The F-Type has pressure on its muscular shoulders. Jaguar's 50-year absence from the sports car market has made yearning hearts grow fonder, but it's also given Porsche, Audi, Aston Martin, and the like time to catch up, overtake, and shine in the gap that formerly contained a leaping cat.
Making a car that's merely "OK" isn't going to cut it. Neither is making a car that's "very good." It's got to be the absolute bomb.
Pleasingly, the F-Type hits the mark with aplomb. Anyone with eyes can see that Jaguar's design team has done an incredible job on the looks front. Despite not being in step with the design language of Jaguar's more traditional lineup, it's unmistakeably a Jaguar. It's beautifully balanced and offers cues to its heritage -- its rear, for example, is remarkably similar to the E-Type's.
There's also a ton of engineering know-how in there. The F-Type has to be both light and stiff to give it the performance that Jaguar desired. Its bonnet, for example, weighs just 15kgs.
Underneath its exquisitely crafted hood there's space for one of three engines -- two versions of a 3.0-litre supercharged V6 (340 bhp and 380 bhp), or a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 (495 bhp). The basic F-Type comes with the 340 bhp V6 -- it sounds like an old F1 car, and its performance is enough to make the hairs on your hairs go all wibbly.
The V6 S gets the 380-horsepower engine and builds on the basic car not only with performance, but with toys. You get adaptive damping, a "noise" button to make its dual pipes sing that little bit louder, bigger brakes, and a limited slip differential. The V8 S gets all that and more; largely, though, the V8 S is a draw for its guttural, antisocially loud exhaust pipes. Driving it through Spanish villages early in the morning (as we did during filming), I felt guilty. Even with the car in "normal" mode, its quad exhausts were making so much fuss I was expecting to be told off. I wouldn't have cared, though.
Thanks to a near perfect 50:50 weight distribution, the F-Type is a pleasure to drive. It leaps from corner to corner and doesn't threaten to bite you as others would. If it does twitch, it's easy to fix thanks to its frankly awesome steering. You know where the wheels are and can feel everything beneath you. You feel safe, you feel secure, you feel pretty awesome.
No matter which engine you go for, the F-Type will delight and excite you. The V8 S will annoy your neighbors and propel you along quickly, while the entry-level V6 will delight the old-school. The V6 cars, incidentally, are set up for handling prowess, while the V8 is for straight-line thrills.
Personally, I'd take the entry-level car -- it does everything you need it to and, frankly, my driving isn't good enough to use all the computer trickery on offer in the higher-spec cars.
I'll leave you with this: the F-Type range can take on pretty much every performance car on offer. The V6 stares hungrily at the Porsche Boxster, the V6 S is eyeing up the Porsche 911 Carrera S, and the V8 S? That's lookin' at you, Aston Martin V12 Vantage Roadster. If I were them, I'd be worried.
|Engine||3.0-litre supercharged V6, 5.0-liter supercharged V8|
|Torque||332-460 lb. ft.|
|0-60 mph||5.3-4.3 seconds|
|Top speed||161-186 mph|