Long-term test review: Jaguar F-Type

Fifth report: It’s a family reunion to cherish as our F-Type meets some of its illustrious predecessors

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

Mileage: 13,220Fuel economy: 25.7mpg

Taking our F-Type to meet its illustrious ancestors for the first time felt a lot like a family reunion. Here were the cars that had shaped Jaguar’s past, helped to carve out its legendary reputation on road and track and paved the way for a model as beautiful and extreme as the F-Type. 

Just photographing OE63 OZB alongside pristine examples of the C-, D- and E-Type would have been enough of an occasion, but the day turned out to be a lot more special than that. 

We were invited to the 200-acre Fen End track in Warwickshire to help cut the ribbon on Jaguar’s new Heritage Driving Experience, and that meant not only drooling over examples of the brand’s most iconic models from the past, but getting the chance to put them through their paces out on the circuit. 

The brainchild of Jaguar Land Rover’s new Special Vehicle Operations division, the experience is open to members of the public, with various packages ranging from £95 (passenger rides and drives in models such as the XK150 and Mark II saloon) all the way to a £2,000 ‘Grace and Pace Experience’ – a full day driving Jaguar legends, including the C- and D-Type, plus various generations of the E-Type, alongside the F-Type. 

We were lucky enough to be treated to the full package, and kicked things off gently with a V12-engined E-Type that purred around the track, but felt better suited to long-distance travel than attacking corners. Far better was the six-cylinder 1961 Series 1 E-Type that crackled with pent-up energy and sharp responses – the F-Type’s DNA shone through. 

Surprise of the day was the 220bhp race-prepared Mark II saloon. The sound and sheer shove from its 3.8-litre engine had me begging Jag for another go. 

The real stars, though, were Jag’s two Le Mans-winning racers, and they couldn’t be more different. While the D-Type darted around like a mosquito and ripped down straights, the C-Type felt more substantial and required more patience to hustle around the bends. 

If you always wondered what driving a classic is all about, this is the perfect opportunity. If nothing else, manhandling these living, breathing antiques gives you an appreciation of how well engineered modern cars are; how cosseting they can be on long trips, pampering you with heated seats, a surround sound stereo and a cushioned ride, while sophisticated electronics, plus modern suspension, tyre and brake design mean that massive performance is easy to access even for novice drivers. 

And if there’s a car that demonstrates these qualities better than the F-Type, I’m yet to drive it.

Jaguar F-Type V6 S: fourth report

It’s a hard call, but our man makes his choice between rag-top and tin-top versions of Jag star in 

Mileage: 10,032 milesReal-world fuel economy: 21.2mpg

A quick straw poll via my Twitter account confirmed it: There’s more love for the Jaguar F-Type Coupe than there is for the Convertible. In fact, 75 per cent of replies when I posed the question said they’d prefer to own the fixed-roof F-Type over the rag-top. But why is it that opinion is so skewed? 

Having read all the glowing reports on the Coupe, but never driven one myself, I asked to borrow a V6-engined S like my roadster to see what the fuss was about. It would be silly to start anywhere else other than the styling, which is more distinct for each model than you might expect. According to @carwriternick, “the Coupe looks better, it’s as shallow as that, I’m afraid”, and he has a point. 

The way the Coupe’s roof flows into the pert rear end and accentuates those stocky wheelarches is a breathtaking piece of design. With its long bonnet and taut proportions, the coupé manages to look elegant and brimming with pent-up energy at the same time.

But before we hand over the design prize, it isn’t as clear-cut as it seems. I love the roadster’s low, rounded and flat rear deck that carries echoes of the E-Type in it, and infuses the rear view with a retro feel without being too heavy-handed.  

And you’re getting two looks for the price of one with the roadster, of course – drop the roof and you get to enjoy the curvaceous shoulder line, rippling over the wheelarches, while with the roof up it still has a stunning silhouette. A controversial one, this, but for me it has to be a narrow victory to the Convertible.

Having lived with the Convertible for eight months now, the lack of boot space has been my only real criticism, and is enough to rule it out completely for some. @83ste called the drop-top’s boot “ridiculous”, while @au_tom_otive said he’d go for the “coupe – because boot!” and it’s hard to argue with either. A maximum capacity of 315 litres in the Coupe versus 196 litres in the roadster might not sound like much, but it’s the difference between two sets of golf clubs and one, or suitcases versus soft weekend bags. 

One thing I would say is that with the roof down you can fit odd- shaped objects into the roadster (I’ve squeezed in huge picture frames and tall pot plants in recent weeks), but it’s too little, too late – the Coupe’s superior boot space clinches this one and levels it at 1-1.   

