Road car news

F-type to go manual
Jaguar broadens options ahead of busy year | by Andrew Frankel

We might be well into winter, but news continues to fall from Jaguar’s side of the JLR business like autumn leaves. The information it was very keen to communicate at the recent Los Angeles show was the return, after far too long, of a Jaguar sports car with three pedals in its driver’s footwell. The most recent I can recall are the small number of manual XJSs that made it to market when the car was first launched not far short of 40 years ago. Well now, and so long as you buy one of the two V6 versions, you can drive a manual F-type, too.

I spoke to CEO Dr Ralf Speth and questioned the sales potential of such a transmission in a market dominated by automatics: he didn’t deny that demand was likely to be small. “But,” he said, “it says good things about the brand and, besides, I like changing gear.”

As positions go, that’s one of the harder ones to counter.

More significantly, the F-type is now also available with four-wheel drive or, more accurately, front-wheel drive that joins the permanent rear-wheel drive on demand. It’s likely to find favour among those who don’t find the rear-drive F-type’s appetite for oversteer quite as endearing as some, but its real purpose is to put the F-type into regions of the world where all-wheel drive is regarded as essential – the US snow states in particular. All-wheel drive is available on the V8-powered F-type and the V6S, but not the entry-level V6 nor in conjunction with the aforementioned manual gearbox.

Jaguar is more coy when it comes to talking about the bigger product launches it has scheduled for 2015. First up is the XE compact saloon, about which we already know, but then in no particular order come a comprehensive update for the ageing XJ saloon, a new XF and a mystery compact SUV.

Clearly the interest lies in the XF and the SUV. The XF is brand new – the existing car sits on the same platform as the S-type it replaced and is therefore using Ford-based architecture that dates back to the last century. Like the XJ and the latest Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, the new XF will be an essentially aluminium car that, when fitted with JLR’s all-new Ingenium engine should prove capable of a class-leading blend of economy and emissions.

Less is known about the SUV, other than that Jaguar top brass bristle at the use of the term. They don’t even much like it being described as a crossover: they’d prefer you to think of it as a breed apart, a thoroughbred Jaguar that just happens to be unusually practical. What is known is that it will look similar to the C-X17 concept revealed at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2013 and is believed to share the brand new platform developed for the XE.

And finally Jaguar will be providing the third engine for the Bloodhound SSC Land Speed Record Car. It is well known that Bloodhound is a hybrid vehicle that will utilise both rocket and jet power to reach its 1000mph design brief, but a third motor is required to pump fuel into the rocket at 40 litres a second, which requires a powerplant developing more than 500bhp. The car was designed to take a Cosworth F1 engine because it was compact, light and known to be able to deliver the numbers. It also required a great deal of servicing, however, and could not be regarded as faultlessly reliable as a less stressed road car engine. As Wing Commander Andy Green put it, “This is an engine we can install, forget about and know that when we start it from cold and ask it to deliver 550bhp, it will do just that. Every time.”

The 1021bhp Ferrari…

Ferrari has released pictures and some details of its latest track-only hypercar. Called somewhat improbably the Ferrari LaFerrari FXX K, it develops a total of 1021bhp from its electrically assisted 6.3-litre V12 motor, costs $2.2 million plus local taxes and will lap the Fiorano test track in 1min 14sec, which is two seconds faster than the Evoluzione version of the Enzo-based FXX and only a second slower than the 1990s 333SP sports racer.

Ferrari says it will make fewer than 40 examples and, unsurprisingly, all have been sold before anybody has taken delivery. Not that customers will actually take delivery themselves: the cars will be kept by Ferrari, run by Ferrari and delivered to tracks where owners can drive them with full factory support.

The Ferrari FXX K is both longer and wider than the LaFerrari upon which it is based and 90kg lighter. Extensive use of active aerodynamics allows it to develop twice as much downforce – 500kg at 124mph – and it sits on bespoke Pirelli slick tyres.

Like previous cars in this series, the FXX K is not homologated to race in any recognised series. An Evoluzione version has not been confirmed but is likely to arrive in about two years.

A taste of future Astons

The new Aston Martin DB10 may have been built for James Bond’s eyes only, but don’t dismiss it as a mere film prop. Not only are 10 being built for use in 007’s new caper, Spectre, Aston Martin executives insist its styling previews the design language that will be used in an all-new range of Mercedes-AMG powered cars.

The first such car will replace the long-serving DB9 in 2016 and will not be called DB10. Aston Martin is known to be pondering another two-number jump as it did from DB7 to DB9, so currently the betting is that it will either be called DB12 or retain DB9. Either way, it seems likely to adopt the powertrain already seen in the new AMG GT coupé, which means it will come with a 4-litre, twin-turbo V8 running through a seven-speed double- clutch transaxle gearbox. As the GT has not been engineered to carry four-wheel drive, it seems likely the new Astons will retain only rear drive. For those who still yearn for a normally aspirated Aston, the ageing Ford-based V12 first seen in the DB7 Vantage is understood to be continuing in production for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, after it received a very warm reception in the Middle East, the Lagonda saloon is currently undergoing homologation testing prior to be being put on sale in Europe. It also seems likely that this will be just the first of a range of Lagonda-branded ultra-luxurious Aston Martins.

London show set to return

A new London Motor Show is being planned for 2016, in Battersea Park. The venture was announced by long-time car enthusiast Prince Michael of Kent, who believes there is no reason London cannot host a motor show to rival established European events in Paris, Geneva and Frankfurt. Details are still scarce but it is believed to be scheduled for May 2016 and has no affiliation with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

The last traditional British or London Motor Show was held at the ExCeL Centre in 2008, but was poorly supported by car manufacturers and therefore not well attended by the public. Historically British shows have struggled to attract the global launches that are a crucial component of any successful motor show, though since the ExCeL event the Goodwood Festival of Speed has successfully created its own Moving Motor Show.

AMG Sport range launched

Mercedes-Benz might be late to the party, but it’s finally joined BMW and Audi in offering a new range of AMG-branded derivatives that are merely warmed through rather than piping hot. As such these cars are not proper AMGs powered by engines built at AMG headquarters, according to the time-honoured ‘one man, one engine’ principle, but are instead cars that aim to plug the gap between hard-core AMG and mainstream Mercedes. In this regard they can be seen as an equivalent to BMW’s M Performance line and Audi’s S quattro range. All new Sport models will be Mercedes-AMG badged and feature not only cosmetic enhancements but significant upgrades to both powertrain and chassis.

The first cars to receive the treatment will be the forthcoming GLE coupé (above) – actually a large SUV, albeit with swooping bodywork in the mould of the BMW X6 – and C-class saloon.

In time it is expected that most Mercedes models will have an AMG Sport version available.