Car ReviewsFirst Drive

Jaguar F-Type First Drive

Jaguar’s first two-seat sports car since the E-Type has huge shoes to fill. Thankfully, it’s a thoroughly modern design, not a warmed-over re-interpretation, says Paul Murrell.

Ever since the E-Type went out of production, Jaguar fans have been waiting for its replacement with the patience and faith of a Papuan cargo cult. And every time Jaguar announced a new sporting model since 1974, they company vehemently denied it was a replacement for the iconic E-Type.

Not this time around. The F-Type label declares unambiguously that this is the 21st century replacement for a car that true believers thought could never be replaced.

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The F-Type is, by any measure, a stunning looking car, even better in the flesh than in the photos. There are hints of Ferrari California in the profile and Maserati in that gaping grille, but overall, the F-Type carves its own path. From the side, the most obvious feature is the muscular curve over the rear wheel. Black rocker panels fool the eye into thinking the car sits lower than it actually does. The rear is a blade-edged delicacy of rear guards, bootlid and fine tail lights.

Inside, the story becomes a tad more subdued. Jaguar’s circular gear selector is gone, replaced by a neat, stubby shifter more in tune with a sports car. The central air vents rise majestically from the centre console whenever you press the bronze start button. There is plenty of interior space and the seats will suit the wider girth of those wealthy and successful enough to buy an F-Type. There’s a full complement of luxury gear, even in the $138,645.10 V6 (and yes, the price does include that 10 cents!) Importantly, even in the V6, there are none of those depressing blank buttons that indicate what you might be playing with if you’d bought a more expensive variant.

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Boot space is laughable, especially with the space saver spare in place. If you wish, you can choose the instant mobility system to inflate your flat tyre and get you on your way, or call Jaguar roadside assist and have them fix the problem and recover your damaged wheel and tyre. Storage inside isn’t much better, with two central cup holders (placing bottles right in the way of the shifter) small door pockets and a compact glove box.

Second only to the visual appeal of the car is the way it performs. We started with the top-line V8S. Starting price for this superb vehicle is $201,945 (plus 10 cents, which we will ignore from now). Typically, ours was loaded with options that pushed the price to $232,590 (all prices plus ORC). The extras included a stowage locker ($590), Valet Mode ($330 – and no, we don’t know what it is either), Meridien Surround sound system ($6900), performance seats ($2730), tyre pressure monitoring system ($750), 20-inch Blade alloy wheels ($6800), dual zone climate control with air filter ($980), rain sensing wipers ($510), adaptive headlamps ($1500), heated steering wheel ($550), stainless steel pedal covers ($590), switchable active sports exhaust ($260), interior black pack ($4390), seat memory pack 2 ($2040) and parking pack ($1725).

Seriously, for $138,000 to beyond $200,000, a lot of these extras should be standard. I mean, $1140 for a flat-bottomed steering wheel? A short session with a calculator quickly racked up more than $47,000 worth of options and it could be more on the V6 because some of the standard equipment on the V6S and V8S is optional on the bargain-basement model (Jaguar refer to it as the “foundation” model).

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But back to the important stuff. When you press that bronze starting button, all thoughts of overpriced options will fly from your consciousness. For some time now, Jaguar has been experimenting with engine and exhaust noise. Through Sydney’s Lane Cove tunnel, with the active sport exhaust set to “Dynamic Mode” (where you’ll want to leave it all the time), the bark, roar and crackle of the engine has to be heard to be believed. Oddly, the noise from the other V8S F-Types (fellow journalists were also blipping throttles and creating mayhem on the press launch) sounded more resonant and bass-heavy than was evident from the driver’s seat of our own V8S. In the short time it took to traverse the tunnel, it sounded like the bottom of the bear enclosure at the city’s Taronga Park Zoo at feeding time. Exhilarating!

The V6S emits a similar feral bellow from its two bazooka-like exhausts, and even the base V6 creates sufficient aural excitement to satisfy most people.

Many reviewers are comparing the F-Type to the two Porsche models that almost bookend it in price, the Boxster S and the 911 Cabriolet. Silly comparison. F-Type buyers are most unlikely to shortlist Porsches, and Porsche buyers will almost certainly not consider a Jaguar. For the record, the Boxster S, with its recent price cut to $126,500, is priced a little below the F-Type V6; the 911 cabriolet sits right in optioned-up F-Type V8S territory at $228,900.

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The Jaguar F-Type range covers a lot of ground, starting with the 3.0-litre supercharged V6 with 250kW of power and 450Nm of torque, zero to 100km/h in 5.3 seconds and a top speed of 260km/h. Included in the $138,645 price are sports suspension, sports exhaust, 18-inch alloy wheels, sports seats with leather and suede and a three-spoke leather sports wheel with paddle shifters.

Next up the order is the V6S starting at $171,045 for 280kW and 460Nm, zero to 100 in 4.9 seconds and a 275km/h top speed. It also scores adaptive dynamics, mechanical limited slip differential, 19-inch wheels, larger brakes and active exhaust system. For our money, it’s the pick of the bunch.

But if too much is barely enough, move on up to the V8S with its awe-inspiring 364kW 5.0-litre V8 pushing out a gargantuan 625Nm of torque. It comes with larger brakes again, electronic differentials and quad exhausts. Zero to 100km/h comes up in 4.3 seconds and top speed is in excess of 300km/h. All models use a ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox incorporating a fuel cut-off on upshifts, resulting in gearchanges 50% faster than any previous Jaguar.

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PRACTICAL MOTORING SAYS

It is a marvellous car by any measure, and we have to wonder why, apart from the badge, anybody would spend more than twice the money to buy a Ferrari California. The F-Type harks back to the early philosophy of Jaguar founder, Sir William Lyons to build cars that look twice as expensive as they are, and offer performance, handling and equipment almost equivalent to far more expensive competitors.

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JAGUAR F-TYPE

PRICE from $138,645 (plus ORC) WARRANTY three-year, unlimited kilometres SAFETY RATING five-star ANCAP ENGINE 3.0-litre supercharged V6, 250kW @ 6500rpm, 450Nm @ 3500-5000rpm; 3.0-litre supercharged V6, 280kW @ 6500rpm, 460Nm @ 3500-5000rpm; 5.0-litre supercharged V8, 364kW @ 6500rpm, 625Nm @ 2500-5500rpm TRANSMISSION eight-speed ZF auto BODY 4.47m (L) 2.04m (W) 1.92m (H) WEIGHT 1597-1665kg THIRST 9.0L/100km (V6 combined), 9.1L/100km (V6S combined), 11.1L/100km (V8S combined).


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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober