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Friday, April 26, 2013

2014 Jaguar F-Type

Jaguar's newest sportscar is the 2014 F-Type, due on sale in the U.S. in the summer of 2013.

Slotted below the XK roadster and coupe but overlapping them in price, the new F-Type convertible may have a spiritual ancestor in the classic Jag E-Type, but as chief designer Ian Callum says, "this car is for now."

And for now, it's a sportscar in the roadster form only. No coupe version's been confirmed, though Jaguar officials hint at a logical hardtop companion for future international auto-show debuts.

The link to the XK is clear, but the F-Type clearly progresses beyond that smoother shape. The F-Type has a relatively tall front end with a large grille opening flanked by dual air intakes and capped by upsized, upswept headlamps, underlined in LED lighting. There's enough Corvette and Maserati influence to go around, especially at those intakes--Callum refers to them as "gills." The hood's a clamshell design--it's another heritage influence that also helps crash safety.

The shape grows sleeker along its shoulder line and along the decklid, where thin baguette-shaped LED taillamps--the thinnest possible, he says--bulge at one end with circular insets that directly refer to the E-Type.

The design's at its best from the sideview, where there's just enough overall length to let the muscular suggestiveness play out over surfaces and shoulder lines and door skins unbroken by door handles--they're hidden, popping up from flush by a touch of the fob or a finger. It's a touch Jaguar's kin at Aston Martin might appreciate. Or, not.

The cockpit's a more intensely focused environment than in the XK. The driver steps into a cockpit with a hooded binnacle of gauges, while the passenger gets a grab handle--a tacit message about the real mission at hand here. Much of the ancillary information will continue to be displayed on a big LCD screen, but climate controls are back to prominent positions on the stack as rotary knobs with push functions for seat heating.

Subtle cues drive home the sportscar message: drivers get a different grade of trim on their part of the IP, and on the more powerful versions the start button, shift paddles and sport-mode switch are marked in diving-watch orange. A flat-bottomed steering wheel will be on the options list, too.

Each of the F-Type's three engines has forced induction. There's a supercharged V-8, as well as a pair of new supercharged V-6s--set apart by twin inboard exhausts, while the V-8 has quad exhausts, mounted outboard.

The six-cylinders are 3.0-liter units, one tuned to 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque; it's shared with other Jaguar products, including the XJ and XF sedans for the 2013 model year. In 380-hp tune, it's a distinct version held aside strictly for the F-Type. The 0-60 mph estimates for these models are 5.1 seconds and 4.8 seconds, respectively, and top speeds are limited to 161 mph and 171 mph.

The V-8 is an evolution of the current 5.0-liter unit, with 495 horsepower, and 460 pound-feet of torque. It's pegged at a 0-60 mph time of 4.2 seconds, with a top speed limited to 186 mph.

An eight-speed automatic transmission with rev matching and paddle-shift controls is the only transmission available--for now, Jaguar officials hint. Unlike the latest models from the marque, the F-Type doesn't sport a rotary shift control--it has a conventional shift lever that, if anything, preserves the packaging for a true manual transmission.

All powertrains have direct injection and stop/start systems. Active exhaust is standard on the two higher-performance models, and optional on the 340-hp F-Type. The more powerful V-6 gets a mechanical limited-slip differential; the V-8 gets an electronically controlled version for maximum traction. The latter two models have launch-control modes for fault-free acceleration runs.

Behind the wheel, the F-Type lives up to its sports car design intent, though its relatively heavy curb weight and slightly numb steering feel reveal the compromises made to reach Jaguar levels of comfort and luxury.

Like the XK, the F-Type's body structure is made from aluminum. It's large for the cars it'll be priced against in the U.S.--Boxster, Z4, SLK--and while it's 176 inches long, with a 103.2-inch wheelbase, it's also a wide-tracker at 64.1 inches at the rear.

Weight savings of a few hundred pounds keep the 3,500-pound F-Type trimmer than the XK, though it shares its bonded and riveted body structure with that four-seater. Some inner, unstressed panels are formed from even lighter composite materials. The convertible top is power-operated, but it's lined in Thinsulate, and folds in such a way that no tonneau cover is needed. (It also lowers or rises into place in 12 seconds, at speeds of up to 30 mph, Jaguar notes.)

In the end, the structure's more about optimal weight balance and immediate responsiveness than weight loss, and that goes for the suspension--independent all around, also formed from aluminum. The electronics are there, but as a supporting act: a sport mode quickens throttle response, weight up the steering, speed up shifts, and delay the onset of stability control. Step it up a notch, and an adaptive suspension on the two high-performance models offers driver-configurable setup, as a whole or system by system--you're able to choose a faster throttle response while keeping light steering weight and a comfort-oriented ride, for example. You're also able to measure g-forces through a track-time recorder that displays your performance on the LCD screen.

Braking comes via standard 13.9-inch front and 12.8-inch rear brakes; mid-range F-Types get 15-inch rotors in front, while the V-8 model has 14.8-inch rear rotors. Aerodynamic aids include an active rear spoiler that deploys at 60 mph and folds flush at 40 mph, and a front air splitter.

Finally, luxury features haven't been left off the sportscar's menu just to save a few ounces--not if the well-heeled buyer wants them. Power sport seats  have manual fore/aft adjustments to save weight, but upgraded "Performance" seats are an option, as is full power adjustment. Audio systems come from Meridian, with either 10 or 12 speakers, and either 380 or 770 watts of power.

The 2014 Jaguar F-Type goes on sale in the U.S. in May 2013. The base 340-hp supercharged V-6 model will be priced from around $69,000; the 380-hp supercharged six, from around $81,000; and the V-8 sportscar, from about $92,000.

A true sportscar, by the bookLightweight designV-6s don't leave power on the tablePast performance promises: delivered

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