As Jaguar was taking the wraps off the Coupe version of their latest sales success, the F-Type at the Los Angeles and Tokyo Motor Shows recently,
I was, in the words of their TV advertising, ‘taking my turn’ to spend a longer spell behind the wheel of the Roadster soft-top two seater launched earlier this year.
Since its UK launch in April the F-Type Roadster has outsold the Porsche 911 Cabriolet and helped push the British brand to an 18.5% sales increase in the UK so far this year but globally Jaguars sales are 50% year on year, including a 160% rise in China.
The F-Type Coupe, when it goes on sale in the UK next year, will cost from £51,235, around £7,000 less than their comparable soft top Roadster versions. Both ranges have V6 and V8 supercharged petrol engine options and a new eight-speed automatic transmission as standard.
My turn in the F-Type Roadster was with the starter model and probably the most financially appropriate - but less ‘fun’ version for the UK with its new 3.0-litre, V6 supercharged 340hp petrol engine bearing a price tag of £58,520. There is the S version with the uprated V6 engine producing 380hp at £67,520 and the supercharged 5.0-litre V8 S with 495hp of power and priced at £79,985.
All Roadster models drive through the rear wheels via an eight speed ‘Quickshift’ close-ratio automatic transmission with a centre console mounted ‘SportShift’ which allows manual, sequential or fully automatic changes in addition to the steering column mounted paddles. The S versions have limited slip differentials, a must-have feature missing from my standard V6 test car. Both S V6 and V8 models are fitted with an Active Exhaust system which is a ridiculously priced £1,630 options for the standard V6 model I tested. A number of bypass valves in the rear section of the exhaust open under hard acceleration conditions to ‘enhance’ the sound quality. If it’s a standard fit feature, fine go for it, but paying to make a noise no matter how much of a head-turner it would be is just daft.
There are loads more must-have options that money would be better spent on and these include such items as heated seats £350, or performance seats in leather at £1,450 which are comfortable and offer much needed support, a heated front windscreen at £250, a set of two carpet mats for £120, a must have wind deflector at £250, a space saver spare wheel at £255 and if you really want a rough ride spend £1,000 on the 19-inch alloy wheels option. My advice is stick with the standard 18-inch alloys because the ride comfort from the sports suspension is firm enough.
The snug two seat cockpit is best described as aircraft type, nicely laid out with logical, easy to use controls and easy to read dials. The fascia is high level, not an issue for me a six footer but shorter people will find it restricts forward vision when judging the length of the long bonnet. Generally the quality of the cosy interior is good but some of the controls around the steering column felt a bit flimsy and looked cheaper than the rest of the interior. That brings me on to the odd shaped small boot which offers just 196-litres but the electronically smooth operating fabric roof doesn’t reduce that space further when folded down. The boot linings felt cheap with thin carpet covering flimsy panels, not the sort of quality we have experienced in other Jaguars past or present. The small rear window in the fabric hood severely restricts visibility so the rear parking sensors are a must.
The front engine rear wheel drive F-Type is clothed in a lightweight aluminium body with the double wishbone front and rear suspension units also using aluminium construction. Jaguar says the F-Type is a continuation of a sporting bloodline going back more than 75 years. That said it has been a long wait until we have now got a replacement for Jaguar’s iconic E-Type which was in production from 1961 until 1974 with over 70,000 sold worldwide. The E-Type through its evolution was a two seater, a 2+2 and with Coupe and Roadster body styles. Whereas the E-Type with its cigar shaped side profile and long bonnet was designed for sports performance but with an elegant and refined appearance to compete against the Ferraris of that era, its long awaited F-Type replacement is very different. With its wide haunches and ‘chopped’ rear end design it looks an out-and-out brutish muscle car. The classic Jaguar design refinement has gone; its looks show an aggressive sporting intent but in reality it appears less classy than it should. To me the styling makes it look like any American brand muscle car but as the US is a big market for the F-Type, that is perhaps logical.
It was interesting that during my week of ownership the F-Type didn’t turn out to be a head-turner, when parked people just passed it by – perhaps Christmas shopping was more on their minds. It does appear to split opinions as some of my motoring colleagues are impressed and like its handling, others like me feel it has missed its target in terms of styling and handling. I understand from other motoring ‘scribes’ who have driven other versions that the further you go up the range the more fun the driving is. But I wouldn’t pay over £20k more for the V8 and I’d have to think very hard about paying £9k more for the mid range V6 S version. Whichever model you choose they look the same and to be honest the difference in top speed and acceleration times is marginal given today’s congested roads.
There is no doubt that the engine and transmission performance is first class even from the 3.0-litre, V6, 340hp supercharged petrol ‘starter’ model I tested. The supercharger gives it immediate ‘raw’ power with zero to 60mph talking 5.1 seconds with a top speed of 161mph with an exhaust soundtrack to match. It snarls, if it was an animal it would bite and if not driven in a way that matches the driver’s ability it will surely bite them, especially in its sports/track day mode.
The eight-speed auto gearbox is perfect for this supercharged power supply with 450Nm (332lb ft) of torque from 3,500rpm. The close ratio gearchanges slide quickly and seamlessly as you accelerate. Beware sudden foot-to-the metal prods of the accelerator because the rear wheels will spin easily on damp roads and too much cornering speed under acceleration will cause the rear end to go into a drift because this version lacks the control that would be given by a limited slip differential. Even when in docile cruising mode the rear end fidgets around and the front wheels tend to follow the ridges in the tram-lined road surfaces. The ride is firm and the faster your drive on A/B roads the harsher it becomes, hence my suggestion that owners take the supportive sports seats and sticks with the standard 18-inch wheels.
The toggle switch which alters the performance settings from normal to sport/track day also has a snow setting which reduces the aggressive power delivery. The F-Type can be a cut-and-thrust racer but the 340hp version can also be docile when needed as it coped effortlessly without tantrums commuting in stop/start traffic. It did however impress me more as a long-legged cruiser on motorways despite the tyre noise intrusion.
Officially the 3.0-litre V6 340hp model I tested will return 31.4mpg in the Combined Cycle. My road test average for a week of fast A/B road work, some commuting and some motorway mileage came in at 29.2mpg, so quite close to the official figure. The CO2 emissions of 209g/km mean a VED road tax cost of £620 for the First Year rate and then £280 for year two onwards. Company car user-chooser executives will pay 33% in Benefit-in-Kind tax and insurance is the maximum group 50 rating for all versions.
Overall the long awaited F-Type is good, but is it good enough to worry Porsche owners - initial sales say it is. Once the pent-up demand for a long awaited Jaguar sports car has been met will it stand the test of time, will it be an icon like the E-Type? Not in my books.
MILESTONES. Jaguar F-Type Roadster 2-Door 3.0 V6 340hp. Price: £58,520 (£70,260 as tested). Engine/transmission: 3.0-litre V6, supercharged petrol, 340hp, 332lb ft from 3,500rpm, 8-speed Quickshift automatic, rear wheel drive. Performance: 161mph, 0-62mph 5.1 seconds, 31.4mpg Combined Cycle ( 29.2mpg on test), CO2 209g/km, VED road tax £620 First Year rate then £280 year two onwards, BIK company car tax 33%. Insurance group: 50. Warranty: 3-years/unlimited mileage. For: A long awaited follow-up to the iconic E-Type, good straight-line performance, slick fast acting new automatic transmission, good fuel economy, S versions handle better and offer more driving fun, neat folding fabric roof. Against: Firm and fidgety ride, indifferent handling and traction without the limited slip differential, some cheap areas of trim and controls, small boot, very small rear window, pricey options. Miles Better News Agency