JAGUAR F-TYPE REVIEW | Photos: Jan Glovac.
What’s hot: Jaw-dropping styling, fabulous engines, entrancing exhaust note
What’s not: Automatic not quite up to scratch, suspension can be fidgety
X-Factor: The best looking drop-top on sale has substance to match its style; plus that link to the legendary E-Type.
Vehicle Style: Two-door prestige convertible
Price: V6 $138,645 | V6 S $171,045 | V8 S $201,945 (plus on-roads)
Power/torque: V6 250kW/450Nm; V6 S 280kW/460Nm; V8 364kW/625Nm
Fuel Economy (listed): V6 9.0 l/100km | V6 S 9.1 l/100km | V8 S 11.1 l/100km
With its seductive curves and perfect proportions, the F-TYPE’s sex appeal is self-evident. Ian Callum – Jaguar’s design chief – and his team have created arguably the best looking car to grace the planet's roads this year.
Of course, having fabulous styling is one thing, but backing it up with a genuine sporting drive is another.
Jag is banking on the F-TYPE putting the brand right back into the heart of the sports car market. So how does it stack up? Is it the "true sports car" Jaguar touts it as?
TMR was invited by Jaguar to Sydney to experience city streets, country roads and a closed road loop to see what it’s all about.
Jaguar markets the F-TYPE as a one-plus-one - everything is about the driver. In truth it is a proper two-seater, but with the driver cordoned off by a passenger grab-handle.
Cast your eye across the well executed interior and you’ll find both premium materials and top-notch fit and finish. While there are two grades of leather available (standard and premium), the base model’s standard trim doesn’t feel cheap in any way.
Dual-zone climate control is an option on the base car, but apart from that, the base car wants for nothing inside.
Large sections of leather cover the dashboard and all surfaces are pleasant to the touch.
There’s a distinct lack of hard plastic; you'll find soft-touch rubber on the underside of the door pulls (what you see is leather) and even the air-vent surrounds score the same treatment.
The textured metal under the gear lever, HVAC controls and infotainment is very nice, though the gold plastic paddle-shifters and start button on the S models do look a little chintzy.
Overall, however, the presentation is excellent.
Two styles of seats are available: sports seats as standard and performance seats in the higher-spec models. The sports buckets are very comfortable, despite having no bolster or lumbar adjustment; you have to opt for the performance seats to get that.
Storage space is limited however, with a space-saver tyre chewing up most of the available (miniscule) boot space.
Thankfully you can opt for a tin of goo, but don’t expect to load in a week’s worth of groceries there.
While the glovebox is a decent size and there’s the standard cupholder set in the centre console, the door bins are very small (a 600ml water bottle will fit toward the front, however you can’t lie it down).
And if you like to drive close to the wheel, you’ll fit a tiny squashed bag or jacket behind the seat.
Options, however, are a killer.
If you opt for the V6 S or a V8 S, you’ll get an 'active exhaust system'. Having to pay $260 for a switch to open up the baffles manually is a bit rich, as is $1200 for front parking sensors and $590 for power folding mirrors.
ON THE ROAD
With our time kicking off in the entry-level V6, we made our way out of Sydney, through some of the battle-scarred hilly roads leading out to the Pacific Highway. One thing became immediately apparent: the F-TYPE’s ride is impeccable.
While it couldn’t be labelled anything but firm, it absorbs tiny imperfections brilliantly. More importantly, it’ll take big hits from underneath and not transfer them into the cabin.
Even over square-edged speed bumps it keeps driver and passenger completely isolated from what’s going on underneath.
Then, entering the Lane Cove tunnel, the sense of theatre comes to the fore with the supercharged V6 producing a wonderfully raspy noise, followed by a crackling exhaust on the overrun.
You don’t even have to try to get it banging and popping back there, just simply accelerate and back off. With the central twin trumpets cackling at the cars you’ve left behind, it’ll have you grinning like a kid.
There’s 250kW and 450Nm on tap, so you’d never call it short of grunt. Thanks to forced induction, power delivery is urgent and linear with good throttle response.
