Car reviews - Jaguar - F-Type - Convertible
Styling inside and out, performance, handling, road-holding, safety, brand image, ambience
Room for improvement
Steering lacks sufficient feel, ride too firm, boot comically inadequate
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31 Jul 2013
FOLLOW-UPS don’t come later – or with the same crippling overwhelming weight of expectation – than the replacement for the E-Type.
Superlatives have run thick and fast for the classic Jaguar roadster and coupe ever since the impossibly sensual 3.8-litre original wowed the world at the 1961 Geneva Motor Show.
Even the bloated final V12-powered E-Type of 1974 holds a special place for sports car enthusiasts the world over.
Attempts at a successor have popped up from time to time – beginning with the 1979 Pininfarina F-Type Concept – but none have made production until the X152 F-Type debuted at the Paris Motor Show last year.
From the get-go, reactions have been incredible. People love the E-Type homage in the Convertible’s long slinky lines, squat proportions, and arrestingly pert posterior.
Jaguar has captured something of the feline finesse of the old car without falling into the retro trap. From every angle, the F’s a stunner.
The cabin, meanwhile, is far less evocative in its subdued conventionalism if not conservatism, but still a fine effort anyway.
Low-slung in style and unashamedly two-seater in accommodation, this is a luxurious environment defined by lashings of leather, suede and metallic-like trim décor, beautifully crafted and expertly matched to suit the F’s Porsche Boxster/Cayman/911-straddling pricing.
Recent Jaguar cabin trademarks like the rising cylindrical gear lever canister and electrically operated vent shutters have been banished, but most buyers will prefer the regular BMW-style joystick auto gear lever that’s far more natural to operate.
About the only unique touch remaining are central air vents that automatically rise like a croc’s cranium from the water’s surface when required.
Not too long ago a Jaguar interior was about bogus tradition, but the F-Type improves on the icy-blue neon-lit vodka-bar style lighting ambience in the XF and latest XJ.
Some lower plastic materials seem out of place in a $140K-plus sports car, though and more space to rest your left foot would be welcome.
Otherwise, we’re confident that customers will be delighted with comfort and refinement levels inside the F-Type. Roof down the buffeting isn’t too bad even without the deflector erect the Jag’s noise levels are acceptably quiet – if not as hushed as the marque’s previous (though softer) GT ragtops.
However, and problematically for many potential buyers unfortunately, the boot is far too small.
Just 196 litres of available room would challenge even the most lightly-packed dirty weekenders, especially if the optional tiny space-saver spare is ordered, slashing what is already a pitifully petite cargo area to a near-useless 148L.
A Mazda MX-5’s is more volumous.
This more than anything else limits the practicality of using the F-Type as an everyday runabout. It’s the corollary of Jaguar’s decision to make the X152 as sinewy as possible.
Furthermore, there are unavoidable packaging constraints brought on by the front-engine/rear-drive layout. Ask any Mercedes SLK or BMW Z4 owner.
But not a Boxster buyer, since its mid-engine/rear-drive configuration brings a useably deep trunk area up front as well as out back. Comparisons will be inevitable, and it is one Jaguar cannot ever win. Either live with the Jag’s miniscule carrying capacity, wait for the Coupe, or dial Germany sports car code ‘981’.
Indeed, at this juncture it is worth putting the near-perfectly realised Porsche aside when assessing the F-Type, for the German car weighs 300kg less.
In fact the Stuttgart sports car feels every bit like it was engineered by ultra-obsessive boffins, and bankrolled on a wave of endless profits… while the Jaguar was clearly a labour of love.
We drove all three supercharged engine variants, but spent most time in the ‘base’ (for now, trust us) 250kW 3.0-litre V6.
Mated to a supernaturally responsive automatic transmission, it pounces off the line, roars well beyond the red line, and punches ahead with impressive veracity every time the accelerator pedal is pressed down.
There is more than enough power for the vast majority of mortals out there.
This is the entry-level engine, remember the forced-induction V8 S is a ferocious beast in comparison, bellowing out its ballistic thrust through rear wheels that can barely contain the force, judging by how often the stability/traction light blinks. It is quite mega.
Lurking in the middle is an uprated version of the V6, sitting somewhere in between for speed thrills, but with an energy – and sweetness – all of its own.
We never drove this V6 S beyond a few hot laps on a closed circuit… and we cannot wait to get back behind the wheel of one.
Somebody commented the F-Type’s powerplants are probably its best attributes after the styling, and we’re inclined to agree.
That auto is equally eye opening, switching between ratios with pump-action rifle speed, and is enhanced by a pair of paddle shifters that could not operate more intelligently or intuitively. We’re still mad at Jag for denying us a manual, but if we are to embrace an auto, this surely would be it.
And now for the disappointments, for we have found a few.
The steering. Yes, we’ve never known a modern Jaguar helm to thrill us with feedback, but the F-Type’s just isn’t communicative enough. It just isn’t.
Sure it is faster and more responsive than any previous Leaper branded barge.
And it certainly glides through corners with ease. But we want our palms to tingle, not grow clammy with numbness.
Then there’s the ride ‘quality’.
Firm at best, jiggly at worst, the chassis is so stiff it skips and fidgets far too often during bumpy turns, accompanied at times by some (albeit very minor) scuttle shake. And this is on the boggo wearing standard 18-inch wheels.
Adaptive dampers on the V8 S did smother some surface inconsistencies, but even that felt punishing on 20s.
If the F-Type is going to steer like a Jag then it ought to ride like something approaching one too.
Perhaps the V6 S’ 19-inch items with the trick shockers might be the cushy sweet spot. We sincerely hope so. As it stands, the base and flagship F-Types as tested prefer rippleless roads and even smoother corners.
So, yes, the F-Type is too heavy in feel and conversely too light on in feedback (except for the wrong type, on bad roads) to keep Porsche’s engineers up at night.
For sublime driving thrills if not straight-line thrust Boxster beats it hands-down.
But only the Jaguar will charm you in submission thanks to devastating good looks, an appealing cabin, and winning character. Incredibly, even a day after driving it, all we can think about is when we can be together again. This is that sort of car. The F-Type engenders love and empathy.
Respect too. In the light of the amount achieved using limited resources during incredibly severe economic conditions, it is a rousing and qualifying success.
You must follow up with your Jaguar dealer to experience the F-Type warts and all before signing for that Porsche/Merc/Benz or Audi sports car.
How could you not? It’s been 40 years in the making.
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