Jaguar’s new halo model is the F-type, a long-awaited successor to the legendary E-type. Can it live up to the hype and take the game to those pesky Porkers from Stuttgart?
Five or six years ago, reviews of this car would almost inevitably have had the screaming, sensationalist headline ‘Is this the car to save Jaguar?’ It seemed that, under Ford’s care, the sacred old British marque was being run into the ground by uncaring US types after a hard buck.
Personally, I didn’t agree, as I still think the X350 XJR is probably the best-looking three-box saloon that’s ever been made, but nowadays I don’t have to worry about such media madness as Jaguar is going from strength to strength under Tata. The products the company is knocking out are fabulous and it seems the buying public agree – did you know, for instance, that in 2011, the avant-garde XJ took nearly 25 per cent of the luxury saloons market in the UK?
So the F-type seems less like a knight in shining armour riding to Jaguar’s rescue and more like a present from the company to itself, Jag deciding to flex its engineering muscles on something truly desirable and focused. And there’s no way we can assess F without referencing E – the graceful old machine which remains a paragon of automotive design almost 40 years since it went out of production. Can the F-type really enact a modern-day replication of the E-type’s all-conquering heyday?
Probably not, is the honest answer, but it’s a stunningly good car nonetheless. I’ve noticed a lot of reviews of the F-type seem to shy away from talking about its looks, and let’s be honest, it doesn’t really stand up to comparison with Malcolm Sayer’s masterpiece. I doubt we’ll be coveting the F in 2053 the way people lust after good E-types today.
But that’s not a failing on the F-type’s part, more the reality of modern car design. It’s easy to fall into the rut of saying ‘they don’t make ’em like they used to’, but for pure beauty I really think they don’t. The F-type is a handsome thing in its own right, though, and cleverly Jaguar hasn’t obviously referenced the old car in the exterior looks. The F’s long nose and stubby tail are clearly traits shared with its predecessor, while there are nods here and there (centre exit twin exhausts, slim taillights, the large ovoid front grille) if you look hard enough and squint a bit, but there’s an elegant, crisp modernity to the F-type which is very pleasing. I’m just glad they didn’t do a ‘retro’ E-type, as that would have been a terrible shame – instead, the F has an identity all of its own, and it can be very proud of it too.
The interior is fantastic; there’s not much else to say but that. The dash is another Jaguar triumph, you get a superb driving position that can be adjusted right down into the car – instead of leaving the driver sitting remotely above proceedings – and it’s also comfortable enough to envisage yourself doing hundreds of miles in it without issue. The boot is a bit small, which might sound like a pointless thing to bring up, but if you want something leaning towards a grand tourer instead, you’d be better off sticking with the XK – large luggage wouldn’t be an easy fit in the back.
Anyway, listen at me, 34 going on 67 – this thing is made for driving, so let’s fire it up. My test run is a brief blat in the V6 S version, the middle of three launch models from Jaguar. There’s a plain V6 entry model and a beefier V8 S topping out the F-type range, but as even the ‘base’ car has 335bhp, none of them could be called sluggish. All three are supercharged but Jaguar has put more dynamic focus on the V6 S than the V6. It has uprated steering and suspension over the V6 to make it more focused, while its Dynamic Drive system even makes the exhaust a bit throatier. It’s proof that Jag is trying to make this a genuine sports car, not just a two-seat version of the XK.
And it’s a sensation. No, really – it is. Throttle response is absolutely immediate and the 375bhp supercharged V6 in this S model is the perfect blend of muscularity and refinement. When you are caning it, there’s a wondrous six-pot snarl coming from the front, overlaid with an obscene exhaust note at the back. Throttle back to a cruise, though, and both go silent, wafting you along on velvety torque as a certain smug one-upmanship overcomes you as you gaze at gawping pedestrians. The exquisite motor is linked to an eight-speed sequential automatic, which might have been overkill had the ratios not been judged so well, and this is as smooth a shifting gearbox as you could wish to find.
It’s the dynamics that astonish, however. This isn’t some pro-Jag journo who’s giving the car an easy time – I was ready to pick up on any flaws as soon as they presented themselves. They never did. If I was pushed, the steering could be just a gnat’s too light for my liking… but I’m really clutching at straws here. The cohesion of drivetrain, chassis set-up and weight distribution makes chucking the V6 S about a delight. It has brutal body control at all times without feeling like a rose-jointed race car on less-than perfect surfaces. It seems the F-type has been tuned to offer a cornering stance which favours neutrality bordering on mild oversteer, making it a true delight to pin to an apex; the steering is informative enough to let you drift into a bend on the V6’s epic midrange before burying the throttle and surging away to the next corner with awesome traction, mammoth pace and an abundance of joyous noise.
The lack of weight, though, is what underpins all this goodness. At 1,614kg, it’s quite a bit heavier than a Boxster but it never feels like it. The V6 S is not at all nose-led (I should like to try the V8 S version to see how it matches up) and so when you do throw it into a bend, there’s no tortured squeal of rubber or the feeling that you’re asking something huge to behave like a hot hatch. In actual fact, it feels a little bit like my old S2000, only with better steering and masses more oomph. And, trust me, that’s a huge compliment for me to pay the Jag.
After a scintillating drive in the F-type, I am delighted that the new Jag is a genuine sports car contender for Porsche. Cannily, Jag has priced the F-type range to fit in between the Boxster and 911 – which makes the base V6 look a bit expensive (compared to the smaller Porsche) and the V8 S look a bargain when up against a 911 Turbo. The V6 S fills an ideal middle ground; it is way more enjoyable than any Boxster I’ve driven, and it’ll be much better value than a comparable 911. There are some expensive options on the list that can be avoided (our test car weighed in £310 below eighty thousand, thanks to madness like £300 for black brake callipers and £650 for a flat-bottomed heated steering wheel) but spec it right and the F-type will be a delight to own and drive.
So Jag has managed to punt out a sports car that doesn’t disgrace the old car, and which is a genuine, dynamic contender in a marketplace awash with some very capable machinery. I think we can officially say that the company is well and truly ‘saved’; instead it’s Jag’s rivals that need to start worrying.
Tech Spec Jaguar F-type V6S
- Body Front-enginer two-door roadster
- Engine 2995cc 24v supercharged V6
- Transmission RWD, eight-speed Quickshift automatic with paddle shift
- 0-62mph 4.8 seconds
- Top speed 171mph
- Max power 375bhp @ 6500rpm
- Max torque 338lb.ft between 3500 and 5000rpm
- Fuel consumption 31mpg (claimed combined)
- CO2 emissions 213g/km
- Price from £67,520
The Truth & Nothing But…
Jaguar F-type V6 S
+ Good looking, beautifully made and extraordinarily fast in all guises, the F-type is a superb sports car. Beautiful damping/handling balance, excellent weight distribution, fantastic noise and good steering, it deserves to be a huge success
– Not much, really, although it’s quite pricey when compared to a Boxster. Cheap, though, if you compare it to a 911…
∴ A lesson in how to replace a motoring great. The E-type’s sequel may have taken a while but it was worth the wait. Bravo Jaguar!