Some car brands evoke emotional responses in people. That brand will say that’s exactly what they’re looking for as it’s a major consideration in the purchase of a car. There’s also a loyalty factor to consider and then there’s the sheer want or lust… Jaguar’s F-Type, released two years ago in Australia, in convertible and automatic gearbox form only, is one of those cars.
A Wheel Thing was fortunate enough to attend the launch in late 2013 and sample the three variants, being the two supercharged V6 engines and the brawny V8. Recently, Jaguar released the manual gearbox version for the V6 powerplants and Jaguar Australia lobbed the keys of a Stormtrooper white and black 280 kW rear wheel drive F-Type S coupe into the A Wheel Thing office.
Of immediate note is the size; the F-Type is battleship wide from the rear quarters yet somehow seems to look smaller from most other angles. That’s until you park near a mid 1980’s XJ6/Daimler that then allows you then get an appreciation for its true measurements. It looks longer than the spec sheet says, at 4470 mm and it’s not tall, standing just 1311mm above the tarmac. Did I mention it’s wide? Try 2042 mm or 1923 with/without mirrors. Doors, wheels, even the overall length are either considerably larger or close to the venerable old lady but the glasshouse is noticeably smaller. Wheelbase is a not inconsiderable, given the overall length, 2622 mm, yet it’s a tight 10.7 metres for a turning circle. It’s reasonably trim,with a starting weight of 1567 kg for the manual, too…. There’s the familiar Jaguar bonnet power bulge and, for F-Type, a pair of engine vents in the lightweight bonnet, bisecting the LED driving lights in the feline snout. There’s a choice of two supercharged V6 engines, at 250 kW and 280 kW, a blown 5.0L V8 and either rear or all paw platforms. Peak power arrives at 6500 rpm for the V6 engines, however there’s just ten metres of Mr Newton’s best torques in difference between the two, on tap from 3500 to 5000 rpm. They’re hooked to a six speed manual, in this case, which is good for a sprint time of 5.7 seconds to 100 kilometres per hour.Because it is what it is, only 98 RON unleaded is recommended and it’ll give the 70 litre tank a fair belting at 13.5 litres per 100 kilometres distance in the urban cycle. That drops by nearly half, to 7.6, for the freeway and 9.8L/100 km on a combined drive. Access to the engine, by the way, is via Jaguar’s traditional flip front engine cover. Not that you’d know there’s an engine underneath the hectare of plastic covering it…
Inside the F-Type, the cabin is strictly a two seater, with a cargo space behind your ears capable of a maximum 407 litres of space, if the parcel tray is removed. There’s a smattering of storage spaces, including one just behind the driver’s left ear and a small one just ahead of the gear selector. Although it’s wide, the seats abut the doors, with seat adjustment built into the door trim, including air powered, adjustable bolsters.
The overall intention of the cabin is of quality, as you’d expect, yet the steering wheel is the same as you’d find in the $100,000 less XE. There’s an odd and out of place air conditioning button, right next to the touchscreen, which coulda/shoulda been incorporated into the dials or the tabs underneath the dials. The sliding sunroof screen on the inside of the F-Type (it’s a solid glass roof) has a metal handle which picks up heat rather quickly, resulting in some singed fingertips.
There’s a four quarter layout to the touch screen’s home screen, usable but not exactly intuitive but that’s forgotton once the excellent Meridian audio system is fired up. There’s depth, clarity, separation, stage presence almost unheard of for a car’s sound system, with plenty of low end kick when needed, balanced by the clear and delicate highs.
On start up (via the red pulsating Start button in the lower console), there’s a quick whir of the starter motor, a burble from the exhaust as the engine settles into its rhythm and a rising of the uperr centre air vents. It’s all very majestic and theatrical but it gets better once a button is pressed. That button brings the active exhaust to life, providing a thoatier, deeper, more rorty note. Idle away, slotting the six speed into second, third, and it’ll give no hint of its nature. Find a good piece of road and the ears are belted by the glorious soundtrack.
