What is it?
This is the new Jaguar F-type sports car, here in its mid-range V6 S flavour. It’s the launch of the year, this, the sportiest Jaguar since the XJ220. And the F really is a sports car, they’ve told me, at some length. It ain’t like any other Jaguar, they say. You’ll notice “within 50 metres, not 50 kilometres,” says Ian Hoban, the F-type’s line manager.
What makes it so different to a ‘normal’ Jaguar, then? The F-type, like the XK, is built from aluminium alloys and both are front-engined, rear-driven roadsters with two seats (excusing the XK's token rears). But the F-type’s shell is 30 per cent stiffer, torsionally, than an XK’s. It’s shorter by a foot, wider by a thumb-width and lower by 120mm as its driver sits.
Among its rivals Jaguar counts not the Mercedes-Benz SL, but the Porsche 911 cabriolet, Audi R8 Spyder and Aston Martin V8 Vantage roadster. Only, Jaguar says, the F is about 25 per cent cheaper than those. It has a graph to prove it. A graph on which Porsche’s Boxster, mind you, is notable by its absence at a lower price still, but that’s a question for another time.
It looks like Jaguar has indeed identified a little gap between the Boxster and 911 where you wouldn’t have believed one existed. No F-type variant epitomises that identity more than our test car: a mid-table, 3.0-litre supercharged F-type V6 S, which brings with it 375bhp and 339lb ft.
Like all F-types, the V6 S’s motor is longitudinally mounted under the front and mated to an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. Not a dual-clutch unit, mind, but a traditional auto, albeit one with a torque converter that locks up so early that it spends all its time above crawl speeds directly linked to the rear wheels, slush free.
What is unlike other F-types is that the V6 S gets a conventional mechanical limited slip differential. The base V6 does without a locking diff, while the Jaguar F-type V8 S has an electronic locking one. The 15kg weight penalty the V8’s ‘e-diff’ brings would spoil what Jaguar claims is the V6 S's 50 per cent front, 50 per cent rear weight distribution. It also claims 0-60mph in 4.8sec and a top speed of 171mph for this version, which sounds plenty quick enough to me. The price is £67,500, which sounds plenty too.
All in all, though, it’s a reassuringly heady, old-school, burly mechanical set-up whose promise is further enhanced by double wishbones all round and hydraulic, rather than electric, assistance for the power steering, and to hell with the economy and emissions (which, for the record, are claimed at 31.0mpg combined and 213g/km for the V6 S).
The last time Jaguar launched a car like this, though, its steering was of course unassisted. Think E-type, or perhaps Austin Healey, Triumph TR6 – maybe even TVR. That’s the kind of vibe that the F-type emanates.
Except, of course, that it combines all that with a touch of 21st century luxury. This is a well appointed and well trimmed car, with an interesting cabin and some pleasing materials and neat touches.
I could live without the rising centre air vents (they only pop out when there’s more serious cooling or heating to be done) if it meant I could have a higher quality feel to the gearshift paddles on the steering wheel, but generally, you have to admit, it’s a pretty well finished cockpit. It’s not that sensible, though; Jaguar even calls the F-type a 1+1 because of the way the cockpit’s feel is divided into two, with the driver getting the more ‘technical’ surfaces.
The truth is that if you wanted to carry anything more than a couple of squashy bags, you’d end up using the passenger space, too. This isn’t a terribly practical car. It might be cheaper than a 911, but the Porsche has +2 rear seats, and their benefit isn’t negligible.