So, it has great sound and enough grunt to get it from 0-100kmh in 5.3 seconds - a pretty good combination then.
The gearbox, however, is not quite so great. In Drive the ZF eight-speed auto is exceptionally smooth, and, in Sport mode it responds very willingly to throttle input.
But while manual upshifts (from the lever or steering-wheel paddles) are quick and almost rival a dual-clutch for response and shift time (with a fantastic snap from the exhaust each time via a fuel cut to three cylinders), it’s the downshifts that don’t quite make the grade.
Pulling on the left paddle or pushing the gear lever forward (the correct way around) sees the gearbox wait momentarily before it responds. The actual downshift time is also quite slow, which is disappointing given the upshifts are so snappy.
We then swapped to the firebreathing V8 S model. This one packs a supercharged 5.0-litre V8 under the bonnet making a very healthy 364kW and 625Nm.
Put simply, it’s an animal.
Its 0-100kmh time of 4.3 seconds doesn’t quite portray the ferociousness of its rolling acceleration. It builds speed relentlessly until it hits its limiter at 300kmh.
Grip levels are beyond merely impressive – stomping on the pedal from rest barely sees a flicker of the ESC light – but with provoking they can be overcome (but best not to try that on public roads).
The sound is much angrier than the V6 models, with even more cracking and popping from the quad chrome-tipped exhausts when backing off at high revs. If it’s volume you want, this is the one to go for.
While the engine is a peach, again, the gearbox lets down the drivetrain. Go for full auto in Drive or Sport and it’s excellent. But manual shifts present the same issue as in the V6 – fantastic upshifts but downshifts are far too slow.
On three occasions, the gearbox also refused to upshift from second into third, instead staying on the rev limiter. Jag says it was still adapting to our driving style. We’re not so sure.
The adaptive suspension on the V8 S had its work cut out for it with some extremely poor road surfaces putting it to the test.
At lower speeds it’s excellent, but, as speed rises, it becomes fidgety. It was never crashy but just doesn’t have the final polish of some of its competitors.
Once the road smoothes out, the V8 S becomes a sledgehammer. A bit nuts? For sure. But fun? You bet.
The steering on the F-TYPE is certainly better than on any current Jaguar and, thankfully, the company has retained a hydraulic set up to maintain true feel.
It’s a good system for the most part with good weight, but it does lose a little feedback closer to the lock stops.
The V6 S was waiting for us in a session on a 5.1km closed road loop. Its inherent balance is immediately apparent and on switchbacks, even at speed, it remains calm and composed.
With more power and torque (280kW and 460Nm) than the 'lesser' V6, it pulls out of corners better and ups the aural ante as well. It’s on this private road we see what the F-TYPE is all about.
It’s agile but extremely comfortable. It sounds delicious but can be as docile as a kitten. It manages to combine sporting intent with everyday drivability.
In other words, it’s a proper Jaguar.
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT
Of the three models, it’s the two V6s - we think - which are the stand outs. The entry-level F-TYPE is particularly impressive, mostly because of its value for money.
Option some larger wheels and the switchable active exhaust and you’ll save a heap over the V6 S, while not losing out much on style, power or comfort.
To our mind, it sits in Boxster S territory more comfortably than against the 911, simply because it’s a two-seater.
No, it doesn’t drive quite as well as the Boxster S and its gearbox lets it down in manual mode, but it’s a far better-looking package (and doesn’t automatically carry the “hairdresser’s car” stigma).
But Jaguar's F-TYPE, for the moment, is completely unique. A sweetly balanced V6 or monster V8, and drop-dead gorgeous looks that make the Aston Martin Vantage Roadster look positively ancient.
Yes, the F-TYPE has a few foibles – improved body control and a manual transmission would solve that – but is a hugely enjoyable drive. We'll spend more time with it and do a full review soon.
With a coupe version of the F-TYPE sure to be unveiled soon, there’s plenty more to look forward to from the big cat.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- F-TYPE 3.0 V6 - $138,645
- F-TYPE 3.0 V6 S - $171,045
- F-TYPE 5.0 V8 S - $201,945