Car reviews - Jaguar - F-Type - S Coupe AWD
Soundtrack, daily useability, ride, AWD grip, aesthetics, mid-range engine punch
Room for improvement
Boot space, options and pricing, slow infotainment system, rear vision
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29 Aug 2017
THERE was considerable fanfare when the much-loved British breed finally put its new F-Type sportscar on the road – such a long time coming but all of that street presence meant it was well worth the wait.
The belligerent bark of forced induction bullying six or eight cylinders does almost as much for those it passes as it does for the conductor behind the wheel.
But the pricetag isn’t nice, the boot is small, the cabin storage isn’t much better, the infotainment system is now out of date and it still has the odd minor niggle that reminds some of the bad old days of Jags and questionable reliability.
But many just greet such concerns with a shrug and a longing gaze at the curvaceous tail, followed by a grin as the supercharged engine fires up.
Price and equipment
The vehicle causing a stir in my driveway is the F-Type S coupe with all-wheel drive and a supercharged V6 engine, which wears a recommended retail price of $173,065 plus on-road costs.
The lithe exterior has, to some eyes, been butchered with the addition of what Jaguar calls the ‘Sport Design Pack with Fixed Spoiler’ which adds a body-coloured fixed rear-spoiler in lieu of the rising electric version, as well as an extended front bumper, aerodynamic splitters, side sills and rear bumper diffuser for $4380. There’s better things on the options list to spend up on.
Climbing down and into the leather sports seats and grabbing the power-adjustable leather-wrapped sports steering with silver gearshift paddles, the cabin has no shortage of features – touchscreen controlled infotainment with hard drive, USB, Bluetooth and satellite navigation (which looks old compared to its Jaguar and Land Rover siblings), climate control, electric park brake, a centre display with digital speed readout and myriad other displays, 19-inch alloys, cruise control with speed limiter function, power-adjustable and heated exterior mirrors.
But the bodykit was just the start of the options box frenzy that went on when ordering this particular vehicle.
The cost of the options on the test Jag had the eyes watering – it sits on gloss black carbon-fibre 20-inch rotor forged alloy wheels that add $8760 to the price … and we’re just getting started.
A 770-watt Meridian 12-speaker sound system adds $7110, the premium leather interior and performance seat option adds $6900, the aforementioned $4380 Sport Design Pack with Fixed Spoiler, what Jaguar calls the ‘Interior Black Pack’ that adds black vent surrounds, gloss-black instrument cluster dial rings and door release levers, as well as a flat-bottom leather steering wheel with black spokes for an extra $4520.
The ability to configure the Dynamic mode to tailor the chassis and drivetrain ups the price by $3900, with the ‘Super Performance Brake’ package (signified by red callipers) adding $2640.
Metallic paint (the shade in question being Indus Silver) adds $2890, upgrades to the power adjustment, seat position and steering column memory functions as well as the power-folding, memory and auto-dimming upgrade for the exterior mirrors adds $2100.
A panoramic fixed glass roof adds $2060 and likely more than a few degrees to the cabin in summer, and the limited slip differential with brakes-based torque vectoring asks the same amount.
Blind Spot Monitoring adds $1550, seat and steering wheel heating adds $1450, a powered tailgate is $1130, dual zones for the climate control asks a preposterous $1010, digital radio functionality for the sound system adds $620 and metallic sports pedals concludes the list at $610.
As tested, this particular F-Type sits at $226,755 – by way of comparison the F-Type 400 Sport AWD with an extra 14kW from the supercharged V6 is priced from $199,312 and a Porsche 911 Carrera has a starting price of $220,900.
Calling the cabin intimate is doing an injustice to restaurants claiming the same cosy atmosphere – the F-Type cabin is extremely snug, although not uncomfortable.
The optional sports seats and premium leather trim mean there’s masses of adjustment options for the pews and the position of the steering wheel once set up and memorised there’s no issue.
