For years Jaguar has been playing second fiddle to Aston Martin in the faux-British sports car market. Their bigger cars sell well, but the Leaping Cat seems to have dropped anchor there, resting in the luxo-barge segment. Their sporting days, when they built beautiful racers and one of the fastest production cars in history, are behind them.
They’ve built sports cars, of course, but their aesthetic similarity to Aston’s more potent, more serious GT cars might have had something to do with their bench position. They have designer Ian Callum, who also worked at Aston, to thank for that. But now Jaguar is back, and they’ve brought a new, serious sports roadster with which they hope to slip Aston’s throne out from under them.
We started hearing about the Jaguar F-Type way back in April at the New York Auto Show. Back then it was still enameled in a clever camouflage that served to both hide its features and advertise its designation. There was even a big “Search F-Type” sign on each the flanks to dissuade anyone from claiming they’d snuck into a top secret proving ground to get their spy shots. Back then they touted the F-Type as the production version of the hybrid C-X16. The name, too, was thought to be evocative of Jaguar’s legendary E-Type, the car Enzo Ferrari said was the most beautiful ever made.
Now the F-Type here, revealed this week in Paris with a rag top and a 2013 sell-by date.
It’s smaller than the conventional Jaguar tourer, designed to be the next “Baby Jag,” and that comes, in true British style, with added lightness. Not as much, though as we were expecting. The F-Type tips in at 3,500 lbs at the lightest option. However, it’s still convertible-only, and that tends to add weight like the holidays.
None of the three engine options, however, should have a problem hauling all that tub around. At the bottom there’s a 3.0, 340 hp, 332 lb-ft, supercharged V6. The next trim level tunes that up to 380 hp and 339 lb-ft of rug puller. The former gets to 60 in 5.1 seconds, with the latter trimming that down to 4.8 and topping out at 161 mph. But the V6 is beside the point, because we’ll all want the 5.0 V8, supercharged but limited to 495 hp and 460 lb-ft, enough to get you to 60 in 4.2 seconds and race you up to 186 mph. Stow toupees in the glove compartment prior to trying this.
On the outside, we see a Jaguar we can indeed differentiate from the latest Aston. It’s memorable, if not extravagant. No, it didn’t end up being a tribute or successor to the E-Type. There are no truly groovy lines. It doesn’t look like “a woman lying on her side on the beach.” But it’s a very good looking car, aggressive and edgy, something you’ll remember all day, something that could return some of Jag’s lost sports car identity. And it would (will?) look even better as a coupe.
The best news is that sometime “later,” they plan to offer it with a red-blooded manual transmission to replace the 8-speed paddlematic lamepile in there now. This is huge for Jaguar, as they’ve shied, wholesale, from the stick for years. It could go a long way to turn Jag back into a sports car brand.
Images courtesy Jaguar USA