There’s the whine, subtle yet purposeful, from the supercharger, the intoxicating snap crackle and pop from the exhaust as you lift off the accelerator. When pressed in anger, there’s a serious bark that changes into a growl, a snarl, that rises in pitch as the revs climb. There’s grip, oh there’s grip aplenty from the wide track and superglue sticky Pirelli tyres and a ride that isn’t spine shattering in its initial compliance. What the Jaguar F-Type does miss is a front end with adjustable height, as the plastic chin scrapes easily coming of some driveways.
But the talking point about this car is that’s not a self shifter, it needs the organic component to be involved and…..it’s not without faults. There’s no lock out for Reverse, which is left and up, nor does it genuinely liked to be hurried, with incorrect gears selected just that one too many times to dismiss it as an aberration. When used at a normal pace, it slots in nicely, but sports shifting is not its forte. The short throw is ideal, as is the feel of the material itself.
The pickup point for the clutch, on the other hand, is nigh on perfect, as is the pressure on the clutch’s travel itself. It’s an ideal mix of being light enough to be useable by almost everyone nor hard enough to stress a left knee. Mixed with the short throw (when it isn’t going to second instead of fourth from sixth), it’s a delight, allowing the driver to set the car up for a powerful run out of a corner.
Flex the right foot and the haunches squat down, the nose rises imperceptibly and it launches, hard, from low gears and smoothly without fuss from further up the cog choice range. The built in spoiler raises and lowers at speed (reducing lift by up to 120 kilograms of force) and can be moved at the touch of a button in the cabin. There’s Dynamic mode that changes the dash’s screen (with mechanical dials, not LCD screen based) to a lurid red, changes the engine’s mapping (and shift points for the Auto) and feels as if the suspension tightens up. But for all of that torque, it’ll still stutter, like any manual, if revs drop too low for the wrong gear. The solution is easy and always immensely enjoyable.
On road manners are impeccable; there’s a lightning fast steering rack, with under two and a half turns side to side, with plenty of communication between tarmac and driver. There’s minimal bump/thump and a ripple following ride, with each corner rolling over undulations with aplomb. Put that down to the aluminuiom body, with higher torsional strength,natch, than the convertible.
Brake feel is sensational, with bite at the top of the pedal and without any grabbing suddenly, with a beautifully progressive travel and stopping power. The accelerator is the same, with instant response from the moment it senses pressure.
It’s also a car that has the enviable record of having the most eyes on it during A Wheel Thing’s tenure; from courier drivers to the high school lad that rode past it three times, from the open admiration of one of the blue’s finest to a long term member of the Jaguar Driver’s Club being gobsmacked in awe, it garnerned more attention and acclaim in one week than all other cars combined.
The signature Jaguar hip line, the beautifully balanced proportions, the menacing look at the front in that classic monochrome pairing and the clear heritage from the C-X75 concept car, the simplicity of the powered hatchback and those wonderfully broad rear quarters, beautifully lit at night by the LED tail lights combine to deliver a truly worthy successor in the looks department to the fabled E-Type, the car that none other than Enzo Ferrari said was the most beautiful car in the world.
At around $168K driveaway in NSW, with something close to $35K in taxes and charges included, it’s up against Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Audi. It’s up against something even more important: a buyer that needs to be tempted away from the continentals. If you’re a follower of the leaping cat brand, it’s a no brainer. That loyalty, the emotional connection to Jaguar , will see you inside the dealership poring over the options list and wondering which shade of paint Sir would like his new “cat” coated in.
The F-Type provokes plenty of emotional responses; the gaping jaws and whistles from school kids is evidence enough. But the F-Type is so much more than simply a button pusher for emotions, it’s a damned good car and, as highlighted in an episode of a popular but now defunct English tv motoring show, a fantastic example of what a legendary car company and British knowhow can do when it all just comes together.