Taller folk almost have to fall ‘down and in’ to the seat after pulling on the concealed door handles, so low is the F-Type, but once in there’s enough head and legroom to keep claustrophobia to a minimum.
The driver gets a chunky leather steering wheel with paddle shifters that, when in Dynamic and Sport modes for chassis and automatic transmission respectively, dictate a genuine manual shift.
Jag’s instrumentation is easy to read and the centre display offers a digital speed readout as well as fuel use and other information, but the touchscreen on the centre stack is starting to get long in the tooth.
The slow speed of the system and the look of the mapping in particular betray the unit’s age, as well as a dislike of talking to USB-connected devices it does have a hard drive for file storage but doesn’t always communicate well with the music player on an iPhone.
The passenger’s side of the transmission tunnel features a large triangular brace – which works nicely as a grab handle for the front passenger when lateral G forces are building.
There’s some door pocket storage, a slender glovebox and a centre console under the driver’s left elbow and a storage cubby by the driver’s left shoulder, which is about the extent of the in-cabin areas for keys, wallets and phones.
The drawback of this model since its first appearance has been the boot, which when carrying the space-saver spare wheel is limited to a small amount of cargo opt out of carrying the slender spare and it improves a little but a weekend away will need to be one for which you pack light.
It’s also doubtful that even if you did change the flat tyre yourself and used the space saver spare that the normal wheel and tyre (even when flat) would fit in the rear cargo area.
Engine and transmission
The malevolent bark of the supercharged V8 might make some pine for the extra two cylinders on offer further up the price-range, but complaining about the outputs or soundtrack of the forced-induction V6 could be seen as whinging like an overindulged and petulant child.
It offers up 280kW and 460Nm (from 3500rpm through until 5000rpm) from its supercharged 3.0-litres, enough for a claimed top speed of 275km/h and a sprint to 100km/h in 5.1 seconds.
The all-alloy, direct-injection 24-valve double overhead cam V6 has variable cam timing but it’s a detail that falls from relevance as the bray from the supercharged V6 delivers a unique soundtrack.
Even before the active exhaust is unleashed, the V6 sounds more than useful under load but at cruise the power plant is relatively demure and easy on the ears, with the auto gently slipping between gears and making good use of the meaty mid-range, even if it doesn’t make much use of the top two gears very often.
Opt for Dynamic mode and fire up the active exhaust and the soundtrack goes from mildly-miffed hornet to one with a bad temper and flatulence for long-distance cruising the exhaust would need to be returned to limit the drone factor.
It’s more of an acquired taste than the V8 but once it’s shot the 1674kg coupe through a series of bends at full noise there’s reason to be a fan.
Once in Dynamic mode, with the eight-speed automatic also in its own Sport mode, the paddles will deliver crisp and quick genuine manual shifts, or it can be left alone to make its own decisions to good effect.
The official fuel consumption figure is 8.9 litres per 100km, but the aforementioned indulgence in corners with V6 at or near full noise, the numbers get into the mid-teens.
Our time in the coupe yielded 14.1L/100km at a 40km/h average speed, although with less enthusiastic driving the number could get closer to single digits, but that defeats the purpose of such a vehicle.
Ride and handling
It might well be a low-slung two-seater coupe but there’s nothing in its road manners that would prevent it being driven every day.
Slipping into the daily grind of morning traffic can be a demure exercise, with the auto slipping quickly through the gears to merge and keep pace with the rest of the commuters.
But the adaptive damping gives some respite from the sharper ruts and bumps – it’s still a firm ride and that’s to be expected given its primary purpose – but the composure of this quick cat extends to everyday driving.
It can be coaxed quickly into small gaps in the traffic – with blind spot assistance vital – but big speed bumps and deep spoon drains will give some food for thought if the belly (clearance is 116mm) and bodykit are to remain unmarked.
