The much-previewed Jaguar F-type has finally been unveiled, and it’s hoped it will bring a new and younger customer into the fold. The gorgeous styling was previewed by last year’s C-X16 concept are carried over almost unchanged, and there are three engine options: a 3-litre supercharged V6 (with two power outputs), and the supercharged 5-litre V8.
The F-type, which has been in development since – at least – 2006 under the codename X152, is a car that Jaguar engineers and marketeers would like to have launched years ago. Arguably, customers have been clamouring for it since the death of the E-type back in 1975, and it’s one of the first new projects that Ratan Tata signed-off when he took over Jaguar Land Rover in 2008.
The F-type comes at a perfect time: sales of Jaguars increased by 5% (to 54,227) from 2011 to 2012, while Land Rover vaulted from 189,087 to 251,632 in the same period (a rise of 33%). In a new-car market generally acknowledged to be depressed (in Europe and the USA especially), that’s a briliant achievement.
Yet Jaguar’s growth has been at the expense of the sports cars, with the XK falling back while the XF and XJ surged forwards. That’s why the F-type is so important. It’s hoped that the F-type will improve Jaguar’s fortunes in the way the Evoque did Land Rover’s.
It’s available in three forms – F-type (335bhp), F-type S (375bhp) and F-type V8 S (488bhp). It’s a front/mid-mounted powertrain, and drive is to the rear through Jaguar’s eight-speed ‘Quickshift’ transmission – an automatic with the option of manual over-ride using paddles.
They’re all quick; even the V6s aren’t far behind the V8 S, with 0-60mph in 4.8sec and a top speed of 171mph for the V6 S, and 5.1sec and 161mph for the entry-level car. The latter gives the V8 S a maximum of 186mph and 0-60mph in a claimed 4.2sec.
The F-type is the first sporting installation for the company’s new 3.0-litre V6. The all-alloy engine, which packs a Roots-type supercharger and spray-guided direct injection, debuted recently in the XJ, but its sporty power delivery is said to match the F-type perfectly. The S models benefit from a newly developed active exhaust system, which combines with the Jaguar Drive Controller’s Dynamic Mode programme to open a number of bypass valves to enhance sound at the tailpipe. It sounds epic, especially on the V8. CO2 emissions range from 209g/km to 213g/km for the V6s and 259g/km for the V8.
Like the XK and XJ, the F-type makes extensive use of aluminium in its construction – technology that’s now in its fourth generation. Jaguar says the F-type’s body is its most rigid so far (it’s 30% stiffer than any other Jaguar). Aluminium is also used for the front subframe and major suspension castings. Kerb weight for the entry-level 3.0-litre car is a disappointingly heavy 1597kg, but of that a mere 261kg is attributed to the body-in-white.
Sports cars live or die by their styling, and that’s especially true of Jaguars. Naming its new car the F-type is a brave move, inviting comparisons with the immortal E. But design director Ian Callum understands the heritage of the marque perfectly. He says, ‘This is the car that, as a team, we have always wanted to do. I think as designers we have an obligation to please people and make them smile.’
With the coupé due to be unveiled in 2013, the signs are that the F-type is going to sell in great numbers. It’s a proper sports car, and prices will start at £58,500 when deliveries start in early 2013.