Jaguar used the New York Auto Show to announce a production version of the rakish C-X16 sports-car concept revealed at the September 2011 Frankfurt IAA expo. To be called F-Type, the new two-seater has been rumored for at least two years as the XE. It’s slated to start sale in mid-2013, presumably for the UK and continental Europe. U.S. deliveries should begin soon afterward for model-year 2014. Jaguar says the U.S. will be “a prime market” for the F-Type, which will launch as a soft-top convertible. A coupe is expected to join up in 2014 and, eventually, to account for 50 percent of total F-Type sales.
Pricing, equipment, and technical info won’t be detailed until the F-Type’s formal unveiling later this year, probably at Paris this September. However, Jaguar has released teaser videos and photos of camo-wrapped convertible prototypes now testing near the Castle Bromwich factory in the British Midlands, where the F-Type will be built. Despite the disguise, the images clearly indicate styling very close to that of the C-X16, which was modeled as a sloped-roof coupe.
Jaguar says the concept’s enthusiastic reception prompted the company to accelerate the F-Type’s trip to market. Autocar magazine reports that the convertible body style received development priority “as it requires the biggest engineering challenge and investment.” The British weekly goes on to note that “several other variants will also be launched throughout the F-Type’s life cycle—including a hybrid version previewed by the C-X16—to maintain interest in the car.”
One concept feature that won’t make production is a side-opening rear hatch. As Jaguar design director Ian Callum told Autocar, “That was a bit of fun and a nod to the E-Type,” referring to Jaguar’s famed two-seaters of 1961-75. “We could engineer it, but practicality is more important,” which surely means a conventional top-hinged hatch.
As expected, Jaguar’s first two-seater in nearly 40 years uses a suitably scaled version of the modular aluminum architecture that already hosts the brand’s larger XK premium sporty/performance cars and XJ premium-large sedans. The company promises that the F-Type will arrive with 0-60 mph acceleration of less than 5 seconds and a top speed of over 180 mph. Those numbers seem to confirm rumors that the production model will inherit the new 3.0-liter supercharged V6 that premiered in the C-X16, though perhaps somewhat detuned from the concept’s quoted 375 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. No word yet on availability of Jaguar’s 5.0-liter V8, but we don’t rule it out. In normally aspirated form, that engine supplies 385 horsepower and 380 pound-feet in base 2012 XK models. An automatic transmission, either a 6-speed or possible new 8-speed unit, should be standard for all F-Types, but a manual option is not out of the question.
Jaguar is working hard to make the F-Type a true “driver’s car” on a par with today’s top-line XKR-S models. As chief chassis engineer Mike Cross told Autocar, “This is our most driver-focused car in generations. It’s responsive and great to drive.” Global brand director Adrian Hallmark adds that F-Type “won’t have XKR-S power, but will have the precision, directness and responsiveness of that car at its core.”
Hallmark also told Autocar that the 2014 Jaguar F-Type will be positioned between Porsche’s mid-engine Boxster/Cayman and rear-engine 911 sports cars. That suggests a starting price of around $70,000, a level that could mean little or no direct competition.
That was also true of the storied E-Type, but Hallmark insists the F-Type is a different leaping cat. “It’s not [a] new E-type,” he told Autocar, “as there’s no logical continuation between the two cars. . . . Of course we took a long deep breath before using F-Type, as we understand the connotations, but it’s a credit to the future.” Jaguar C-X16.