Jaguar F-Type

Manual íbox and AWD broaden its appeal

JOHN CAREY

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

THIS manual S Coupe could be the new sweet spot in Jaguarís expanding F-Type line-up. And would you believe itís the first three-pedal sports car from Jaguar since the E-Type?

The six-speeder isnít the sweetest ever made Ė it lacks the oily, metallic precision of the very best manuals Ė but at least the ZFís lever throws are short and the shift gate well defined.

While the new gearbox isnít utter perfection and subtracts significantly from the carís performance and fuel efficiency, it does add a dimension of intimacy to Jaguarís gorgeous two-seater.

The manual, which will be offered only in the rear-drive 250kW base and 280kW S models with Jaguarís 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 the S, but only with the eight-speed ZF automatic.

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 F-Types 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 itís 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 youíd never guess electrons were involved in the system at all.

Jaguar deliberately aimed for a rear-drive feel with its AWD set-up, 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 AWD 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. pes ncy. g uess

Planned four THE F-Type was designed from the start for all-wheeldrive, says Jaguar sports cars program manager Kevan Richardson. The 80kg of extra hardware is shared with systems already developed for the XF and XJ sedans. But the F-Type installation does mark the introduction of a more powerful electronic control system Jaguar calls IDD (Intelligent Driveline Dynamics). Itís especially adept at distributing torque between front and rear axles and also across the rear axle, retaining a rear-drive flavour. wheeldrive