Car reviews - Jaguar - F-Type - V6 Convertible
Sweeping good looks, decent fuel economy from supercharged V6 with snarling soundtrack, great twisty-road dynamics
Room for improvement
Laughably small amount of boot space, very little interior stash space, annoyingly fussy ride at highway speeds, maybe a bit under-braked?
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17 Nov 2014
By BARRY PARK
Price and equipment
Our week behind the wheel is in the cheapest eight-speed auto F-Type you can buy, priced from $138,645 before on-road costs to make it a few bottles of Grange more expensive than the more powerful, seven-speed dual-clutch automatic version of the Boxster, the S, thanks to recent big price cuts.
There’s a more powerful supercharged V6 “S” model further up the food chain, as well as a similarly huffed 5.0-litre V8 model.
In terms of equipment, the Jag is nicely presented. Its lifestyle aspect is highlighted with a great-sounding 10-speaker audio system – although the lack of digital radio to make the most of it is a miss – and the stunning design highlighted with streamlined dusk-sensing bi-Xenon headlights and wrap-around tail-lamps works in well with the default 18-inch alloys.
Among what is now standard fare for luxury cars, there’s an electric park brake, dual-zone climate control and satellite navigation, as well as floor mats – an item too often pushed to the options list these days.
Interestingly, there’s no “Jaguar” spelt out on the F-Type’s bodywork, only the leaping cat logo and the words “F-Type” across the bootlid. The first typographical sign that it is indeed a Jag is the brand name etched into the shiny scuff plates on the sill as you open a door.
Jaguar interiors have a certain feel to them, and once you open the F-Type’s long door and slip into the low-slung driver’s seat, there’s enough brand heritage to provide a sense of familiarity.
However, the F-Type eschews the once-popular PRNDL gear-selector dial that rises up from the console between the driver and passenger for a more traditional gearshift lever.
Instead, the only thing to rise once you press the engine start button is the centrally mounted air-conditioning vents that pop up like a wedge from the dashtop.
The leather-trimmed sports seats are comfortable and infinitely adjustable, while the electric-adjust steering wheel also allows a natural driving position. Small-item storage space up front is limited if you plan on using the two cupholders, but the shallow bin under the centre console is easily accessible.
Where Porsche keeps the Boxster’s steering wheel free of any buttons and therefore free of any driver distractions, the F-Type features a nicely presented tiller backed with paddle shifters, dressed in matte-black highlights and sporting a number of driver aids for audio and cruise control functions.
The baby Jag’s steering wheel even features a handy speed limiter function, but activated via a confusingly acronymed console-mounted button.
Strangely, Jaguar has flipped the tacho and speedo around in the instrument cluster so that the tacho sits on the right side of the layout. It’s not a criticism, and only adds weight to the suggestion that this is a car made for driver enjoyment.
Further highlighting this thought is the view from the passenger seat.
Everything in the F-Type, apart from the glovebox, is skewed towards the driver’s line of vision, leaving the passenger with nothing but the touch-sensitive button that opens the good-sized glovebox to play with. This sense of isolation is taken a notch higher by a grab bar that spears back from the dash alongside the passenger’s right knee.
Roof in place, the F-Type’s interior is surprisingly spacious given its sleek dimensions, and nicely quiet for a rag-topped sportscar. Roof down, the cabin is mostly calm at even highway speeds, and can only benefit from a rear-mounted wind deflector.
The roof drops at the push of a console-mounted button – you can’t do it via the key fob, which is disappointing, stowing in record time by soft-top convertible standards.
There is a problem, though, and it is a biggie. Roof up or down, the boot space is ridiculously small – think of space enough only for four normal bags of shopping. A weekend away will require careful wardrobe planning, and you’ll have to buy Grange by the bottle, not the case.
Part of the issue is the Jag’s sleek looks, with the marque’s chief designer Ian Callum keen not to give the F-Type the big-arsed derriere that plagues some other less carefully executed drop-top designs. The other is the Jag’s space-saver spare wheel, which eats up four-fifths of the useable boot space – run-flat technology is now so good you could consider ditching it to yield room.
Even with a six-cylinder engine and gearbox mounted behind the driver, the Boxster’s small boot that complements the front-mounted cargo tub murders the Jag for rear load-lugging capabilities.
Engine and transmission
Porsche fits the Boxster S with a normally aspirated 3.4-litre flat six-cylinder engine that spits out 232kW of power and 360Nm of torque from quite high in the rev range.
In contrast, Jag’s F-Type sports a supercharged 3.0-litre V6 producing 250kW high in the rev range, but its full welly of 450Nm of torque arrives from moderate engine speeds.
It’s enough to give Jaguar’s new sports star a 0-100km/h sprint time of 5.3secs, although it is a sluggard compared with the Boxster S’s 5.0secs flat, in part thanks to the heavier Jaguar’s excess baggage.
