Jaguar F-Type on the road

3 Feb, 2013 (All day) Jack Rix

We get an exclusive ride in the stunning new Jaguar F-Type, ahead of its arrival in showrooms in April

Verdict

The F-Type has been designed to form a bond with the driver, so we can’t deliver a verdict from the passenger seat. But if the point of a sports car is to deliver excitement at every opportunity, it’s on the right track. From the rabid acceleration to the tight body control, it’s every bit as thrilling as we were hoping for. From where we were sitting, the F-Type combines elegance and agility like nothing else on the road.

“Roof up or roof down?” asks Mike Cross, Jaguar’s chief test engineer, as we peer out at the icy-cold January weather. “Down. Definitely down,” we reply, and prepare our ears for the onslaught.

Twelve seconds later, roof stowed, we pull out of the lay-by and Cross wastes no time in showing us what he’s been working on. Throttle pinned, the F-Type explodes up the road, leaving a crisp metallic bark behind us punctuated with pops on every upshift and blips on every downshift. Arriving at the first corner, he tucks the nose in neatly and drifts the car at a perfect 45 degree angle to our direction of travel. Suddenly we understand why there’s a grab handle sticking out from the centre console.

We’re not here to get behind the wheel of the F-Type – that comes in April – but to be driven by the test team responsible for its development. And we’re on the exact Welsh B-roads where its handling and performance have been fine-tuned. Passenger rides can often be a frustrating, but when the car is the most important new Jaguar since the 1961 E-Type, it’s an opportunity not to be missed.

“We’ve done more work on-track developing the F-Type, at places such as Rockingham and the Nurburgring, than any other model,” Cross reveals. “But these roads are its home. If it works here, it will work anywhere.”

We can see what he means. Inconsistent surfaces, narrow sections, blind crests and high hedges are only some of the obstacles the F-Type has to tackle, but not once does it feel out of place. It’s a mere 1.1cm broader than the Porsche 911 Cabriolet (a car Jaguar used as a benchmark despite the F-Type costing £21,447 less) but it never feels unnecessarily wide – even with lorries steaming past in the other direction.

We’re sitting 20mm lower than in the XKR-S, so the sensation is more like skimming the surface than riding above it. More obvious is how much tighter the body control is than with the bigger XK. The F-Type uses a development of that car’s aluminium chassis – stiffened, 130mm removed from the wheelbase, plus shorter overhangs help to concentrate the mass between the wheels. Front-to-back weight distribution is a near-perfect 50:50 in the V6.

Over crests and dips we can feel the car moving vertically on its suspension (both the V6 S and V8 S get adaptive dampers, while the base V6 has fixed-rate springs). However, it refuses to nose-dive, even when hard on the brakes, while body roll is not an issue. The price to pay is a bumpy ride as we cruise through villages, but the harder the car is driven, the more fluid it feels.

The test team’s consensus is that the V6, offered with 335bhp, or 375bhp in the S, is for the more accomplished driver, while the 488bhp V8 S is for those who prefer their fun in straight lines. “We tried to set up both to feel as similar as possible, but personally I prefer the V6 – it just feels nicely balanced,” Cross reveals. After riding in both, we’d have to agree.

The main differences are clear within the first few miles. The way the V8 punches out of corners, or in any gear at any time, squeezes the air from our lungs. Meanwhile, the V6 S builds speed less immediately, with a crescendo as you reach high revs. But with less weight in the nose (the V8 weighs 54kg more), the V6 tucks into corners a little quicker.

You can tell the models apart from their exhaust notes, too: the V8 emits a deep rumble overlaid with fluttering valves, while the V6 makes a metallic blare with crackles on the overrun. An active exhaust, which opens a set of valves above 3,000rpm (or permanently if you push a button), is standard on both S versions.

A Dynamic mode sharpens throttle response, adds steering weight, firms up the suspension and speeds up shifts on the remarkable new eight-speed box. Prefer a sharper throttle response but not added steering weight or harder dampers? Each parameter is individually configurable, too.

Some may argue that Jaguar should have used a twin-clutch gearbox, but we’d disagree. This ZF-developed transmission offers the best of both worlds, with seamless low-speed changes and barely any interruption in the torque on upshifts. Jaguar has even engineered in a little kick from the transmission on full-throttle upshifts in Dynamic mode, to make it feel more alive.

Frustratingly, Cross’s favourite part of the car is something we can’t try at this stage. “I’m most proud of the steering,” he tells us. “With a sports car it’s the most important element, and I’m confident we’ve got it just right.”

Unlike the new 911, which uses an electric system, the F-Type sticks with a proven hydraulic set-up. It has the quickest ratio of any Jaguar road car to date. “As you turn the wheel the ratio gets even quicker,” Cross explains. “My job is to make you are unaware of that change, so it feels entirely linear and natural.”

While our evaluation of the steering will have to wait a few months, there’s plenty to admire from the passenger seat. You often hear makers describe cabins as “driver focused” or “cockpit-like”, but the F-Type bring new meaning to both phrases. While the passenger is presented with a bare dashboard, glovebox and two grab handles, the driver has an array of buttons and switches at their disposal.

The joystick-like gear selector and rocker switch to select Dynamic are based on a fighter-jet theme, while all the knobs and dials work with a satisfying mechanical click and feel high-quality to the touch. And this is a pre-production prototype, don’t forget, so things are likely to further improve. Those who like the drama of the XF, XJ and XK’s rising dial won’t be disappointed, either – when the car senses it’s too cold or too warm, two vents appear almost magically from the top of the dash.

As for the styling, you’ve probably already formed your own opinions – but just wait until you watch an F-Type drive past. It’s not an especially radical design, but it’s one that’s impossibly elegant from just about all angles.

