WHAT IS IT?
Jaguar adds eight fresh drivetrain combos to expand its F-Type sports car line-up to 14 variants. Six-speed ZF manual option for rear-drivers with supercharged V6 engines, all-wheel-drive optional in high-performance S and R specifications with eight-speed auto.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
Are the changes worth the trouble? Pre-launch taste-test organised by Jaguar in Portugal was a chance to find out.
BMW Z4, in turbo-six 35i form, competes in same territory as base F-Type Convertible. Certain versions of Porsche Boxster, Cayman and 911 aim for similar thrills and visual appeal.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
Tasty F-Type now available in a broader range of tangy flavours, including an appealing six-speed manual.
PLUS: New electro-steer; satisfying manual; AWD doesn’t affect handling
MINUS: Manual slower and thirstier than auto; Convertible’s lack of luggage space
THE WHEELS REVIEW
THIS manual S Coupe could be the new sweet spot in Jaguar’s expanding F-Type line-up. And would you believe it’s the first three-pedal sports car from Jaguar since the E-Type?
The six-speeder isn’t the sweetest ever made – it lacks the oily, metallic precision of the very best manuals – but at least the ZF’s lever throws are short and the shift gate well defined.
While the new gearbox isn’t utter perfection and subtracts significantly from the car’s performance and fuel efficiency, it does add a dimension of intimacy to driving Jaguar’s gorgeous two-seater.
The manual, which will be offered only in the rear-drive 250kW basic and 280kW S models with Jaguar’s snarly supercharged 3.0-litre V6, is just one of a bunch of F-Type updates for 2015. The other big news is an optional all-wheel-drive system.
AWD will be offered in R models with the titanically torquey 404kW supercharged 5.0-litre V8 engine, and in the Jaguar F-Type V6 S AWD Coupe, but only with the eight-speed ZF automatic that these days is a Jaguar favourite. The V8-engined Convertible, by the way, takes a step up in power from its previous 364kW S status to the full-house R spec.
Adding the eight new manual and all-wheel-drive models to the existing line-up of automatic rear-drive Coupe and Convertible increases the number of variants to 14. Fresh variants are always needed to maintain market interest in a sports car as it grows older, and Jaguar clearly understands this reality as it strives to keep its 14,000-a-year F-Type production line running at close to full capacity. Jaguar sold 11,500 F-Types in 2014.
All updated F-Types adopt electric-assist steering. Jaguar engineers say it’s taken them seven years to develop a system that is, in their estimation, the equal of hydraulic. Their judgement is sound; all the updated F-Types steer with beautiful fluency. Feel, precision and weighting are all so good that you’d never guess electrons were involved in the system at all.
Jaguar deliberately aimed for a rear-drive feel with the new all-wheel-drive variants, and again they succeeded. That means the brutally butch R Coupe and Convertible still feel like they have too much torque for their own good, despite being able to distribute drive to their front axles when needed.
The all-wheel-drive S models are tamer and more sensible, but lack the charisma of the new F-Type with the greatest driver appeal.
Combining the much greater stiffness and vastly improved usefulness of the hard-roofed body with a spirited but not silly engine and a decent manual transmission, the sweetly balanced S Coupe manual is the new pick of the F-Type litter.
Model: Jaguar F-Type S Coupe
Engine: 2995cc V6 (90°), dohc, 24v, supercharger
Max power: 280kW @ 6500rpm
Max torque: 460Nm @ 3500-5000rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Kerb weight: 1584kg
0-100km/h: 5.5 sec (claimed)
Economy: 9.8L/100km (EU)
On sale: April 2015 (manual versions July 2015)