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Car reviews - Jaguar - F-Type - S convertible

Our Opinion

We like
Eye-catching design, evocative exhaust note, mostly sharp dynamics, exclusivity
Room for improvement
Laughable boot, expensive options

Gallery

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Jaguar logo17 Nov 2014

By DANIEL GARDNER

Price and equipment

THE variant on test here is the middle-of-the-range S, which has the same sized engine as the entry version but with a little more pressure squeezed into its six cylinders by the supercharger.

That additional boost takes power up from 250kW to 280kW, while torque gets a modest increase to 460Nm from 450Nm.

Stumping up the $171,045 for the F-Type S doesn’t just pump-up the power output. For the additional $32,400 investment, the mid-range Jag also gets a few other performance improving tweaks with adaptive sports suspension, a limited slip differential, active sports exhaust and uprated brakes.

The extra cash also beautifies the interior of S variants too with full-leather seats (part suede in lower spec versions), ‘Ignis’ (bronze-coloured) gear-shift paddles and selectable interior mood-lighting colour.

Other than a small S badge, the exterior of both variants is the same in appearance, and that is a good thing because looking at the F-Type is almost as much fun as driving it, with little hints of its distant E-Type cousin jumping out from all angles.

Our test car had a few extras thrown at it. The top-spec $6800 20-inch ‘Blade’ forged wheels are the largest available for the F-Type and sit very neatly under the muscular arches, while the real carbon-fibre cap on each of the five spokes seem like an extravagance.

If you like expensive trinkets, then Jaguar will take another $590 from you and cover the pedals with stainless steel. The top-notch Meridian sound system has whopping 770 watts of power but has an almost as mighty $6900 pricetag.

The frankly gorgeous Black Amethyst paint job gives flattering depth and definition to the body without resorting to vulgar shouty colours, but the ‘special’ colour comes at a handsome $5620 premium.

Extra lockable interior spaces, a switchable exhaust mode, a parking-pack and seat memory, tyre pressure monitoring and an air quality sensor completed the list of extra-cost items blowing the price of our car out to $196,750 – not far off the $198,645 starting price for the flagship V8 S.

‘Super performance’ brakes with red calipers are standard fitment on the V6 S, but for an extra $960 Jaguar will deliver the units in a more understated black. This is an unusual move, with most manufacturers charging a premium for the brighter more eye-catching option.

Getting in to an F-Type therefore is not an experience to be attempted on a tight budget and with just a few enticing options, the bottom-line can soon price this cat out of the contest.

At entry level, the V6 S is already pricier than the similarly performing $126,500 Porsche Boxster S, which is fairly well equipped as standard, as is the more expensive $154,690 Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG.

With that kind of outlay required, the Jaguar F-Type has to offer a very rewarding experience for a prospective owner if they are to resist temptation from the prestige German market.

Interior

Popping the door with the cleverly self-concealing handle, slipping in to the ultra-snug sports seats and hitting the bronze start button felt like a little ceremony every time.

From the fine stitching of prevalent leather to the choice of materials used for even the gear-shift paddles, everything feels and looks as if it has been considered at great length.

The ambience is uncluttered thanks to a simple layout and neat tricks like the heater vents, which hide when not in use, and an invisible CD slot.

The seating position is deeply cosy with a high door-line, but still allows a good view of what is going on around. The A-pillar causes a slight obstruction of the road ahead, though.

With the roof up, sound insulation is surprisingly good despite the fabric construction and on a very hot day the air-conditioning manages the small interior space very effectively.

Opening the roof takes a speedy 12 seconds, which encouraged us to use the F-Type al-fresco almost exclusively, but on hot days the snug cabin doesn’t allow much ambient air circulation.

But here’s the real rub. Snug is very much the operative word when describing space inside the F-Type, and it becomes particularly obvious when looking at one area. The boot.

It is hard to see what Jaguar has done with all the space that could have comprised a bigger boot. The 70-litre fuel tank isn’t excessively large, the boot contains a very skinny space-saver wheel and, while the exhaust is audibly voluminous it doesn’t appear to be dimensionally so.

We can only assume the roof and stowing mechanism must be the culprit, which is a shame because the miniscule boot is a real restriction, negating the option of the F-Type as a weekend escape option. Dirty weekend away? Pack light - very, very light.

Short of mounting a suitcase-shelf on the boot-lid - as was prudent on very early British sportscars - there seems to be no solution to this crippling problem. Hey, now there’s an optional extra we’d look at, if there were such a thing!Normally we would say paying an extra $560 for a lockable cubby between the seats would be a little excessive, but in the Jag you need all the space you can get, in this case therefore it might be money well spent. Begrudgingly.

Engine and transmission

If you are one of the many Grand Prix fans voicing your displeasure at the muted Formula 1 engine notes this year, then you will love the engine under the bonnet of the Jag.

This is one forced-induction V6 that doesn’t mind making a noise. Lots of noise.

Right from the first crank of its 3.0-litre supercharged-six, the Jag makes it very clear it is not about keeping a low profile, blipping the revs on start up in the most indiscrete way imaginable.

This feature certainly quickens the pulse and encourages even the most restrained driver to consider the long twisty route to work, but it will also start to annoy your neighbours if you live in a quiet area and leave early in the morning. Good if you don’t like them…Pottering about at low speed and under part-throttle, the engine is smooth, quiet and refined, and even when a little more in the way of pace is required the exhaust note remains satisfying without being intrusive.

That is until you press a little unassuming button situated on the centre console with a picture of some tailpipes. With the Active Sport exhaust activated the Jag has the snarl to match its road presence.

