Autocar reports a recently spied Jaguar F-Type development prototype is the test bed for a new model that will house a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder and belatedly join the current supercharged engine line-up comprising a 250kW/450Nm and 280kW/460Nm 3.0-litre V6 and a 364kW/625Nm 5.0-litre V8.
Suggesting the use of a smaller, lighter engine, the prototype was seen testing with not only a different bonnet – black with a raised centre section and additional venting – but also a different exhaust system and increased front ride height.
The speculation is further backed by comments made last year by Jaguar vehicle line director Ian Hoban who said he saw "great potential" in using a high-output turbo-four in the F-Type and that there were a "whole host" of powertrains and drivelines that could fit into the new sports car.
One such powertrain, a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine dubbed the ‘Hotfire’, is already set to be employed in the XF. It’s also planned to power Jaguar's forthcoming BMW 3 Series-rivalling premium mid-sized sedan due to start production in 2015.
Though the new F-Type model would become Jaguar's first-ever four-cylinder sports car, the trend has long been a staple of Japanese manufacturers and would give the British marque a direct rival to Porsche's anticipated 2.0-litre turbo-powered Boxster and Cayman twins slated for 2016.
Apart from clear improvements in efficiency figures, a four-cylinder F-Type would additionally bring with it less weight and the promise of enhanced agility. The report speculates a four-wheel-drive system could also potentially be added, reworking technology borrowed from the new all-paw versions of the XF and XJ sedans.
With the Hotfire engine not expected before the second half of 2015, the publication suggests a four-cylinder F-type is unlikely to be seen by the end of next year.