But its forte is far from the madding crowds of metropolitan main roads – point it at a favoured country back road, put the underpinnings into Dynamic mode, flick the auto into Sport mode and open up the active exhaust.
The all-wheel-drive system has added 79kg to the coupe but doesn’t feel nose-heavy as a result.
The steering is well-weighted and tips the F-Type into bends with immediate effect, although it does not yet possess the articulate communication skills of the Cayman.
Grip is ample and there’s a sensation of sure-footedness, with a rear limited slip different with torque vectoring function even on wet roads, where its RWD sibling could provide plenty of entertainment for the driver without being asked, the all-wheel-drive version is composed.
The AWD coupe can still step out in the tail if pushed hard on a damp surface, but it’s far less dramatic and easier to gather up than the rear-driver.
Bumpier back roads will warrant a return to the Normal mode from the more aggressive Dynamic setting, as the ride will become a little tiresome, but the poise in corners is still more than enough to set an astonishing pace.
The large ‘Jaguar Super Performance Braking System’ with red brake callipers adds $2640 to the bottom line but are well worth the extra outlay, although the F-Type can carry a lot of corner speed so brake punishment would be rare on a public road.
Safety and servicing
While there’s not a lot of active safety gear on the F-Type it does have a solid list of features – bi-Xenon headlights with LED running lights and auto-high beam (which isn’t the most responsive system yet sampled), as well as lane departure warning, an auto-dimming centre mirror, rain-sensing wipers, auto emergency braking and the pedestrian contact sensing active bonnet system.
There’s no independent crash test rating from ANCAP but the safety features list has dual front, front-side and curtain airbags, a reversing camera and parking sensors front and rear, an electric park brake, multi-stage stability and traction control and the optional blind spot monitoring system (for $1550) all add up to a formidable (but not class-leading) safety features list.
The Jag is backed by a three-year/100,000km warranty and service intervals are condition-based – although industry guides list it as 24 months or 25,000km, for which there are no charges – all new F-Type Jaguars receive three years/100,000km free scheduled service (excluding wear and tear items like the battery, tyres, oils and additives are not included).
There’s something about Jags that oozes charm and presence, and the F-Type has it in such large amounts that it could never fit it in the boot.
Plenty of pace, talented chassis and road presence, the F-Type V6 S in all-wheel-drive guise does offer an added element of secure road manners in all conditions.
But sluggish infotainment system, features on the options list that should be standard and a steep initial pricetag tarnish it.
Porsche Cayman S coupe from $145,500 plus on-road costs
The little Porsche two-seater undercuts the Brit by a solid chunk of change and pips it for steering feel. The German rear-drive machine is around 300kg lighter and powered by the new 257kW/420Nm 2.5-litre turbo flat four.
Beautifully balanced and easy to drive faster, it may not be seen by some to have the charm and charisma of the Jag – it doesn’t produce a soundtrack like the Jag for starters – but the Cayman is also less likely to offer up little gremlins to annoy either.
Mercedes-AMG SLC43 roadster from $135,900 plus on-road costs
The folding hardtop adds a level of flexibility to the Mercedes-Benz two-seater, which is cheaper than the rest of the models selected here. Not quite as svelte as the Cayman, its 270kW/520Nm 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 punches a bit harder through the nine-speed auto and rear wheels to offset the extra weight of a folding metal roof structure. The Benz will also suffer in some minds for a lack of charisma and presence compared to the Jag.
Audi TT RS from $137,611 plus on-road costs
Although technically a four-seater it’s more like two and extra load space, but you can’t argue with the RS pedigree. Invoking the memories of the Audi Quattro Group B rally car days with its 2.5-litre inline five-cylinder – which in this guise belts out 294kW and 480Nm through a seven-speed twin-clutch auto and all-wheel drive. It’s all contained within a package lighter than all here bar the Porsche, resulting in a claimed 0-100km/h time under four seconds – the only vehicle here that does that.
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