mechanically modern but stylistically dated XJ sedan. Built on a stretched and widened platform, the XJ replacement will retain the current version’s aluminum construction, as well as its V8 engine. It will take a cue from the Mercedes CLS by extruding the sleek styling into a coupe-like shape. Ironically, Mercedes insiders admit the CLS was a response to a perceived threat from Jaguar under Ford’s ownership. Unfortunately for Jaguar, the company decided to follow a more conservative retro look for its vehicles, and handed the as-yet untapped four-door coupe market to Mercedes.

Not long after Tata takes the keys to Jaguar, company executives will present their plans for a two-seat sports car based on a cut-down version of the aluminum chassis used by the XK Coupe. This vehicle would replace the largely unloved X-Type small sedan, and meld the rectangular grille and scowling headlamps of the XF and new XJ to a sleek, compact body. With Aston Martin no longer part of the “family,” Jaguar no longer has to worry that such a vehicle would compete with the offerings of that other English car maker. This is not the first time that Jaguar has been down this road in recent years, however. Jaguar showed an F-Type concept at the Detroit Auto Show in 2000, but did not have a suitable rear-drive chassis on which to build it. As a result, Ford and Jaguar reportedly tapped Lotus Engineering–then working with Aston Martin on its “VH” architecture–to create a transverse mid-engined two-seater aimed at Porsche’s Boxster. Though that vehicle–which would have shared its powertrain with the X-Type–reached the pre-production stage, it fell victim to Jaguar’s–and Ford’s–worsening financial situation.

Meanwhile, Land Rover’s LRX Concept is a thinly veiled preview of the new small crossover the company is preparing for launch around 2010. The unibody design was created to prepare buyers for Land Rover’s plans to introduce a bevy of smaller vehicles off a common platform in order to improve the brand’s fuel economy and CO2 output ahead of new EU legislation. This will include a more car-like vehicle that follows the LRX’s lead and includes a four-door as well as a two-door. Its larger vehicles are not due for a major rethink before 2012, giving Tata plenty of time to decide how it wants to replace them. Should their loose alliance continue, expect Fiat–and its Maserati, Alfa Romeo, and Ferrari units–to help in the development of new Land Rovers and Jaguars. Possible areas of cooperation include building an entry-level Maserati four-door sedan off the XJ platform in return for use of the Maserati/Ferrari V8, building the planned Alfa Romeo and Maserati crossovers off the LRX platform, and–surprisingly–developing the next Range Rover in conjunction with Ferrari.–CAS