Every once in a while Jaguar likes to remind the world that it knows a thing or two about cutting edge engineering. Back in the 1960s it produced the innovative E-Type, which brought racing technology from the D-Type to the road in a timeless and gorgeous drop-top body. In the 1990s it created the XJ220, a supercar that blew pretty much everything else out of the water with a 213mph top speed and the Nurburgring lap record. But Jaguar's most recent reminder was arguably even more impressive.
When it first showed the design of its C-X75 concept in 2010, it garnered widespread attention for its clever mix of modernity and tradition. As a design concept alone it was a winner, but it was the powertrain proposed underneath which turned out to be the really ambitious part of the project - so much so that there were doubts as to whether or not its performance targets were actually feasible.
The brief was clear enough: build a hybrid supercar that has the performance of a Bugatti Veyron, the electric range of a Chevrolet Volt and the CO2 output of a Toyota Prius. Simples. Well, not really, because that meant creating a machine with bullet-like straight-line performance that could also do 38 miles - the range of the Volt at the time - in pure electric mode and puff out an average of 89g/km - to at least match the Prius. It had never been done before. Not even close.
These are the days before the McLaren P1, LaFerrari and Porsche 918 Spyder, so claims of such a broad sweep of performance must have seemed even more spectacular than they still do now. How could Jaguar make something so broadly talented that doesn't end up being far too complex to operate reliably? Jaguar, as confident as the brand is, knew it needed to seek help from the best in the business, and brought on Williams Advanced Engineering and Cosworth, to provide input and ensure the C-X75 project got going.
Over the course of two years a select group of engineers created the C-X75 using almost all-new components in a ground-up fashion. The car used a carbon composite monocoque chassis to keep weight to a minimum - vital if the weight of batteries were to be offset - with a Cosworth-developed 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine that was force fed air via a turbocharger and supercharger. The unit produced 502hp at 10,300rpm, giving it 313hp per litre and generally making every other engine in production seem bloody tame by comparison. It drove all four wheels through a seven-speed automated manual gearbox.
Then two electric motors were added, powered by a 300kW battery and combining to add 390hp to total output. When all power sources were driving together, power peaked at more than 800hp. Even now, to reliably produce that number from such a compact powertrain seems unbelievable. Formula 1 cars, with their similarly advanced 1.6 V6 powerplants, have illustrated just how difficult managing such a system is. So for Jaguar and its partners to successfully reach these heights in a car originally destined to become a road model deserves the highest commendation.
The rest of the car was no slough on the technological front either. There were active aerodynamic features including a deployable rear spoiler, which all worked together to produce 200kg of downforce at 200mph. This was tested on circuit, where Jaguar engineers claim that the C-X75 ran out of space but showed that it could do much higher speeds. Theoretically, more than 220mph would have been possible, making this the fastest Jaguar ever produced. It was also capable of sprinting from zero to 100mph in under six seconds, and nailed its targets of having 37 miles of pure electric range and emitting fewer than 89g/km of CO2.
So why didn't this car make production? Well, it was mostly to do with timing - or rather the clash of the C-X75 project's pivotal point and the economic crisis. Jaguar took a view on the hypercar market and believed the purses of millionaires had closed in the face of unpredictable financial times. Not even the most advanced road car to make production would tempt them to spend.
So the C-X75 went to that special place in the sky reserved for interesting concepts that the world wasn't quite ready for. In ten years you can bet your bottom dollar that no-one outside the PH echo chamber will even remember Jaguar's bright idea from 2010 - although they might just recognise the car James Bond didn't drive in 2015's Spectre. Keen (as ever) to hog the spotlight, the manufacturer agreed to produce four working models for the film - albeit with some fairly comprehensive alterations. The C-X75s that SVO built were based on a tubular spaceframe chassis and swapped a hybrid powertrain for JLR's supercharged 5.0-litre V8. Each example was built to FIA World Rally Championship safety specification for stunt work.
Today's Showpiece is one of the four movie cars, chassis 001. It's therefore doubly special, being the main car featured in the film and therefore the most famous of the lot. True, it's a world apart from the ultra advanced actual C-X75, but it's a Bond villain's car for crying out loud, built to the highest specification and powered by no slouch of a V8. And most importantly, it gets a Stunt Brake! Whatever such a feature does, it probably helps to explain why this car is up for £1.25 million. Ok, so unlike an example of the real C-X75, as a sum of parts, this Bond car is worth considerably less than that. To a Bond fanatic, however...
See the original advert here.