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CAR confidential - Jaguar: the future at Ford

What does the future hold for Jaguar? Only Bill Ford, new Ford CEO Alan Mulally and Goldman Sachs banker Kenneth Leet, who is advising Ford on its turnaround plan, truly know the answer.

The latest whispers suggest that Jaguar won’t be sold, partly because its engineering, manufacturing and back office operations are so closely tied to profitable Land Rover’s.

But Ford may still be forced to take drastic action, with the company predicting another operating loss for Premier Automotive Group in 2006.

All Jaguar can do is keep plugging away on its new model programme. Insiders say the S-type replacement has been pulled forward by 18 months, to early 2008, to get the crucial mid-size saloon into the marketplace ahead of new German rivals.

To do this, Jaguar has switched from an XJ-style aluminium monocoque to a re-skin of today’s steel chassis. Rear accommodation and boot space will grow, while the rear suspension is being revised to improve refinement.

Jaguar has long been promising more contemporary cars and insiders say the S-type will make good on these claims. The swoopy look is influenced by Mercedes’ CLS, and the styling is ground-breakingly modern. Indeed, the look is so radical, Jaguar is likely to ditch the S-type name.

New engines are set to include the 3.2-litre straight six petrol, launched in Volvo’s new S80, and an uprated diesel. Jaguar is extending the 2.7-litre unit to 3.0 litres. Expect more boost pressure from the twin turbos, too, to produce power outputs closer to BMW’s remarkable 535d engine.

Meanwhile, the X-type will keep battling on. Factions within Jaguar are still pushing for a premium hatchback based on the 2003 R-D6 concept, while others believe in the revival of the F-type roadster. But those are long-term ambitions.

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