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.