Jaguar took its latest XJ to one of the world’s most spectacular modern roads – the ‘Skyroad’ in China – to find out how innovation in road technology and design is helping to match the improving ride of modern luxury cars.
Brian Joss – The 240km-long road, officially named the Yaxi Expressway, cost over 20bn RMB ($3bn), took five years to build and has become a tourist attraction as it snakes through spectacular scenery in Sichuan Province.
The region – which is not only extremely mountainous but is also an active earthquake zone – required the road designers to utilise innovative thinking. Engineers solved the issue by using tunnels and viaducts to make up over half the length.
Skyroad engineer Peng Li said: “Constructing modern roads is very challenging from a technology perspective because we have to keep pace with the development of the auto industry and there are many factors in the design of road surfaces and layouts.
“In modern luxury cars like the Jaguar XJ, the passenger expectations are high. These cars are frequently chauffeur-driven and roads need to be designed to match the smooth ride and comfort engineered into luxury vehicles.
“We incorporated a huge number of innovative technologies, materials and features to deliver this, including the world’s longest continuous slope of 51km, with an incline of 3%, and the world’s first double-spiral tunnel, which optimizes the experience for drivers.”
One of the biggest challenges in the road’s construction was its location in a geologically unsettled region prone to earthquakes. This not only impacted construction but also meant the design must be strong enough to withstand such potential natural disasters.
“There were often many landslides, making construction very difficult,” added Li. “And in terms of design, it takes a lot of innovation to create an expressway to operate stably in an earthquake-prone region.”
The road has halved the journey time between Chengdu and Liangshan and opened up a region of China known for its tea production as well as pottery, flowers, silk, spicy cuisine and wild pandas.
Jaguar spokesperson, Ian Hoban, Vehicle Line Director said: “The XJ is the most luxurious car in our range and is designed both as a driver’s car and, in China particularly, for the chauffeur-driven market. Smooth ride, handling and rear seat comfort are all extremely important.
“But it is not just the car that contributes to the handling, it is also important for our engineers to understand innovations in road design and optimise ride and handling to fit future trends in the construction industry.
“One of the newest and most ambitious road construction projects in China enabled us to learn more about modern road design and to test out the XJ’s comfort, whether you are driving or working or relaxing in the rear seats.”