Jaguar F-Type review
The Jaguar F-Type is one of the world's best sports cars; extremely desirable and thrilling to drive
The Jaguar F-Type Roadster is the spiritual successor to the famous Jaguar E-Type of the sixties. It comes with a choice of supercharged V6 and V8 engines, as well as dynamic styling and a luxurious, driver-focused cabin. Buyers looking for a new Jaguar coupe will have to wait until summer 2014, when the hard-top F-Type Coupe arrives, but for now the roadster is a very desirable choice. The entry-level F-Type V6 produces 335bhp, while the F-Type S model ups this to 375bhp. At the top of the range is the F-Typer V8 S, with a massive 488bhp and 625Nm of torque. Both S models feature adaptive dampers for improved handling, plus an active exhaust that produces a spectacular engine note. Whichever model you choose, you're guaranteed an exhilarating driving experience that rivals the Porsche 911 Convertible, Porsche Boxster and Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster. The entry-level F-Type is more expensive than the sporty Porsche Boxster S, however - so it's the higher-spec F-Types that actually offer the best value for money.
Our choice: F-Type S
The F-Type looks dramatic enough to make it a worthy modern incarnation of the show-stopping Jaguar E-Type. The short tail and slim rear lights hint at its predecessor, but at the same time its lines are finely detailed and completely modern. The car also looks perfectly in proportion from almost any angle. Desirability is almost as important as performance and handling in this class, and the F-Type has both in spades. Size-wise, the F-Type sits somewhere between the compact Porsche Boxster and larger Porsche 911. The soft-top is particularly elegant: it boasts tight lines that work perfectly with the body design, and folds down in just 12 seconds. The F-Type V6 and V6 S have alloy wheels and a neat twin-exit central exhaust, while the V8 S looks even bolder, thanks to its larger wheels and four-exit exhaust. Inside, the switchgear is of universally high quality, while the entire dashboard is angled towards the driver, creating a cocooning, cockpit-like feel. All version get leather trim as standard, but Jaguar has taken a leaf out of the Porsche book by putting many of the most desirable features on the options list. Comfort items such as heated seats and a wind deflector will both cost you extra.
No matter what version of the F-Type you choose the buy, you'll be rewarded with a superb driving experience. Impressively, there's very little twisting or vibration for a convertible, and body control in corners is excellent. Quick and precise steering plus strong grip enhance things further, along with 50:50 weight distribution and rear-wheel drive. It all ads up to an extremely involving and agile car. All F-Types allow the driver to select Dynamic Mode, which sharpens throttle response, increases steering weight and changes the smooth eight-speed automatic transmission's shift pattern. The two S models add adaptive dampers for even better grip and response. The overall effect is still not quite as poised as what you'll get from a Porsche Boxster, but the F-Type is an amazing car to drive nonetheless. It goes without saying that all models are properly fast - but the V6 S and V8 S add the drama of a crackling active exhaust system to this. We think the V6 S is the pick of the line-up for keen drivers: it's almost as fast as the V8 S on typical UK roads, yet it handles just a little better thanks to its lighter, more compact engine.
The F-Type is a brand-new car, so there's limited ownership experience to draw on, but reliability should be strong all the same. Jaguar has amassed huge experience building aluminium chassis, and both the V6 and V8 engines incorporate elements from the company's other models. As the F-Type only seats two people, there's room for a pair of fixed rollover hoops, and it's the most rigid open-top car Jaguar has ever made. Two-stage stability control is standard across the range, ensuring even inexperienced drivers won't be caught out by the powerful F-Type in adverse conditions. The V6 S adds a mechanical limited-slip differential (LSD) for even better grip, and the V8 S goes one better with an advanced electronically controlled diff. Stopping power isn't a problem either: the V8 S boasts the largest brake discs ever fitted to a production Jaguar. As with luxury items, though, some of the advanced active safety kit on the F-Type is optional: this includes the blind-spot warning system and reversing camera.
Sports car buyers tend not to prioritise practicality, but the ability to carry a useful amount of luggage is still welcome. For this reason, only the lightest of travellers will be happy with the F-Type's tiny 196-litre boot - and anyone who wants to carry golf clubs will be disappointed, too. And while lowering the hood doesn't impinge on boot capacity, if you specify the optional space-save spare wheel, this already limited space shrinks to almost nothing. This is another area where the Porsche Boxster holds an advantage over the F-Type. But while luggage space is below par, the driver and passenger should be comfortable, if a little cosy - especially when the roof is raised. That can be done at speeds of up to 30mph, so you don't have to come to a complete stop should it start raining suddenly. Again, useful additions such as a lockable storage box come at an extra cost.
Fuel economy is unlikely to be a big concern for those lucky enough to afford a Jaguar F-Type. Nonetheless, a stop-start system is standard on every model, keeping CO2 emissions down to a relatively reasonable 209g/km. This is very impressive for such a high-performance sports car. Jaguar cars traditionally suffer from heavy depreciation, but experts predict the F-Type will buck this trend, with residual values of over 50 percent after three years. Jaguar has also been performing very well in recent customer satisfaction surveys: it finished third in our 2013 Driver Power survey. Servicing costs are a worry, though - unlike some rival brands, Jaguar doesn't over good-value pre-paid servicing packs, so maintenance costs will be a factor as the car gets older.