Jaguar design boss Ian Callum: “I swore I’d never design the F-Pace”
Jag’s head of design talks crossovers, autonomous cars and more with Paul Horrell
Ian Callum, Jaguar’s design director, is always good for a robust, good-humoured and candid chat. We recently sat down for lunch with him. As Callum’s conversation ranged widely, it shone a light on the Jaguar design roadmap.
Callum has been at Jaguar since 1999, and has been responsible for shifting the company’s design from retro to modern. Because, he always says, during Jag’s retro period, those cars were referencing 1960s Jags that in their day had actually been extremely forward looking. Make sense?
Before that, Callum worked at TWR, where he did Aston Martin’s DB7, the original Vanquish and the DB9. A pretty amazing CV in itself.
And by way of contrast, in those years Callum also did the Nissan R390 endurance racer, and worked at Ghia on concept cars. And, with friend Peter Horbury, he turned the Volvo S70 in to the first C70, and the Escort into the Escort Cosworth.
So when he talks design, it’s worth listening. Here, then, is The World According To Ian Callum.Advertisement - Page continues below
On the F-Pace crossover
“The F-Pace is the car I swore I’d never ever design. But now I'm delighted. It’s going to be tremendous. The performance crossovers will help fill out the range. [TopGear checks that he really did say “crossovers” in the plural. Callum smiles and doesn’t retract.]
“I think the F-Pace will be our biggest seller. There’s a natural Britishness about crossovers. When we set about doing the F-Pace it was challenging. It wasn’t a natural place for me.
“I teased Julian Thompson [Jag’s Director of Advanced Design, and the man responsible for the Land Rover LRX concept which became the Evoque], and said, ‘Come on Jules, you’ve done these lorries before.’ But this is a different thing to the LRX, it has a longitudinal engine and a different package.
“We knew we had things to learn. It’s much more subtle than just a crossover with Jaguar cues on it. Some of our early attempts were generic, but then we moved into Jaguar mode.”
On the design issues of autonomous cars
“Will you want an autonomous car, or will it become a white good? I really don’t know. My head’s not there yet. Autonomous cars are for another generation of designers.
“It’s hip to talk about autonomous driving and it’s a big thing. But we have other big things first – electric vehicles, gadgetry, unobtanium for light weight. I find those things more exciting.”Advertisement - Page continues below
“My focus is to make the next generation of Jaguar interiors very special and quite exquisite. That’s what the brand deserves. There are lots of constraints of course. You have to understand materials, haptics and ergonomics. I actually think seats will change a lot. They are too bulky now.”
“Aerodynamics is more important again, just as it was at the start of my career. We are approaching aerodynamics incrementally, not by the big picture.
“Our curves and shapes aren't great for aerodynamics. That’s ironic given [D- and E-Type designer] Malcolm Sayer thought they were. The straight lines of the XJ-S were better. In five or six years we’ll get below Cd 0.2, through refinement and moveable aerodynamic aids.”
“The F-Type is not a new E-Type. It’s just a front-engined two-seat Jaguar sports car, the best we can do.
“Most buyers don’t know or care about the E-Type. But we exploit our heritage in marketing because we have it. We can show it off. But we mustn’t get burdened by it, which we did for a while.”
On his favourite cars
“My favourite non-Jaguar is the Ferrari 250 SWB. The favourite of my own designs is the F-Type. I’m still proud of the Aston DB7. It was done in a mire of Ford politics but Tom Walkinshaw pushed it through. It made money because it used a Jaguar platform and sold for £65,000.
“I’d like to have done a 911. It’s a lovely shape. But I always ask myself whether I'd leave it largely alone or change it radically. The answer is different every time. I have no desire to design a Mustang, by the way. That’s for Moray [Callum, Ian’s younger brother and Ford’s global design chief].Advertisement - Page continues below
On the Jaguar Design team
“We have a good team, a fantastic team. It's not a democracy but we act and speak in one direction, wanting to produce what is inherently a Jaguar. We all understand that.
“Julian and I are like an old married couple. He does things he knows I won’t like. I’m learning to love the XJ-S now, Julian loathes it. But that’s all OK. We both understand Jaguar.”
On the next generation of Jaguars
“We are now at a phase at Jaguar Design when we’re asking what to do next. The F-Pace won't be a surprise – the production car and the concept were designed at the same time. After that you will see a definite move to another generation, and a more eclectic mix.”Advertisement - Page continues below
On the XJ’s controversial design
“Yes the XJ is controversial, and I was under pressure to facelift it to make it more conventional. But it won’t be.
“The most controversial bit is the taillights. People who bought the car grow to like them. Some people in the company still don’t like them. But it has sold well in China where it’s a young buyer’s car. A car that price in the west isn’t available to young people.
“Jaguar as a brand still has a hill to climb in the perception and awareness of it in some places including the USA. Up to now we’ve only really had two saloons, but now with the XE and F-Pace that will change, and maybe the XJ will get more momentum.”
On the just-launched XF
“The new XF is evolved from the old XF. It’s about strengthening the Jaguar family, so it’s not radically different from the old one. The next XF will be very different.
“Actually the original XF has been a huge success. It sold almost 40,000 a year and stayed close to that number right up to when we stopped production last month. But part of the brief for the new one was to make it more pragmatic and get more space. Many people didn’t buy the original one because it didn’t have enough room in the back.
“If the new XF didn’t have the XE below it I’d have been tempted to make it look sportier. The XE and XF share our new architecture, and that’s really the first all-new Jaguar saloon architecture since the first XJ in 1969. All the rest have been adaptations, or things we inherited from Ford. So this time we could design to suit ourselves.”
On his years at Jaguar
“I joined with a naïve vision. I was petrified to be given custodianship of something very important. It needed fixing because it wasn't the dynamic modern brand that I remembered. I thought it would take 10 years to do what I wanted.
“Now, 16 years later, we are getting there. I will be around to see the next generation of Jaguars. I'm not going anywhere. Even if I was offered a job at Ferrari or Porsche I wouldn’t go. Not at all. You commit to a brand…”