Key specs

3.0 V6 3.0 V6 S 5.0 V8 S
Price £58,500 £67,500 £79,950
Engine 3.0-litre V6 s/c 3.0-litre V6 s/c 5.0-litre V8 s/c
Power 335bhp 375bhp 488bhp
0-62mph 5.3 seconds 4.9 seconds 4.3 seconds
CO2 209g/km 213g/km 259g/km
On sale 19-Apr 19-Apr 19-Apr

Disqus - noscript

I like Jack Rix having a exclusive drive in the stunning new Jaguar F-Type

Have to be honest and say I cannot understand any of the Styling DNA inside or out. You could have stuck an Infiniti or Lexus badge on this and I would be none the wiser. On it's own it doesn't look especially 'special' as a Jaguar I feel it looks rather derivative, just not derivative of any Jaguar I can recall - new style or old?

60-80k? looks like it will lose 10k coming off the forecourt, the fast (depreciating) jags are well and truly back.

I want the F Type to work but it looks awfully expensive beside a Boxster S - a fabulously well-developed and complete car which seems to do pretty much everything the F Type aspires to, for a lot less cash

They've put the up and down shifts the correct way around on the gear stick!! And there was me thinking it had become the accepted standard to get them wrong.

There's a video on autocar and the V6 sounds very sporting. V6's can sound a bit bland, for example my Merc. My guess: six month waiting list for V6, immediate delivery for the V8.

They should have kept the body presses for the original E Type, damn sight better than this mundane looking thing. The original had style, presence and appeal, this has none of those..

It might be called a Jaguar....pity it doesnt look like one! With the exception of a tiny Growler badge on the grille, every famous design element and hallmark of a Jaguar have been exorcised, in the name of what?? A designer's ego trip?

There's nothing like a ride just a ride, I was quite surprised how quickly the test driver took the Jag through the hilly ascent, but no doubt I will be looking forward to your efforts now that you have had a ride in it

Mit be the follow on to the E Type but it is not its true successor! My beloved E Type is still way out ahead and way in front of the pack from Stuttgart and Modena etc - even in 2013!

I am not completely convinced on either the 8 speed automatic transmission or the hydraulic power steering!

Would have thought that a twin clutch 6 Speed manual would have been better and more driver satisfying coupled to a really modern electronic power steering and - yes - an electronic compressor for the air condition etc!

Back to the drawing board? Its OK for Brompton Road/Sloan Square, Rodeo Drive and Champs Elysee cruisers I suppose but..........?

KIA New Sportage GRDI

I second basically what Nuffield says!

The superbly styled E Type is and will always be an extremely hard act to follow on successfully!

Nice try!

I think you guys should take a closer look when the car is out for real instead of relying on just the pics, although personally I think it looks brill. I saw a disguised test car last week and it's awesome. E-Type is an iconic car but the design wouldn't work now, the F-Type puts Jaguar in the 21st century and will be huge success.

So much negativity... It looks utterly fantastic and will most likely look even better in the metal. How anyone can say its mundane and boring is beyond me. Then again I'm sure you are the kind of people who think the new Golf or latest BMW to fill a useless niche is beautifully styled and revolutionary.

Sure you could have a Porsche Boxster or you could have this British designed and built Jag. I know where my money would go and it wouldn't be to the Germans.

So much hate toward the british and our beautifull Jag...Not too sure about the vents popping up magically out of the dash I would rather see as well a Jaguar leaper popping up from the bonnet when the engine starts... and that KERS system developed with Williams fitted to all models!

It's a real nice looking car Jag can be proud of it!

I am a Jag fan but I agree with some comments. Comparing the F Type to a new Boxster puts the Boxster streets ahead. Cheaper, same performance and depreciation puts the Boxster ahead by miles. You've overpriced this one Jag.

Car looks great. Go buy a Nissan GTR instead, you'll have much more fun, both you and the kids, or you and the Bird, whichever.

A boxter owner is just someone who can't afford a 911. Would you really want to be tarred with that brush?!

There is NEVER any circumstance where LESS power is preferable! V8 all the way!

I would buy this any day over the Germans. What Jag can do is engineer a car plus the bonus is their cars put a smile back on your face and you don't needs bags of gadgets or technology to do that just the thrill and excitement of seeing and driving a Jag. Germans do engineering only and nothing else so their cars look and feel...well....just German and that's the best they can do. They can't do luxury like the Brits and Italians, I've seen the interiors and no... their just plain German - good build but no style or thought. Jag are now a breath of fresh air in a car market once dominated by the 3 Germans marques. While the Germans cars seem to have lost their core brand heritage by following the likes of the Koreans with creases and boring looking cars, Jag are coming out with cars that no doubt follow on from the past but with a modern twist and so far it's looking really good. Anyone who says this looks bland and boring, don't forget the likes of an E-type cannot be revived now thanks to the EU and in front of the bland German cars this is a brilliant piece of design and engineering so well done Jaguar!

Lukazo, I agree with your comments, some people seem to enjoy criticizing instead of feeling proud that Jaguar keeps on climbing up and has brought another highly attractive model to the market. It looks stunning and all tests I have red so far are unanimous to give a high rating to this car. It is stunning and it has so much appeal an character. I am glad to see that there is now a serious alternative to a Boxster, which certainly is another great car.

What a fabulous looking car (although I think the vents on the dash look like an awful after thought). It's a shame the starting price is so high. Hopefully I'll be lucky enough to own a 2 - 3 year old 2 seater sports car one day, and I have my heart set on a Boxster... but not before I've test driven this!

An American engine in a Indian owned Jaguar built in Britain by an assortment of nationalities . All that matters is Jaguar will always be British and always be associated with the country even if Mr Tata says its his.

AEX 1334
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