Despite the F-Type's substantial curb weight (for the sports car class), its reflexes are sharp, grip is high, and balance is impeccable. Not as hard-edged as some alternatives, the F-Type manages a keen balance between satisfying performance driving and occupant comfort.
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.
While the base engine is strong, it's a touch less potent in the lower half of the rpm range than we'd like. The F-Type S's 380 horsepower fills in that gap, while maintaining the base model's responsive feel. The V8 S is incredible fun--accelerating at full power produces smiles not just from the brisk acceleration but from the sound of the big engine as it roars up the gears and crackles back down them.
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.
The Quickshift automatic changes gears quickly, but in our experience with the car, there's a delay between the driver's request of the shift (whether by paddle or lever) that takes some getting used to. Left to its own devices, the transmission picks, and even holds, the right gear admirably, however the F-Type is driven.
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 will have launch-control modes for fault-free acceleration runs.
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.
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 will quicken 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 control, as a whole or system by system--you're be able to choose a faster throttle response while keeping light steering weight and a comfort-oriented ride, for example. You'll also be able to measure g-forces through a track-time recorder that displays your performance on the LCD screen.