We had to be content with just a single picture last week, but Jaguar has hit us with the entire F-Type narrative in time for the Paris Motor Show. We now have views from every angle and a little bit of extra context to compare the new roadster with the venerable classic it succeeds.
A little bit of unscientific opinion mining shows that our readers – at least the ones commenting – are as disappointed with the F-Type as we are. A handsome Jaguar in its own right, the F-Type simply isn't poised to make the same leap to greatness as its old man. For some it appears to share about as much DNA with the E-Type as an adopted child shares with his brother-in-law.
Of course, Jaguar, which revealed the car at an exclusive event a day before the Paris Motor Show, sees it differently. The pouncing cat calls it the "continuation of a sporting bloodline that stretches back more than 75 years and encompasses some of the most beautiful, thrilling and desirable cars ever built." Interestingly, while Jaguar alludes to the E-Type and other classic sports cars with that quote, we didn't see those cars cited specifically in Jag's press materials, outside of a brief mention that the F-Type is its first two-seat sports car since the E. We take that to mean even Jaguar realizes that this design couldn't wrestle its way into the same conversation as the E-Type.
While the E-Type is absent, Jaguar does mention that the new car is influenced by the C-X16 concept car. The influence is immediately noticeable up front. The mesh grille and its thick bissecting bar provide a reinterpretation of the grille used on current-generation sedans like the XJ and XF. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the front-end, the "shark gill" air intakes on either side are positioned to give the F-Type a memorable face, making it immediately recognizable in the rear-view mirror. When compared to the soft, pure face of the E-Type, we'd say the gills are a little like knife scars on an otherwise handsome prisoner.
Beginning at the center slat in those shark gill vents, one of two sets of defining "heart lines" flows upward through the vertical bi-xenon headlamps, sets a hood-fender border and moves onward over the flanks and shoulders, disappearing quietly on the quarter panels. The second heart line bulges out from the edge of the door, framing the rear drive wheels and melding into the rear fascia. In back, the F-Type features a kinetic spoiler that raises when the speedometer hits 60 mph (96.5 km/h). The V-6 models get a center-mounted twin exhaust, and the V-8 model gets a quad exhaust.
Enough about looks ... onward to substance. In order to give the F-Type the lithe, reactive handling it needed to "return to its heartland" of sporty two-seat convertibles, Jaguar put its experience with aluminum construction to use. The F-Type utilizes Jag's fourth-generation lightweight aluminum architecture coupled with aluminum wishbone front and rear suspension. The F-Type also uses more composites than any previous Jag. Weight is kept as low as 3,521 pounds (1,597 kg), and Jaguar promises its efforts pay off in a quick, balanced, agile ride.
“We are creating a new generation of Jaguar sports car so it has to be credible from both a performance and design point of view," explains Mark White, one of Jaguar's chief engineers. "It has to deliver; it has to be a great handling car with a stiff, rigid platform underpinning; and it has to look every inch an icon. For our team the greatest satisfaction was delivering a structure that underpinned the desired performance attributes - ride, handling and agility – by increasing stiffness and at the same time reducing weight."
Helping to increase the car's on-street performance, Jaguar minimized the front and rear overhangs to keep weight planted in the wheelbase and give the car a "wheels pushed to the corners" feel. It also placed the battery and windshield wiper fluid tank in the trunk, optimizing front-to-rear weight distribution.
Of course, all the aluminum and weight tricks in the world can't guarantee an enjoyable ride on their own - you need a little something spinning the rear wheels. Jaguar offers three different options. The F-Type is motivated by a new 340-hp 3.0-liter supercharged V-6. The F-Type S sees that same engine tuned up to 380-hp, and the F-Type V8 S enjoys a 495-hp output courtesy of Jag's 5.0-liter supercharged V-8. All three engines work with an eight-speed Quickshift transmission with a central, joystick-style SportShift selector and paddle shifters on the steering wheel. An Intelligent Stop/Start system helps to save fuel.
The V8 S hits 60 mph (96.5 km/h) in 4.2 seconds before rolling to a top speed of 186 mph (300 km/h). The F-Type S, which is the sole model with a Dynamic Launch feature designed to optimize acceleration from rest, does its thing in 4.8 seconds and 171 mph (275 km/h). Base model owners are staring at 5.1 seconds and 161 mph (259 km/h).
Inside, Jaguar organizes the cabin in an asymmetric, "one + one" style that puts emphasis on the driver position. The two sides of the cabin have several subtle points of differentiation, including more technical trim on the driver side and a central passenger grab handle that serves as a sort of barrier. Driver controls are inspired by aeronautics and grouped by function. In order to promote the utmost of driver interaction, Jaguar has gone a little retro, replacing certain controls typically handled by the touchscreen with old school fixtures. Three different audio systems are available, including 380-watt and 770-watt systems from Meridian. A fabric roof, which deploys in 12 seconds, separates cabin from atmosphere.
The F-Type will launch in the U.S. by mid-2013. We're certain to hear a lot more about this convertible and other sports cars now that the Paris Motor Show has opened to the media.