The XKSS returns…

…but Jag will build only nine continuation cars

Jaguar has announced it is to build nine brand-new XKSS sports cars to ‘replace’ those lost in the 1957 Browns Lane fire. 

In a widely anticipated move, Jaguar says the new cars will be identical in every way to the originals and will each be priced at more than £1 million.

Jaguar insists the cars are not being built as a way of cashing in on its heritage and scoring an easy profit. Jaguar Land Rover Classic director Tim Hannig says, “You would not believe how little money we’ll make on these cars.” Instead, and like the series of six lightweight E-type continuation cars made last year, the XKSSs are intended to showcase Jaguar’s ability to repair and restore its classic models. Jaguar already sells such cars and plans to expand its parts and restoration business in the hope that customers will find attractive the prospect of Jaguar certified components and workmanship.

The XKSS was created to dispose of unsold D-type chassis and, as such, was almost identical to the racing car upon which it is based. Main differences include the fitment of a proper windscreen with wipers, a passenger door, bumpers and the deletion of both the divider between passenger and driver and optional rear stability fin. Powered by a 3.4-litre D-type engine with 250bhp and weighing just 914kg, the XKSS was quoted as being able to reach 60mph from rest in 4.7sec, a figure unknown for any road-going car of that time. Sixteen were built before the fire (all bar two going to America) and two were later converted from D-types. Original XKSSs have two designated chassis numbers, one denoting which XKSS it is, the other identifying the D-type from which it was derived.

Jaguar has confirmed that it is unable to register its new XKSSs for road use in the UK. Jaguar Land Rover is too large to be entitled to use the single-vehicle type approval system, which allows ultra-low volume manufacturers like Ariel and Caterham to avoid much of the prohibitive expense of full homologation. However, it says the problem does not exist in other regions of the world and believes even UK clients would be able to submit theirs for approval once they had taken ownership.

Merc plans tilt at Ferrari

Mercedes-Benz is at an advanced stage in assessing an all-new supercar to sit above the AMG GT Coupé as a serious alternative to a Ferrari, Lamborghini or McLaren. The car would be AMG-branded and, like the GT Coupé, not based on any pre-existing architecture. Unlike the AMG GT, however, the car will not be front-engined or rear-wheel drive. AMG boss Tobias Moers says, “We are now at a level where we could support another dedicated AMG model, but the car would need to be totally different from the GT.”

Insiders suggest Mercedes is looking at the very reverse of the traditionally configured GT. It would place its engine behind rather than ahead of the driver, and would feature a small capacity internal combustion engine, boosted by a hybrid drive system in much the same way as already provided by the BMW i8, but with an altogether more thrilling level of power and performance.

The configuration is being considered because more than anything Mercedes is keen to cash in on its current success in Formula 1. “We have the most energy-dense hybrid pack in existence,” said one insider. “It would make a great deal of sense to find a way to harness that technology for use on the road.”

The car is likely to use a carbon-fibre core, to provide strength, light weight and a further link to Mercedes’ F1 operations, and be priced at about the same £200,000 as more exotic rivals.

It seems the new supercar has not been in the plan for long and a green light for production has yet to be secured. Until recently it was thought that Mercedes might shy away from producing such a car, as it was feared the brand might not be strong enough to compete against such blue-chip opposition. AMG has been going through a period of phenomenal growth, however, with record sales of 32,000 units in 2013 more than doubling in just two years to more than 68,000 cars by 2015.

Mercedes will further augment its credentials as a serious supercar manufacturer with the unveiling this summer of an extreme version of the AMG GT, tipped to be called the GT R. Believed to boast upwards of 570bhp and with a considerable cut in kerb weight married to extra downforce from a dramatic wing pack, the GT R is unapologetically heading for exactly the same turf occupied by Porsche’s less powerful but lighter 911 GT3 RS. 

AMG will also reveal a roadster version of the GT later this year as well as its take on the new E-class saloon and estate. Moers says the new E63 AMG will be the biggest step in the evolution of the fast E-class in almost 20 years and that its V8 engine will produce at least 600bhp.

Aston confirms GT8

Following in the footsteps of last year’s limited-edition Aston Martin Vantage GT12, the company has announced a little sister called GT8. Also based on the Vantage, the GT8 (top) features the 4.7-litre V8 used by most Vantages, rather than the 6-litre V12 found in the GT12. Just 150 cars will be made, each priced at £165,000. By contrast 100 GT12s were produced and sold for £250,000.

The primary focus for the GT8 is weight reduction and to that end the car features a lithium-ion battery plus carbon-fibre sills, bumpers and rear diffuser. If you’re prepared to spend the extra you can also have carbon door panels, a carbon roof, a Perspex rear screen and a titanium exhaust. Tick every one of those boxes and your GT8 will weigh fully 100kg less than a standard Vantage S. Also helping the car’s speed is a 10bhp power hike (taking it to 440bhp) and an optional aero package featuring a large carbon rear wing balanced by a front splitter.

In the meantime Aston Martin has announced that a seven-speed manual gearbox will become a no-cost option on the Vantage V12 S. This is not the only three-pedal seven-speed transmission in production – manual Porsche 911s have seven speeds – but it is alone in offering the classical race configuration that places first on a dog-leg. The car will be reviewed in the next issue of Motor Sport.

These are likely to be among the last modifications to the Vantage, which has already been in production for 11 years. Its replacement will be shown next year with styling rumoured to be close to that of the avant-garde DB10 seen in the recent James Bond romp Spectre. However it looks, it will be the first to come equipped with the Mercedes-AMG 4-litre twin-turbo V8. Mercedes is known to be preparing versions of this engine with more than 600bhp for its own products, so the potential for the next Vantage is clear to see.

Tesla enjoys sales growth 

Tesla is experiencing massive demand for its latest model, the BMW 3-series rivalling Model 3. At the time of going to press the firm had received almost 400,000 orders for the four-door car, sales of which aren’t due to start until next summer.

Like all other Teslas, the Model 3 is powered by electricity alone but, unlike its stable-mates, it will be a touch more affordable. UK prices are likely to start south of £35,000, compared with the £63,235 required to buy even the cheapest of the extant Model S line-up. Tesla claims the entry-level Model 3 will cover up to 250 miles on a single charge and reach 60mph from rest in better than six seconds. It also says it will lead the class for interior space and offer unprecedented levels of safety.

Mazda has revealed an MX-5 with a retractable hard top. Called the MX-5 RF (roof fastback), it features a top that folds behind the driver, leaving the flying buttresses in place to create a targa shape. The car is crucial, especially in the UK where it is expected to account for the vast majority of MX-5 sales. The roof system adds 40kg of weight and, undoubtedly, a four-figure sum to its list price. It is expected to go on sale in the UK early next year.