Will the Jaguar F-Type attract a new audience to the brand?
The Jaguar F-Type is the most important car the British brand has built for nearly 50 years. It’s the car that will define Jaguar in the years to come and either prove the brand’s ability to attract a new, younger audience, or forever cement its fate as the conservative choice of a passing generation.
The Jaguar F-Type is simply stunning, no matter what angle or colour. It has already won awards for its looks and the man behind it all, Ian Callum, is a superstar as far as car designers go.
Where the Germans have led for decades on technology and efficiency, the British have conveyed their automotive soul through design. Folks like Ian Callum and Marek Reichman (from Aston Martin) have arguably kept the British in the automotive game through design alone.
Thankfully though, the Jaguar F-Type has a lot more to offer than just good looks. It’s the first two-seater sports car Jaguar has built since the iconic E-Type and while many brands have failed to reinvent an icon, the F-Type is almost everything we’d hoped it would be.
With Jaguar having unveiled the car in Europe last year, the wait and build up for its Australian arrival has been huge. The F-Type’s biggest market is North America, where 48 percent of the volume is expected to go, the UK takes 23 percent, Germany 12 percent and Australia fits into the “rest of the world” category at 17 percent. This is the main reason the roadster has taken so long to get here.
Alas, it’s here now and we found ourselves in the heart of Sydney to begin our Jaguar F-Type review. Jaguar Australia is bringing three variants of the F-Type to local showrooms. These include a base model V6, which is eloquently referred to as the ‘foundation’ model, a more powerful V6S and the almighty V8S – all coupled to ZF's eight-speed automatic transmission.
Before we get into the actual review, it’s important to understand how the range sits in terms of pricing and equipment level.
For $138,645 you’ll get a beautiful two-seater open-top Jaguar with a supercharged 3.0-litre V6 that delivers 250kW of power and 450Nm of torque, which will see you hit 100km/h from a standstill in 5.3 seconds. Without any options you’ll get sports suspension, exhaust, open differential, 18-inch alloy wheels, sports seats with leather and suede cover and a 3-spoke leather steering wheel with plastic paddle shifters.
Then comes the options list, which is rather exhaustive at more than 30 items, some of which you’d expect as standard from a luxury brand such as Jaguar. Heated seats? $1100. Dual-zone climate control? $980. Rain sensing wipers? $510. Stainless steel pedals? $590. Front parking sensors? $1,200. The list goes on.
By the time you tick a few of the options, you may start to think that it might actually make sense to add another $32,400 to the price tag and go for the Jaguar F-Type V6S. This variant uses the same engine but with an extra 30kW of power (280kW) and 10Nm of torque, consequently cutting 0.4 seconds from the 0-100km/h acceleration time.
The benefits of the S are not just a performance bump, but also a proper limited slip differential, active sports exhaust, bigger brakes with red callipers and 19-inch wheels. Though, surprisingly, all the options listed above still apply to the S.
The active sports exhaust is a must (can be optioned on the base model for $5,200) as it opens up the baffles and brings a symphony-orchestra of sound to the F-Type. It’s primarily designed to make the whole driving experience provoke a theatre-like emotion, with crackles on up and down shifts and an exhaust sound that is supercar-like at worst.
In a true German-like notion, Jaguar has decided to charge an additional $260 to have the button to operate the active sports exhaust. So while you may get the active sports exhaust as standard, the button to manually control it is an option!
The range topping Jaguar F-Type V8S is priced from $201,945. That gets you a supercharged 5.0-litre V8 with 364kW of power and 625Nm of torque. All of which leads to a 0-100km/h time of 4.3 seconds. Additional equipment includes bigger brakes still, 20-inch wheels, an electronic differential, sports seats, quad exhaust pipes and a few other exterior and interior updates.
We started our drive in the base model F-Type V6 heading out of Sydney CBD towards Kulnura, making sure we go through as many tunnels as possible, just for the aural pleasure. The two-seater roadster takes 12 seconds to deploy its roof and can do so at speeds of up to 50km/h.
With the roof down and the weather perfect, we set out to escape Sydney traffic for our drive towards the central coast of NSW. The standard V6 is by all means quick enough for everything you’re ever likely to do. It’s well coupled to the eight-speed ZF gearbox and accelerates with ease.
The steering, which is a hydraulic system unlike that of the electric systems found in modern Porsches, is highly-sensitive at speed but tends to relax as you slow down. It’s dead-accurate but lacks that sense of man-and-machine communication you get from the Germans.
Ride quality over Sydney’s major roads is superb. The F-Type absorbs bumps without any hassle. In some ways, when driven in inner-city, it’s actually more comfortable than some family cars. Yet, as we drove out to the coast, the road quality deteriorated and the ride quality went with it.
Over poorly surfaced roads the F-Type’s suspension doesn’t handle the corners well, skipping and bouncing over sections of bitumen. A stark contrast to the Porsche Cayman/Boxster, which seem almost at home on any road.
Next in line was the Jaguar F-Type V8S, which with a few options ticked can easily start to approach the quarter of a million dollar mark. This puts in competition with the Porsche 911, Audi R8 and Aston Martin Vantage – a truly superb trio that are difficult to fault.
Behind the wheel the V8S is sensational at nearly any speed. With the active sports exhaust on, the sound is almost Ferrari-like (though not as high-pitched) with crackles and fireworks a standard process.
Acceleration in the V8 is brutal, instant and seamlessly never ending. The additional weight over the front-end is felt through the corners but the enormous grip on offer tends to lessen any problems. With traction control half-off, the rear end will easily come unstuck if need-be, but one should only dare such a feat on a racetrack or private road, with smooth surfaces, as the V8S will bite.
Jaguar kept its best till last, the F-Type V6S is the perfect compromise between power and weight for the F-Type. Around a 5km winding private road we tried to push the V6S to its limit but found own our first, such is the grip and drivability of the beast.
Although it’s not as meaty as the V8, the exhaust note is still very much a proper sports car. In reality the 0.6 seconds difference in the 0-100km/h time is unnoticeable between the V8S and V6S and for everyday driving, the mid-spec V6 is the best of both worlds.
Engines aside, all three variants suffer from the same issue, the automatic transmission. Although it has eight forward ratios, which are very well tuned to their respective engine requirements, it’s not a sports car transmission in the modern sense. While the Porsche Cayman/Boxster/911 use a dual-clutch transmission that instantly changes gears in either direction, the F-Type struggles on the way down.
One would expect a bliss rev-matched downshift on approach to a corner, instead the F-Type presents a slow and cumbersome change process. But it’s not just the down shifts that are affected, in numerous occasions the gearbox refused to allow an upshift at redline in our V8S test car, choosing to remain in the lower gear and bouncing of the limiter instead.
One would do well to simply leave it in “S” mode and let the transmission do its own thing, but nonetheless, it’s certainly a weak spot for the F-Type.
Moving inside, the interior is a work of art. The high quality materials and overall feel of the cabin is first class. The base model seats can be a tad more supportive but the high end seats are far better. There’s a shortage of cabin space for simple things like phones, wallets and jackets, but it’s a worthwhile compromise for having a sporty and eloquent roadster. The infotainment system with sat-nav is painfully slow, as with all Jaguar Land Rover vehicles.
Overall the Jaguar F-Type is the sort of car you’d buy just on its looks alone, and you should. It’s likely to the turn heads wherever it goes, which in itself is a differentiating factor to its German rivals. The package is a brilliant blend of style and sophistication with a high quality interior and modern engines to boot. It’s brought down by its exhaustive options list, cumbersome transmission and ride quality over poorly surfaced roads.