Fuel use on premium unleaded fuel is officially rated at 9.0 litres per 100 kilometres, which is middle of the road for this class of car despite its idle-stop system that shuts the engine down when the convertible is stopped in traffic. We finished our spell behind the wheel in the low- to mid- teens.
Tooling around town, the F-Type’s engine is remarkably responsive, with the eight-speed box slurring into the most efficient gear – helped by a console-mounted dial to switch the drivetrain’s dynamics between economy, sports and hell-raising modes.
The real star of the show, though, is the sense of theatre the engineers have built into the drivetrain once you switch out of the throttle-dulling eco mode.
Twin stainless steel exhausts that poke out ostentatiously from the rear diffuser – the chrome-mounted tips on our test car are fringed with that same heat-sourced blue tint you get on a hard-working motorcycle’s exhaust – are the standout performers, giving the F-Type more character than Minder’s Arthur Daley.
Prod the accelerator pedal with a bit of enthusiasm and the roaring V6 clears its throat with a deep cough in between upward gear changes, and pops, snarls and crackles like Chinese new year fireworks on a trailing throttle. If you must know, that’s solely the reason why we missed the official fuel use average by such a wide margin.
In short, it’s the reason you’ll fall in love with the F-Type. It worked for me.
Ride and handlingThe F-Type looks like a corner-carving sportscar should, with a stumpy, wide body and short overhangs at either end.
Given the engine’s performance, Jaguar has underpinned the F-Type with a sports suspension system that improves roadholding via the low-profile Pirelli PZero rubber.
Around town, the F-Type has a gentle, cossetting ride that would rival most other sportscars, helped by light electrically assisted steering that feels more natural as speeds rise.
However, it is blighted on the highway, where the taut, racecar-like double wishbone suspension reacts poorly to small, sharp imperfections on the road – and there are plenty of these in Australia – so that a freeway run is filled with constant jiggles and reverberations as the set-up struggles to respond, not helped by a slight scuttle shake as the body flexes in response.
Light up the wick, though, and the F-Type’s wider rear track helps to make it an extremely capable corner carver, transferring weight nicely, handling predictably, and gripping tenaciously. You’re best to knock the gear lever into manual mode and use the paddle shifters to get the most from the engine.
It does feel slightly under-braked, tough, showing signs of fade from the solid – not vented – disc brakes if repeatedly pushed hard.
Safety and servicing
The F-Type comes equipped with four airbags – class leaders such as the Volvo V70 extend the count to six with unique head-protecting bags – and as with most expensive luxury cars, it is yet to be officially tested and crash-rated. Bear in mind, though, that Jag’s mid-size saloon, the XF, was tested under EuroNCAP’s regime and only scored four stars out of a possible five.
Every Jaguar sold in Australia apart from the XF comes with three years of free servicing, capped at a maximum of 100,000km. The warranty covers the first three years of the vehicle’s life, irrespective of how far it travels, and includes roadside assistance.
If Jaguar’s one-time legacy of problems still worries you despite the leaps in technology, you can extend the warranty by up to two years and 200,000km.
Apart from the ridiculous boot, the Jaguar F-Type is a compelling and seductive package. However, it isn’t as sharp or user-friendly as the current segment benchmark, the Boxster S.
But we’re not all wannabe race drivers, and where the sharply styled Boxster blends into the background, the Jaguar F-Type oozes popular appeal – judging by the amount of interest that people showed in our test car wherever it purred.
The engine and exhaust system are big ego-strokers, and sometimes that is all we need in life. That, and some more boot space, thanks.
Porsche Boxster S (From $131,490 before on-roads).
Sharp handling, sharp driving, and now even sharper pricing set the benchmark.
However, the baby Porsche soft-top is still a key-start prospect, and if you think the Jag lacks practical interior stash space ...
Mercedes-Benz SLK350 (From $119,950 before on-roads).
Combination of value, performance and sound make the metal-roofed, V6-engined, seven-speed auto SLK a definite driver-focussed consideration. However, does ride hard and lacks a bit of steering panache.
Audi TT S Cabriolet (From $103,300 before on-roads).
Not strictly a two-seater, but the 2+2’s rear benches are pretty much only there for looks. Cracking 2.0L turbo four-pot cranks out 200kW, with handling to match, but soft-top is starting to show its age in face of sharp new rivals.
MAKE/MODEL: Jaguar F-Type
ENGINE: Supercharged 3.0L V6
LAYOUT: Front engined, rear drive
TRANSMISSION: 8sp auto
TOP SPEED: 260km/h
EMISSIONS: 209g/km CO2
SUSPENSION: Double wishbone (f)/double wishbone (r)
STEERING: Electrically assisted rack and pinion
BRAKES: Solid disc (f)/solid disc (r)
PRICE: From $138,645 before on-roads
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