How the Jaguar XKR-S was born

The Jaguar XKR-S started life in a way that will be familiar to designers the world over – using a storyboard process.

But although this process sounds suspiciously soft and fluffy for the logical and numbers-led world of engineers, it is apparently one that’s ideal for creating bespoke projects such as the Jaguar XKR-S.

Chief programme engineer Russ Varney explained on the car’s launch that Jaguar already has a set of defined standards it knows will, if followed, create an authentic Jaguar. However, in developing a model’s character and nature, a further set of targets is needed – created here through a process of storyboarding.

‘We begin with words, describing what the car should be. We can, for example, stick ‘steering should be more responsive’ on the board. We’ll also include references to a rival, or references to one of our own cars, which exhibits traits we’d also like on the car.

‘These words and references are then discussed and, in time, agreed. This is what gives us the core of the car, which we then translate into objective measurements that we can engineer, execute and verify. It’s how the character of the car is created.’

This, says Varney, was key to the XKR-S being a cohesive and convincing extension of the Jaguar XK range. Contrasting with the previous attempt at creating an XKR-S, back in 2008, shows how effective this process is. That car was less impressive, feeling more like a regular XKR with a higher top speed. The new one, in contrast, is a sub-brand in its own right.

Expect it to develop too, now Jaguar has launched the first genuine R-S model. Take BMW: it didn’t immediately begin with an M5: initially it was the 535i M, before the M5 arrived in 1985. Jaguar wants to establish and develop R-S now it’s discovered what it thinks the core of the sub-brand should be.

Not that the engineer’s hands are kept completely clean. ‘Once we arrive at a certain point, we have a loop in the cycle were we go out and drive. This is the only way to check it all matches and harmonises. This gives you the final 10%, which turns a good car into a great one.

With the foundations laid, Jaguar now has a platform to further hone the R-S line, bringing a profitable additional model series to the range at very little relative expense.

I used to storyboard in CDT at school, cutting up pages of the Argos catalogue to create my new award winning design. Maybe now it’s time I did the same with pages of Autocar.

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