The F-Type has arrived with a real fanfare. With its classic two-seat roadster layout, head-turning looks and engaging driving experience, the new Jaguar has dominated the headlines for the past few months. But this is the first time we’ve put the range-topping V8S to the test.
At a glance, the most expensive F-Type appears identical to lesser versions, so you get the same long bonnet, bulging rear arches and subtle nods to the legendary E-Type. Look more closely, though, and you’ll spot the V8’s unique quad-exit exhausts and 20-inch Turbine alloys, plus the bold red calipers of its upgraded Performance Braking System.
Inside, you’ll find that the layout has been carried over unchanged from the V6 models. This means you get the same ground-hugging driving position, wraparound dashboard and simple layout. And while it can’t quite match the Porsche for top-notch materials and build quality, the Jag’s cabin is packed with eye-catching features, such as air vents that rise out of the top of the dashboard and a large grab handle incorporated into the centre console.
There’s also loads of standard kit, including leather-trimmed seats, climate control and sat-nav – although the touchscreen system looks a little dated and is fiddly to use. But Jaguar has learned a few tricks from Porsche and a number of must-have items have found their way on to the options list, such as the £215 wind deflector and £350 heated seats.
More disappointing is the poor practicality. On paper, the 196-litre boot is 61 litres bigger than the 911’s, but the shallow and awkwardly shaped layout makes it far less usable.
Still, all thoughts of practicality will be banished the moment you lower the fabric hood – an operation that takes only 13.9 seconds. This leaves you much better placed to enjoy the F-Type’s brilliant 5.0-litre V8, which erupts into life with a purposeful bark.
Once the revs rise, baffles in the supercharged engine’s exhaust open to deliver an intoxicating, rumbling NASCAR growl, while lifting off the throttle results in a symphony of crackles, pops and bangs. Go for the £350 exhaust override switch, and you can access the F-Type’s bellowing soundtrack at any revs and any speed.
As you’d expect, the 488bhp Jag has a bite to match its bark, blasting from 0-60mph in only 4.4 seconds. Yet with a muscular 625Nm of torque available at a mere 2,500rpm, it’s the electrifying mid-range acceleration that really makes its mark and allows you to overtake slower traffic in the blink of an eye. Adding to the effortless feel is the eight-speed transmission, which serves up crisp gearchanges via the steering wheel-mounted paddles or silky-smooth shifts in auto mode.
Head down a twisty back road and the quick steering and compact dimensions inspire confidence. And while the F-Type doesn’t have the rock-solid body control or outright grip of the Porsche, it’s still lots of fun to drive.
Its classic rear-wheel-drive layout and huge power output mean you can adjust the line through a corner using a combination of steering and throttle – although in anything other than bone-dry conditions, the traction control will be working overtime to keep the car’s wayward tail in check. Engage Dynamic mode and the F-Type’s throttle, steering and suspension deliver even sharper responses.
Yet when you want to take it easy, the blend of easily accessible performance and surprisingly supple ride makes the Jaguar a comfortable long-distance tourer. And while the fabric hood isn’t as well insulated as the 911’s, it keeps out the worst wind noise and helps give the cabin a snug feel.
The running costs are a concern, though. With 259g/km emissions and 18.6mpg test economy, the F-Type won’t be cheap to own. However, a price of £79,985 means the V8S undercuts the Porsche by nearly £15,000, which goes a long way to offsetting the fuel and tax bills. It also puts the Jag in pole position here.