L.A. Auto Show: Jaguar F-Type Coupe makes dramatic debut

A year after showing off its curvaceous F-Type convertible in Los Angeles, Jaguar returned to unveil the car’s new fixed-roof lineup – including one of the most powerful Jaguars in history.

In a dramatic debut in front of hundreds of guests and celebrities Tuesday night, Jaguar unveiled the F-Type Coupe in its world debut, ahead of its debut at the L.A. Auto Show on Wednesday. It comes in three trim levels, culminating in the ferocious R Coupe, powered by a supercharged V-8 making 550 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque.

That’s 55 more horsepower than the fastest F-Type convertible, a fitting upgrade for a Jag prioritizing speed over sunshine. The F-Type R blasts from zero to 60 mph in four seconds and has a top speed of 186 m.p.h., according to Jaguar.

PHOTOS: L.A. Auto Show model debuts

The coupe looks almost identical to the C-X16 Concept the automaker revealed in 2011 at the Frankfurt Auto Show. The raked windshield, protruding from a long hood, flows into an even more steeply sloped back hatch. The coupe retains the convertible’s “shark gill” vents just in front of the front door, and two similar openings on the hood.

The base coupe starts at $65,000, with a supercharged V6 making 340 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. The S Coupe, at $77,000, adds 40 horsepower and 30 pound-feet of torque. The R Coupe starts at $99,000.

The V6 models are priced about $4,000 less than their convertible counterparts.

All three versions are fitted with an eight-speed automatic transmission that can be operated manually via paddle shifters. The cars lack the speed-shifting dual-clutch transmissions now common in high-end sports coupes, most notably the F-Type’s chief competitors from Porsche, the 911, Cayman and Boxster models. But our May review of the F-Type convertible rated the Jag’s gearbox among the quickest-shifting automatics available.

The F-Type also flatters the Porsche through imitation, with two electronic suspension control systems and a rear spoiler that sits flush at low speeds but rises for added downforce at 70 mph. The spoiler lowers again when speed drops to 50 mph.

The F-Type Coupe is the latest step in the reinvention of Jaguar, now in a merged company with Land Rover. Both of the storied-but-troubled British brands are now owned by the Indian automaker Tata Motors.

FULL COVERAGE: L.A. Auto Show 2013

Jaguar Land Rover’s coming-out party came last year with world or North American debuts of the F-Type convertible, a redesigned Range Rover and the Jaguar XFR-S, a limited-volume premium sedan.

The F-Type convertible has already proven to be a huge hit for Jaguar, and coupe sales will probably make up two-thirds of all F-Type sales, said Dave Sullivan, an analyst at AutoPacific. 

"We haven't seen the full potential of the F-Type yet," Sullivan said.

In addition to the highly-anticipated coupe, Sullivan said other variants of the F-Type are likely, including an entry-level model with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and possibly even a hybrid. 

These models will all serve to draw more attention to the Jaguar brand as it prepares to launch volume-selling vehicles that will be crucial to Jaguar's success. These include a compact sedan aimed at the BMW 3-Series and a compact crossover SUV. 

"They're kind of flexing their muscles right now," Sullivan said of Jaguar. "The F-Type is key to Jaguar's brand awareness now and in the future." 

The F-Type R Coupe represents the pinnacle of Jaguar performance. The R comes with more power and stiffer suspension tuning than the top-end S convertible, along with the additional structural rigidity of a fixed-roof machine.

Two electronic suspension systems help keep the R Coupe stuck to the pavement in spirited driving, Jaguar says. Electronic Active Differential can precisely control the amount of torque directed to each wheel for maximum traction, while a Torque Vectoring system can apply braking to the inside wheels in hard cornering.

The R Coupe also offers beefier brakes to control all that speed, with 14.8-inch front discs and 15-inch rear discs, with red calipers visible through its massive 20-inch alloy wheels.

The lesser F-Type coupes aren’t exactly slow. Jaguar says the base coupe will turn zero-to-60 mph in 5.1 seconds, about a second behind the R coupe. The S Coupe pulls off the sprint in 4.8 seconds.

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