An ultra-high-performance Jaguar F-type is being considered by the company’s specialist engineers, with the range-topping model potentially being powered by a supercharged V8 with as much as 600bhp.
The car is believed to be at the planning stage but would become the most powerful Jaguar on sale, cementing its status at the heart of the brand’s sporting values. Although it would probably be powered by the 5.0-litre supercharged V8 found in models such as the recently launched Jaguar XJR and XKR-S, the power output would stretched beyond the 542bhp found in those cars.
Jaguar boss Adrian Hallmark didn’t confirm the project. But he conceded that more limited-series vehicles in the spirit of the XKR-S GT, revealed at the New York motor show last month and set to be built in a run of no more than 50 units, were likely to happen because of their marketing value as halo cars. And, more important, Jaguar sees them as test beds for future technology that can used in more mainstream cars.
“Clearly, building a run of 30 to 50 exclusive GTs isn’t going to have any impact on the fortunes of the company in sales terms, but the importance of these projects lies in the knowledge they give us,” he said.
“Jaguar is already well known for its ability to create sporty, dynamic cars, but the XKR-S GT project has shown us that we can learn more by pushing the envelope. Lessons learned from the dynamics, aero and braking work on that car will enter the mainstream.”
Hallmark also confirmed that, during testing for the XKR-S GT, engineers had experimented with higher-output versions of the supercharged V8.
“There’s a lot you can do with supercharging,” he said, “but the lesson we learned was that driveability must always come before brute force. For most people, 542bhp is enough anyway, and whatever power you have, the trick is in being able to get it down on the road. You can have all the power in the world if you want it, but getting the traction to use it is the key.”
The hot F-type is unlikely to reach production until at least 2016, but rumours suggest that a one-off concept could appear as early this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, where Jaguar has traditionally shown innovative projects ahead of schedule. Last year, for instance, an F-type prototype was driven on the hill by Jaguar chassis guru Mike Cross.
This year’s festival celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Porsche 911, a key sales rival to the F-type, giving added appeal to such a project. Hallmark confirmed only that Jaguar would do something “special” at the event.
Although high-performance models have long been a part of Jaguar’s heritage, the company is believed to have firmed up a definitive business case for pushing even further with the new GT brand.
Developing low-volume halo models allows Jaguar to push its credentials as a manufacturer of sporting premium cars harder, and higher price points give the company room to develop its product range.
Jaguar’s plans to enter the hypercar field with the C-X75 were abandoned earlier this year, and although it hasn’t ruled out returning to that sector, Hallmark describes projects based on existing cars as “much more marketable in the short term”.
Cars bearing the GT badge will be developed by Jaguar Land Rover’s Engineered To Order (ETO) division. ETO is set to take on a bigger role in the company as it expands to develop more bespoke styling and performance projects for Jaguar and Land Rover.
Pete Simkin, director of ETO, told Autocar: “We judge each project on its merits, but we hope the XK GT is just the start. We would definitely look at the business case for an F-type GT. The ETO division is about extending customer choice by offering a bespoke package. That might mean developing low-run option packs or doing one-offs.
“Many customers are demanding more in terms of individuality and exclusivity, and we are well placed to deliver that. Our performance heritage is well known, and we have designers within the division who are there to work on customer-led projects. Our role is to consider anything that stays within the values of the brands we represent.”
As well as an F-type GT, Jaguar is expected to develop more moderate (but still hard-edged) versions of the F-type. Insiders have confirmed to Autocar that sporting Jaguars will henceforth be developed under the R, R-S and GT brands. R models will be sporting versions of mainstream cars, R-S versions more extreme performance models and GT cars limited-run, track-focused specials.
Although the higher-performance F-type models are likely to be the most eagerly anticipated, it is not certain that the sports car will be the next model to get the GT treatment. Instead, an XFR-S GT is thought to be likely.
Meanwhile, potential rival Audi is already believed to have noted Jaguar’s plans, lodging a complaint at the British firm’s early use of ‘R-S’ in a rectangular badge. As a result, Jaguar’s logo has been changed.
Jim Holder/Alistair Weaver