In terms of automotive gestation, the aluminum-bodied Jaguar F-Type, formally shown at the 2012 Paris Motor Show, must set a biological record.
The idea of an F-Type as a back-to-E-Type (XKE) basics front-engine, rear-drive, pure sports car was a twinkle in the eyes of the company’s engineers and designers from the late 1970s, but the realization of that possibility has come in 2012 only after numerous false starts.
The first of these—from the 1980s—was the XJ41/42, known unofficially as F-Type, which still lurks in concept form within the darkened enclaves of Jaguar’s historic car collection. The project was cancelled. In 1998, the very basic and very powerful two-seat aluminum-bodied XK180 concept was created (this AEI editor drove it at Silverstone), which seemed very promising but came to nothing. Two years later a stylistically similar but smaller car with a V6 engine, this time officially badged F-Type Concept, was enthusiastically received at international motor shows, but that project, too, stalled and faded. Sadly, all were victims of a combination of lack of both investment and managerial confidence in the designs and engineering solutions that were generated.
But now, after more than 30 years, the real thing has been launched: a production F-Type. Jaguar is putting its all into projecting its engineering, aesthetic, and environmental credentials—and its performance; maximum power output in its V8S form is 364 kW (488 hp), sufficient to take the car to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 4.3 s and on to a track-capable 300 km/h (186 mph).
To some it may indeed seem to be a latter-day E-Type (XKE). But that car, when it appeared in 1961 with its close aesthetic and mechanical links to the Le Mans-winning D-Type, was one of those very rare events in the automotive industry: a true step-change such as the Ford Model T, Citroën DS19, and Volkswagen Beetle (each for different reasons). Fine though its credentials may be, the F-Type, based on the larger XK’s platform, is unlikely to join that elite class.
The new car is available initially as a soft top, which takes 12 s to raise or lower at speeds up to 48 km/h (30 mph), and then a coupe will follow. The car continues Jaguar Land Rover’s pursuit of reduced mass and increased stiffness via the highly apposite properties of aluminum, although it weighs in from a hardly sylph-like 1597 kg (3521 lb). But Mark White, Chief Engineer, Body Complete, is happy with it, saying: “For our team, the greatest satisfaction was delivering a structure that underpinned the desired performance attributes—ride, handling and agility—by increasing stiffness and reducing weight.”
With experience stretching back over a decade via the XJ and XK ranges of aluminum bodyshells, the F-Type’s is riveted and bonded using aerospace manufacturing techniques. Aluminum developments applied to the new car include the use of AC300, a 6000-series alloy for some parts, and AC600, described by White as being robust, of high quality but easily formable for achieving tight—8 mm (0.3 in)—radii and feature-line identity. He stated that the manufacturing process for the aluminum body emits around 80% less CO2 than a comparable welded steel structure.
Aluminum is used for the car’s front and rear suspension. Lateral stiffness enhancement of up to 30% has been achieved in front suspension mounting points compared to other models in the company’s range.
“Warm forming” to 260°C (500°F) before pressing was used to achieve required shaping of inner-door stampings. The technique allows the use of one larger pressing instead of several smaller, thus saving weight, complexity, and, ultimately, cost. Use of composite materials include the trunk lid.
Overall length of the F-Type is 4470 mm (176.0 in), wheelbase is 2622 mm (103.2 in), and maximum track (rear) is 1627 mm (64.1 in).
The F-Type’s engine choice is all gasoline V6 and V8 (with stop/start) but with a hybrid a likely future option. The car sees the application of a new supercharged all-alloy 3.0-L V6, which is also offered in the XJ and XF. This AEI editor has driven it in the XJ in 250-kW (349-hp) form, which produces 450 N·m (332 lb·ft) of torque from 3500 to 5000 rpm and sounds as enthusiastic as it is. Smoothness is enhanced by counter-rotating front and rear balance weights.
For the F-Type, there is also a 280-kW (375-hp) version (V6 S) with an extra 10 N·m (7 lb·ft). The top engine is Jaguar’s established 5.0-L V8 (V8 S) with 364 kW (488 hp) at 6000 rpm and 625 N·m (461 lb·ft) from 2500 to 5500 rpm, giving a 0-100 km/h time of 4.9 s.
The V6 is based on the 5.0-L V8. The twin-vortex supercharger is positioned in the V of both engines. Compression ratio of the V6 is 10.5:1 and of the V8 9.5:1. Both engines have dual independent variable cam timing (DIVCT). The system is activated by the positive and negative torques generated by the movement of the intake and exhaust valves. Actuation rates better than 150°/s are achieved across the rev range.
Aerodynamic focus includes an active rear spoiler, deploying at 97 km/h (60 mph), which reduces lift by 120 kg (265 lb).
Achieving the "correct” sound is a salient aspect of Jaguar engine development. To enhance this, an active exhaust system is available, with electronically controlled bypass valves in the rear section opening under hard acceleration. Cruising speeds see the valve closing. The V6 gets twin tailpipes, the V8 four.
Surprisingly, the F-Type comes only with a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission tuned by Jaguar and having 25 programs available depending on driving style and road conditions. It provides downshift throttle blipping and has Corner Recognition, which facilitates the transmission holding a ratio through a curve to the exit point. Driver ratio control is via paddles or the main selector. For track driving, a Dynamic Launch mode is available. The V8S gets an active electronically controlled differential.
The F-Type S gets the largest set of brake discs fitted to any Jaguar production car: 380 mm (15.0 in) front, 376 mm (14.8 in) rear. A high-ratio steering rack is fitted.
The car’s battery as well as the windshield washer fluid reservoir is placed in the trunk to achieve optimum front/rear mass balance. Jaguar Adaptive Dynamics suspension is fitted to the V6S and V8S versions, adjusting damper rates up to 500 times per second.
Exterior styling has clear Jaguar cues, but the traditional sports car oval front air intake has been replaced by an opening more akin to that of the XF and XJ. Inside the opening is a hexagonal mesh grille. A novel piece of technology involves door handles that retract flush with the door panel until activated via a touch-sensitive switch or an unlocking sequence. The hood is a clamshell design.
The cockpit of the F-Type includes toggle switches a la Jaguars of an earlier era. Air vents on top of the dashboard can be hidden, rising into view under driver control or when necessary according to HVAC control.
To save mass, sports seats have some manual adjustment as standard as well as powered functions. “Performance seats” with added side bolstering are an option.
Director of Design, Ian Callum, said of the F-Type: “If you approach every line individually and get it as aesthetically correct as possible, get the dimensions right, it will stand the test of time.” Callum is plainly confident that time will tell.