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The 2020 Jaguar XE.Handout

In designing Jaguar’s latest vehicle, the 2020 XE sports sedan, Ian Callum relied on simple inspirations outside the car world.

He’s a fan of the Lloyd’s Building in London, for example, which is distinguished by many of its functional features – water pipes, elevators and ducts – being on its exterior. The unique building reminds Callum, head of design for Jaguar since 1999, of a classic motorcycle, with its inner workings exposed for all to see.

His attention was also recently caught by the gentle curvature of a tea kettle and a fine knob on a digital radio he saw, of all things. These details don’t necessarily translate directly into car features, but they do collectively determine how the vehicle is conceptualized.

“I get inspired by how these things come together,” he says, “and that makes me want to go and design a car, not to copy them, but to do something that clever in my world.”

The 2020 Jaguar XE, available this summer starting at C$49,900, was the British automaker’s main attraction at the recent New York International Auto Show. For Callum, who is something of a rock star among car designers thanks to nearly four decades at Ford, TWR and Jaguar, it corrects some issues that have been gnawing at him over the past few versions.

Its interior features double-stitched, perforated and quilted Windsor leather, as well as 20-way adjustable heated and cooled front seats.

The new XE is wider and lower than its predecessor, drawing some inspiration from the Jaguar F-Type. It also has slimmer, more dramatic-looking headlights, which are made possible by LEDs that provide more power, but take up less space. It also boasts some sleek Jaguar-like curves, which may or may not have been inspired by a tea kettle.

The interior includes redesigned doors that are easier to open and close thanks to more ergonomic handles. The dash also features the new InControl Touch Pro Duo infotainment system, similar to that found in the electric Jaguar I-Pace.

“You become familiar with the character of a car, once you live with it for four, five years, you sense where to change it to make it better,” Callum says.

The touchscreen, however, required some lines to be drawn. Callum isn’t a fan of over-digitalization, so many functions – especially those needed while driving – are still controlled by physical knobs, buttons and switches. Mirrors, seats, temperature and other core functions in Jaguar vehicles will continue to have analogue rather than digital controls for the foreseeable future.

“There are things for which you need tactile controls,” Callum says. “I think eventually we’ll see switches come back into fashion.”

Jaguar also used the New York show to debut a new vehicle from its Land Rover side, the 2020 Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic Edition. Pricing on the mid-size SUV, which was designed outside of Callum’s purview by the company’s Special Vehicle Operations unit, has yet to be announced. The automaker is saying, however, that it will only be available for one year after it is released.

The new InControl Touch Pro Duo infotainment system in 2020 Jaguar XE is similar to that found in the electric Jaguar I-Pace.

The Dynamic Edition packs a supercharged 5.0-litre gas V-8 engine and can accelerate to 100 kilometres an hour in 4.5 seconds. Its interior features double-stitched, perforated and quilted Windsor leather that is unique to the special edition vehicle, as well as 20-way adjustable heated and cooled front seats.

Neither the Dynamic Edition Velar nor the 2020 Jaguar XE are part of the automaker’s ambitious plan to go all-electric by 2030, starting with a move to introduce electric powertrains – whether battery or hybrid – in all new 2020 models.

To that end, the company was showing off a range of electrified vehicles, including the all-electric 2019 I-Pace, 2020 mild-hybrid Range Rover Evoque, and the 2020 Range Rover and Range Rover Sport plug-in hybrids.

With the 2020 Jaguar XE, the company is aiming for simplification. The 2019 model had 32 permutations between powertrain and trim. This year, the derivatives have been cut to just three.

The car may not fit with the all-electric ambition, but the company says it is being practical and listening to customer needs.

The Dynamic Edition packs a supercharged 5.0-litre gas V8 engine and can accelerate to 100 kilometres an hour in 4.5 seconds.Jeremy Sinek

“When you look at customer driving habits and behaviours, no one shoe fits all,” says David Larsen, general manager of product management for Jaguar Land Rover North America.

The overall move to electrification is proving to be a design boon, however, because it’s allowing for new kinds of experimentation, Callum says. Designers can now work around the battery, which sits at the bottom of the vehicle, rather than the engine at the front. That’s allowing for more cabin room and different component configurations.

As a result, vehicles could look dramatically different a decade from now.

“It gives you a freedom you probably haven’t seen before,” he says. “You can set up the car the way you want. It’s very exciting and very liberating.”

The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.

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