The bark produced by the two fat 80mm centre-exit exhausts is one that could only be produced by a non-turbocharged engine, with a raucous rattle of almost antisocial decibels. It is completely infectious.

The banshee-like soundtrack might have become tiresome, it could have worn thin after a few rev-wringing blasts up a hillside and the constant assault on the ears may have begged for the volume to be turned down again. But it absolutely didn’t.

Opening the taps to the barky V6 made the F-Type hunker-down and accelerate hard with almost unrelenting force. Wringing out every last one of the 280 kilowatts on the redline and then reaching for the up-shift paddle before doing it all over again was hopelessly tempting.

Almost every journey in the F-Type was made with the full-fat, dead-awakening, neighbour-bothering button firmly pressed. We just couldn’t help it… A power output of 280kW/460Nm might not sound like record-breaking stuff but the lag-less supercharger makes the swathe of torque available from 3500rpm up to 5000rpm, at which point the peak-power takes over and keeps the punchy acceleration going all the way to 6500rpm.

All this means the engine needs revs. And we were happy to acquiesce.

The engine is paired exclusively with an eight-speed ZF torque-converter (not double-clutch) automatic transmission - not one for the purists - with paddle shifters and various modes to speed up shift times.

The gear changes in the most aggressive mode are brutal, and prompt a mean crackle and burble from the exhaust. In fully automatic mode around town, it is un-intrusive like a Victorian butler.

Being gentle with the loud-pedal required restraint but returned a fuel economy of around 10.0 litres per 100km. Working the supercharger hard took that figure up to around 16.0L/100km.

Ride and handling

Receiving admiring (mostly envious) glances from other road-users was a regular occurrence in the pretty Jag, but out of town and on open, unfrequented roads is where this cat belongs.

Each change in surface texture is communicated through sensitive steering and the figure-hugging seats double up on the talk-back, resulting in an involving experience.

When the limits of grip are realised, the Dynamic chassis setting allowed things to get a little out of shape without abrupt interruption of power. Being behind the wheel of the F-Type made us feel just a little heroic.

The presence of a limited-slip differential was a pleasant surprise in an era of electronic everything and had a good progressive lock-up as more power was dialed in.

Sitting almost directly on top of the rear-axle with the long bonnet stretching out in front is an experience even the sportiest sedans try to synthesise but always fail at.

On twisty roads we couldn’t resist the potential to go places quickly, but on straighter roads and at more sedate speeds the ride is compliant and comfortable with surprisingly little noise produced by the thick tyres.

Some critics, including others from this publication, have detected a lack of body rigidity - the dreaded scuttle shake - on the F-Type. Maybe this reviewer just chose smooth roads…Safety and servicing

With seats for a maximum of two occupants, the F-Type makes do with four airbags and offers additional roll-over protection with hoops behind each seat.

All of the usual electronic driver aids are standard across the range and the switchable stability program can be changed according to the conditions and driving style.

The F-Type has yet to be tested by Australia’s main safety watchdog ANCAP, or its European equivalent ENCAP.

You’ll pay nothing to have an F-Type serviced for the first three years of its life and if the 100,000km warranty isn’t enough, it can be doubled.

Verdict

Beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder, but we implore any red-blooded car lover to walk past an F-Type without feeling a little bit gooey.

Throw in to the mix a sub-five second zero to 100km/h performance, a dead-awakening exhaust note and relative on-road exclusivity and you have a very attractive package let down only by a pricey options list and laughable boot.

Unless wind in the hair is a feature you simply cannot live without, you might consider the F-Type coupe due in July. You’ll save yourself just under $20,000 depending on the variant.

But as a device for enjoying a good road, the Jaguar is a truly fine piece of engineering offering something to relish when driving at pace, when cruising more sedately and when not even driving it at all.

The heavenly E-Type Jag is ephemeral and it is unlikely there will ever be a modern-day equivalent, but with the F-Type, Jaguar has come closer to a successor than it ever has before.

On a warm summer’s day there are few ways of getting from one place to another and feeling more special in the process. Just make sure you pack light.

Rivals

Porsche Boxster S ($126,500 before on-roads).

With its mid-mounted engine, Porsche’s baby cabriolet is the ultimate in point to point mile-munching and class leading road-manners. It is significantly cheaper and with two decent luggage compartments the practicality makes it a more viable day-to-day option.

Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG ($154,690 before on-roads).

Like the Jaguar, Mercedes’ SLK is a true front-engined, rear-drive sportscar and the good people at AMG have given it supercar-worrying power. Its folding hard top and more discrete looks may appeal to owners wanting to park on the street. It does come in a little cheaper than the Jaguar but the extras list can be just as much of a minefield.

Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet ($228,900 before on-roads).

The iconic and unmistakable shape of the 911 combined with every-day German reliability has lead to this model being one of the most abundant high-end sports cars on the road. The Jag cannot match the performance of the entry-level Cabriolet but comes at a saving of around $40,000 and offers a little more in the way of exclusivity.

Specs

MAKE/MODEL: Jaguar F-Type S
ENGINE: Supercharged 3.0-litre V6
LAYOUT: Front engined, rear drive
POWER: 280kW@6500rpm
TORQUE: 460Nm between 3500 and 5000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: Eight-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 4.9secs
TOP SPEED: 275km/h
FUEL: 9.1L/100km
EMISSIONS: 213g/km CO2
WEIGHT: 1614kg
STEERING: electric PAS
PRICE: From $171,045 before on-roads

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