For two decades we’ve been hearing about ‘Jaguar’s new E-type’; finally, here we are, ready to ride in the much talked about Jaguar F-type alongside the firm’s chassis guru Mike Cross.
Jaguar has brought a V6S prototype, the 375bhp supercharged 3.0-litre version that puts its distinctly healthy 339lb ft of torque through the eight-speed ‘Quickshift’ auto with paddles that Jaguar has developed with ZF, the ideal transmission for a car of this size, weight and potential.
The F-type door opens conveniently wide, but because this is a convertible you have to lift your right foot a little higher than usual over the bulky, strength-giving aluminium sill as you get in. The footwell is long and deep, and your hip point is just about level with the top of the sill, which means that you sit snug and low in the car. The main bulk of the fascia curves extravagantly away from you to the base of the screen.
There’s a large central binnacle, containing two air vents, that powers out of the top of the dashboard to provide extra heating or cooling when needed. Below that is a prominent touchscreen; lower down sit a row of three circular switches to control the climate, and below those a smart-looking row of modern-design toggle switches. The main driver’s instruments are a pair of big digital dials located under a glare-proof eyebrow. It’s all neat and leaves a pervading aura of quality, but there are no real surprises.
You sit low and the fascia is quite high, but you still plainly see the power bulge that runs down the central bonnet, and there’s a satisfying view of a muscular front wing to either side. The screen pillars are as thick as in any modern car, but their extreme rake and considerable distance from you means that they don’t intrude. The passenger experience is made better by the presence on the left of the high central console of a ‘holy cow' handle, which gives the passenger area a snug, tub-like feel.
There’s a handsome gearstick in the centre of the console, which selects your direction of travel and can be used as a rocking gear selector, but the reality is that you only use it to get off the mark. The steering column paddles best control the gearbox’s action and – given the power and torque – the car is lively in any of its modes.
Jaguar’s figures give the V6S a 0-60mph sprint time of 4.8sec and a 171mph top speed (with a CO2 output of 213g/km and a combined fuel economy of 31mpg thrown in) and nothing about my day with Cross induced me to disagree.
This V6 has a higher specific power than previous Jaguar engines, and a ‘modern’ engine note to go with it. It’s mechanically quiet, not least because there’s a big, sound-absorbing noise protector right across the top of the engine bay, but the exhaust has a prominent, surprisingly edgy rasp that curls up to your ears over the rear deck.