Open up and say R………………….
Let me be clear about one thing straight away. The Jaguar F-TYPE is a fabulous car. There, I’ve said it. No spoiler warning, because there is no need. Who couldn’t be captivated by one of the prettiest 2 door sports coupes available today? Just looking at it makes me want it. But I do have some issues with it, so please Jaguar, take notes……..
First things first. I disagree with a lot of people about the market positioning of this car. I think Jaguar have got it spot on in terms of it being on a par with the 911 and not the Boxster/Cayman. Yes, its only a 2 seater, but then so is the Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Audi R8 and Mercedes-AMG GT, but it has a presence about it that I think would make a Cayman skulk back into the shadows. A demeanour that says it wants you to understand that its not here just to make up numbers, but to be taken very seriously and driven. And if you do, it will reward in spades.
By launching the Roadster first, Jaguar have established the fact that it was always designed with the intent of being both a convertible and coupe, although you would surely have to be legally blind to not think that the fixed-head car is the looker of the two. From its lovely, forward-hinged clamshell bonnet, over the sweeping roof pillars and down to its perfect little rump, the car is stunning with not a single bad angle to it. Although to be clear, its a bit like deciding between the Minogue sisters. Either will do just fine.
And here’s my first issue. It was always going to be a difficult job for the design team to create a modern day sports car that could reference the legend of the E-Type without being a retro pastiche, and to my eyes, they’ve done it perfectly. However, it can go too far the other way, and the higher up the range you go, the more scoops and spoilers appear and blemish those seductive lines, and whilst I can forgive the Project 7 as a limited run special, there can be no excuse for the SVR. No, stick with the lower echelons and you can rest assured you have the prettiest car, albeit at the expense of the searing performance of the V8 models.
And again, there is a problem here. The F-TYPE R I have been driving produces 542bhp which is a phenomenal amount of power for any car. This is the same output as the legendary XJ220 which was, at one point, the fastest car in the world. In today’s world where cameras and road design is meant to keep you on a leash, is this ultimately the best car in the F-TYPE range? I’m not so sure. Now, forgive me for going against all we petrolhead and enthusiasts crave, power, but I feel that the 5.0 litre supercharged V8 dominated this car. You drive it on the engine. More than a couple of times when I accelerated away from the end of the 50mph speed restricted roadworks on the M6 I felt the back of the car “twitch” a little. On a circuit, or perhaps a B-road blast I’d expect that, but not when I’m cruising up the motorway listening to Pop Master on Radio 2.
What I will say however is that it is a very pleasant place to be on a long cruise. The configurable Dynamic mode can be set up to your own preferences via the touchscreen infotainment system. These include engine, gearshift, suspension and steering, and once you have it all configured, it can be accessed via a single toggle switch next to the gear lever. I kept it in Dynamic all the way from London to the Lake District and I have to admit, it wasn’t wearisome at all. The suspension still had a suppleness to it that one expects from a Jaguar, the steering didn’t feel twitchy, and whilst loud, the exhaust didn’t interrupt my enjoyment of Mr Ken Bruce. Yes, it pops and bangs on the overrun, but on a cruise, it really isn’t intrusive.
The cabin is well thought out too, although I did find I was getting slightly numb after a couple of hours and wonder whether the sports seats in the test car really were fulfilling their duties. Fully electrically-adjustable, including bolsters, they offer support, but perhaps too much at the expense of comfort. The touchscreen works well enough, although maybe I’m a bit of a luddite when it comes to these. With the navigation on, you have to come out of it to adjust the audio, and for me, I’d rather have separate buttons to remove this distraction. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, however, I’m sure someone more adept than me can work it better.
Over the shoulder visibility is restricted by those sweeping rear roof pillars, but the optional glass roof floods the cabin with daylight and makes it all seem very airy. There is a quality about some of the cabin, but I felt cheated by other areas where the plastics felt cheap, or just shouldn’t have been there. Plastic gearshift paddles in a £100k car? Really? No Jaguar, get this sorted.
And you will want to use these paddle-shifters as the gearbox is sublime. I know that you can have the F-TYPE with a manual gearbox now, but honestly, don’t. This transmission really suits the car with upshifts coming instantly, and coming back down the 8-speed box delights with lovely throttle blips. The driveline in this car is almost perfect, so please don’t ruin this by fitting cheap plastic at the one tactile area that connects car to driver.
The electronic power steering works well too, delivering feedback on the tight, narrow bends of the South Lakes, And whilst you can specify carbon ceramic brakes, I doubt anyone would really need them unless your daily commute included a mountain pass or circuit. Dynamically, the F-TYPE delivered for me. Instant response to my inputs and rewarding them deliciously. Diving into a bend, the brakes shave off the speed and turn in is precise, the lovely steering wheel (not to thick) keeping me informed of the front wheels whereabouts and then careful application of the throttle keeps the rear end in check. A lot of this is down to a very clever active electronic rear differential that works in conjunction with the brakes, stability and traction control system. It can vary the torque to each wheel, which can be very useful in certain bends around Windermere and Coniston.
But again I keep coming back to that V8 engine. Applying the power in this car has to be considered very carefully, and around the B-roads of south Cumbria, I had too many other things to think about. I arrive at our hotel feeling exhausted just from the short drive from the M6, and whilst the F-TYPE is a sports car, I’m not sure I want to feel like this after driving a Jaguar. Excited and enthralled, yes. Exacerbated? No.
I think the answer lies further down the F-TYPE range. I don’t think at any point I’d have felt short-changed if I had been in the supercharged V6 S model. This would appear to be a car whose chassis is the dominant one, and around the tight switchbacks and narrow, flint wall-lined roads of The Lakes, that’s what you need. Jaguar have designed and engineered a truly delightful car in the F-TYPE, one that needs no excuses. It is a match for the best that Germany offers, and in some ways (mostly in the looks) it punches way above its rivals. But I can’t help feeling that £100,000 for the V8 R model is too much, both in terms of price, and driver enjoyment.
Step away from that 911 Carrera and try the F-TYPE. I promise, you won’t be disappointed. Just make sure it has a V6 and not a V8. This really is the clearest and most apt form of less being more.
Words by: Bryan McMorran
Photos by: The White Wall, https://www.thewhitewall.co/