|Jaguar’s all-important new XF saloon, to be launched early next year, last night won its first major accolade, Autocar magazine’s annual Design Award for 2007.
The honour is one of nine announced by Chas Hallett, Autocar’s editor, at a ceremony in Westminster attended by more than 400 motor industry leaders and celebrities from Europe, the US and Asia. The awards panel made special note of the exceptional achievement of Jaguar’s designers and engineers in resisting ‘retro’ styling and leapfrogging an entire design generation to produce original, contemporary interior and exterior themes on which all future Jaguars will build.
Ian Callum, Jaguar’s Design Director said “This is the first time Jaguar has won this award from Autocar for a production car and I’m absolutely thrilled the new XF is the winner. It’s wonderful to receive recognition for our efforts within the industry. This award recognises the work we have been doing to develop a new design direction for Jaguar and the XF is the first example of this on a saloon car.”
The guest speaker, Bob Lutz, GM’s legendary vice-president in charge of product development, accepted this year’s Autocar Award for Outstanding Achievement and regaled the audience with stories from his long career as one of the motor industry’s most successful and influential ‘car guys’. A much younger motoring hero, McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton, accepted Autocar’s Motorsport Award – by video link – for his stirring F1 achievements of the past season.
Volkswagen’s revolutionary up!, an economy car proposal that company bosses have already confirmed as the basis of an entire family of revolutionary economy cars, won Autocar’s Concept Car of the Year award, accepted by VW’s group head of development, Dr Ulrich Hackenberg. The judging panel especially admired VW’s willingness to use a new concept that replaces traditional transverse front-wheel drive with a compact engine mounted under the rear seat, driving the car’s rear wheels.
Ford of Europe chairman John Fleming accepted Autocar’s award for Car Company of the Year, a recognition of his firm’s key role in the progress towards recovery of the US-based Ford group, and as a future donor of models for the US market. Ford’s retiring chief technical officer, Richard Parry-Jones, was honoured with a special Editor’s Award for Excellence for inspiring Ford’s move into industry-leading driving dynamics, which has inspired literally thousands of engineers, and stimulated improvements in rival products as well as Ford’s own.
Skoda won this year’s Autocar Car Advertisement Award for its beguiling ‘Cake Car’ campaign, and Mercedes-Benz’s head of advanced powertrain engineering, Dr Guenter Karl, accepted Autocar’s Safety and Technology Award for its mould-breaking DiesOtto concept, a programme that combines advanced diesel and petrol theory in a four-cylinder turbo engine with unparalleled power, torque, flexibility, compactness, economy and low CO2 emissions. DiesOtto shows that the piston engine is very far from dead, especially in hybrid cars, on which Dr Karl is also working.
The most poignant award was Autocar’s Idea of the Year, which went to the McRae Enduro, a ‘supercar for the desert’ to which the McRae family of rally champions – including 1995 WRC title winner Colin, recently tragically killed in a helicopter accident – have lent their name. This super-tough, diesel-powered racer aims to cater for teams and private entrants in extreme events like the Dakar Rally. One day the McRae Enduro may be a road car, too.
Summing up, Autocar editor Chas Hallett praised the motor industry’s never-ending quest for excellence. “The car business is often an easy target and gets unjustly blamed for many things, but it inspires and pioneers new technology, employs more than 800,000 people in the UK and generates £47 billion a year, nearly half from exports. It is – and will always be – one of the UK’s most vital industrial assets. We damage it at our peril.”