The Jaguar F-type feels suitably sportif. The driving position is straight and low, with pedals set up so that left or right-foot braking are both easy. The steering wheel is widely adjustable (although I wouldn’t mind it coming closer to the driver), and, with the equipment fitted to our test car, has a heated leather rim. I quite like that.
It’s only around 10deg C in northern Spain as we continue on some terrific roads and the F-type, roof down, is a touch blustery. Not unacceptably, but definitely it’s more sports car in here than tousle-free grand tourer.
Still, so far I’ve discovered the ride is pretty good, or at least it is as far as I can tell on these roads, which lack the harshness and brittleness of some of Wales’s worst, but that’s to be expected. They’re smooth enough that you can use the F-type’s Dynamic mode all the time, which brings firmer calibration to the dampers to tighten body control, as well as adding weight to the steering and sharpening the throttle and gearbox response.
And it’s that steering which was the first indication that this Jaguar is something different. And yes, something special.
It’s true: I noticed it within 50 metres (50cm, probably). The steering retains the oiliness and slickness that’s traditional with a Jaguar rack, but it has the fastest ratio ever fitted to a Jaguar. At 2.5 turns lock-to-lock it isn’t hyperactive, but it gives the 1614kg roadster a sense of immediacy and purpose.
It is different to other Jaguars, and in no bad way. The underlying DNA is still there, it seems, in that loping ride and the smoothness of the gearbox, but it has been stretched outwards. From today, a Jaguar can stand for something different.
Nothing displays that quite like the V6 S’s engine, I think. There are some terrific roads around here. Quiet, wide, hilly. The sort of place you can accelerate for a few seconds between hairpins before backing off again.
The V6 isn’t the smoothest motor on the block – it revs to around 7000 and makes its peak output at 6500rpm – but I haven’t run into the limiter by mistake, nor am I likely to. Because it’s supercharged the response is true and immediate, but if you’re looking for a sonourous, high-revving unit, a Porsche is the place. There’s character enough at lower revs, though. With the S’s active exhaust bypass valves in their angry position, there are some real fireworks on the overrun.
So far, then, so impressive. So why my hesitancy about this car?
One: it’s no more practical than a Boxster but looks, at its base price, quite a lot lumpier.
Two: it rides, it glides. It’s an excellent motorway companion, in fact, running beautifully straight and secure at speed. But sometimes, on twistier roads, I think I fear the body control is a little loose. This is a heavier car than some of those around it and there’s a touch of slack in the body movements over crests, but it’s not unacceptable. It’s predictable, slight, manageable.
Top-spec Mercedes SLKs and BMW Z4s? Forget ‘em. They don’t have anything like the capacity in their ride of this car.
The steering is incisive, and there’s a touch of road feel. It’s not loaded with it, but there’s enough. The brakes are a little over-servoed at the very top of their travel, but afterwards are very progressive.
And the balance is spot-on. On the way in there’s a touch of understeer, and on the way out there’s a touch of oversteer. Turning the stability control off is one prolonged poke of the switch away, and when provoked the F-type will provide yet more oversteer on demand.