Finally there’s the way they drive, and having tried them both back-to-back on road and track, it’s the Convertible that snatches it. Although supremely alert and agile by any normal standards, the F-Type will never be quite as precise to drive as a Porsche Cayman or Boxster – which is why it has to be more about making the driver smile. 

OK, so the Coupe weighs 20kg less and has a fractionally stiffer chassis, but there’s very little to separate them when it comes to the way they cover ground. In terms of drama and enjoying yourself, though, dropping the roof in the roadster and hearing the exhaust crackle and detonate behind your head is a life-affirming experience.

Jaguar F-Type V6 S: report 3

We push our long-term Jaguar F-Type to the limit on thrilling skid pan

Mileage: 6,762 milesReal-world fuel economy: 21.1mpg

Our Jaguar F-Type has proven itself to be a consummate all-rounder, excelling on both long-haul journeys and B-road blasts, but it’s very much a sports car at heart. And like an itch that needs scratching, we couldn’t wait any longer to take it on a track and have some fun.

But here’s the problem: with Pirelli P Zero 295/30 R20 rear tyres for the F-Type costing around £380 each, and a full set of brake pads setting you back around £340 (£252 for the front set and £90 for the rear), smoking around a race track can be an expensive day out. Luckily Thruxton motorsport centre in Andover, Hampshire, has a solution.

The famous race circuit opened a new low-friction wet skid pan facility in January, which allows anyone to experience the basics of car control. And you can feel the thrill of oversteer at safe speeds, without tearing your tyres to shreds. While we waited for the built-in sprinklers to drench the concrete surface, Josh Tuersley, skid pan manager at Thruxton, gave us some pointers.

Our first decision was which driving mode to select. With grip levels similar to those on a frozen lake, throttle sensitivity was key to controlling the car. A snow and ice mode dampens throttle response, but the lag between extending our right foot and power arriving at the rear wheels was a hindrance. In the end we found Dynamic mode perfect, letting us tickle the throttle and keep the car drifting sideways. The way it turned the exhaust volume up to 11 was a bonus.

With so little purchase for the rear tyres, we were only travelling at low speeds, but even so, the F-Type’s natural balance and precise steering shone through. Also apparent were the benefits of the S’s mechanical limited-slip differential (the V8 S makes do with an electronic diff). It distributes drive between the two rear tyres, so they both spin up evenly and maintain smooth forward momentum.

If you fancy a go yourself, courses start from £99 – either driving your own car or behind the wheel of Thruxton’s own MINI Cooper or Toyota GT 86.

With the recent bout of warm weather the Convertible’s fabric roof has come into its own, especially as you can drop it at speeds of up to 30mph to make the most of any sunny spells, however brief. The fact that it has its own stowage area means you don’t have to empty the boot before folding it back.

As a keen golfer, I find the boot just fits my set of clubs, but it’s a squeeze and doesn’t leave any room if a friend wants to bring his clubs along, too. It’s got me thinking about the trade-off between the F-Type Convertible and the Coupe – one lets you enjoy the weather, while the other offers more than double the boot space. Given my hobby, I’m leaning towards the latter.

Our only niggle with the F-Type is the sat-nav – it’s overly optimistic or pessimistic about the journey time. Crawl through town on your way to the motorway and it assumes you’ll maintain that snail’s pace for the rest of the journey, skewing your predicted time of arrival. Roll on the new system in the XE saloon later this year.

Been driving the F-Type for five months now and only just noticed the 'beating heart' start button. It's th... https://t.co/VrDsuPzrDB

— Jack Rix (@jack_rix) July 29, 2014

Jaguar F-Type V6 S: report 2

Striking Jaguar F-Type V6 S convertible lights up even congested city streets

Mileage: 4,277 milesReal world fuel economy: 21.9mpg

Being born and bred in south London, I’ve never seen the appeal of living in the countryside – but that was before our Jaguar F-Type arrived. My six- mile commute into our offices in central London can take anything up to an hour in snarled-up traffic – hugely frustrating when you’ve 375bhp and a chassis tuned to devour corners underneath you.

As I discovered, though, there is a way around this without leaving the city limits. Wait until commuters have returned home, darkness has descended and the capital’s clogged arteries begin to flow more freely, and the F-Type comes alive. Pick the right roads and you’re treated to a spectacular light show of some of the capital’s most famous landmarks, too.

While a blast through central London like this won’t let me explore the F-Type’s limits (more on that in my next update), it highlights the fact that you don’t need to have your foot welded to the floor, gripping the wheel with white knuckles and eyes bulging to have fun. It’s a car that makes you feel special at any speed.

