Under a veil of high security, the company has built a fleet of prototype examples of its ground-breaking four-door challenger for sales in the hotly-contested compact business car sector. All have emerged from the gates at Halewood under heavy disguise and are now clocking up thousands of miles as part of final quality checks prior to the start of production.
Due to go on sale next May or June, the 'baby' prestige car is the final link in moves aimed at quadrupling Jaguar's output by 2002 and is destined to throw down the gauntlet to BMW's dominant 3-series. More than 100,000 examples, designed with sweeping lines reminiscent of the XJ8 range, will be assembled in 2002, the first full year of production.
'We're due to complete Job One - our first unit from the production line proper - at the end of February and the plan is to have more pre-production examples available for the press introduction and demonstration fleet than were provided for the S-type launch,' said a spokesman.