Sitting in a traffic jam, the thumbs up are non-stop, while even crawling between speed bumps the exhaust can be coaxed into a short blare followed by a flurry of explosions with a prod of the throttle. Following traffic at 30mph, the suspension soaks up bumps brilliantly while you sink down into the heated, leather-trimmed wing-back sports seats and listen to the superb Meridian stereo.

It’s a trait that’s often overlooked with modern sports cars – as a manufacturer strives to knock a few seconds off its Nürburgring lap time, it forgets that a car should let its owner feel good whether you’re smoking your rear tyres on a track, or popping to the shops.

Take the Nissan GT-R for instance – at low speeds, the drivetrain whines and shunts, while you crash over manhole covers and sleeping policemen. Show it a wide, well sighted road and it’s a wonder, but I’m not sure I’d have the patience to deal with the stuff in between.

What Jaguar has created, then, is a car that appeals to all of your senses all of the time, and that sounds, looks and feels special even when faced with the more mundane journeys in life. Perhaps that’s why I’m falling for this landmark model in a big way.

Jaguar F-Type V6 S: report 1

High-performance drop-top joins fleet, and makes an instant impression on long drive from dealer

Mileage: 1,838 milesReal world fuel economy: 21.1mpg

If you’re going to drive a fast car, you might as well get noticed. That was our thinking when it came to speccing our very own F-Type – well, it is for the next 12 months, at least. When we ‘built’ our dream V6S on Jag’s online configurator, the Firesand metallic paint split opinion in the office. But now the car has arrived, it’s a unanimous thumbs-up for the lairiest member of our fleet.

We didn’t want to visit any old dealer to take delivery of the marque’s newest and most exciting model, so we drove 220 miles to Roger Young Jaguar in Saltash, Cornwall, to get our hands on the keys. Why? Because it’s one of the world’s newest Jag showrooms. It’s based on the brand’s Arch Concept, and you’ll see this hi-tech design rolling out at other UK Jag dealers soon. But for now, Roger Young is one of only three franchises to sport the new look globally. The other two are in Mumbai and Frankfurt.

There was another reason why collecting the car in Cornwall appealed to me personally, of course – because the 220-mile drive home would let me get to know the F-Type a little better. I’d driven one on a track in Italy a while before, and was blown away by the wall of sound produced by the trumpet-shaped exhausts, plus how controllable the car was at the limit. Yet there’s no test like a long drive on UK roads, taking in narrow lanes, fast B-roads and wet motorways.

Let’s get the mundane stuff out of the way first. With the adaptive dampers in their softer setting, the F-Type feels pretty firm on bad surfaces at slow speeds.

Yet on smooth roads it flows along beautifully, allowing me to dispatch hundreds of motorway miles with ease.

The fun part comes when you switch the optional sports exhaust (a must-have option at £350) to its ‘loud’ setting, select Dynamic mode and use the paddles to change gear. The bark from the exhausts under acceleration, and artillery fire when you lift off, are plain naughty, while the throttle response is razor-sharp. Put the ESP in its intermediate setting and there’s just enough slip to let you slide around on a wide road.

It’s no surprise that the F-Type attracts attention wherever it goes, from wide-eyed school children to respectfully nodding Porsche drivers. The cabin is a great piece of design, too, and boasts some choice options. The wing-back performance seats (with co-ordinating orange stitching) are comfortable, snug and look fantastic; well worth £1,450.

The upgraded Meridian stereo is steep at £1,700, but it sounds crisp, detailed and very loud. It’s just a shame that the infotainment interface looks more dated than the rest of the cabin – in particular, gadget fans will love the air vent rising dramatically from the dash.

With all the recent wet weather, we haven’t had much chance to drop the roof, so more on that later. The tiny boot hasn’t proven too small yet – but we have plenty planned for the F-Type, so rest assured we’ll be testing every feature.

Insurance quote provided by AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old living in Banbury, Oxon, with three points. 

Most Popular

New 2021 Volkswagen Transporter T7 van teased
New 2021 Volkswagen Transporter T7 van teased
Volkswagen Transporter

New 2021 Volkswagen Transporter T7 van teased

Next-generation Volkswagen Transporter T7 will break cover later this year with a new plug-in hybrid powertrain
14 Apr 2021
New 2021 Audi Q4 e-tron on sale now, priced from £40,750
Audi Q4 e-tron - front
Audi Q4 e-tron

New 2021 Audi Q4 e-tron on sale now, priced from £40,750

Two body styles, three powertrains and four trim-levels confirmed for Audi’s compact Q4 EV, including a 295bhp quattro option
15 Apr 2021
'Nissan has been quietly building an advantage over electric car rivals'
Opinion Nissan EV

'Nissan has been quietly building an advantage over electric car rivals'

Steve Fowler thinks Nissan is in a great position to build on the Leaf's success
8 Apr 2021