So here I am again, nestled into the leather-lined cockpit of a Jaguar F-Type. This time I’ve escaped the confines of the Millbrook hill route and I’m out on the open road. While time constraints and a lack of passport stop me from making a dash for the Channel Tunnel I have the chance to savour the F-Type in its natural habitat.
As before I’m driving the entry-level V6, although this time it’s painted in a much more desirable shade called Firesand. It’s a definite highlight in the Jaguar palette.
The weather is cool and cloudy but fortunately the rain has stopped so the first order of the day is to drop the roof. This is a convertible and that’s how it should be driven – petrolhead rules state that if it’s not raining a convertible’s roof must be down (you only have to wait for 12 seconds for the F-Type to oblige). I’m also keen to embrace the elements because it’s the best way to enjoy the F-Type’s active exhaust.
Press the button on the centre console and the F-Type develops a deeper, richer voice while you cruise through town. Once you’re out of the urban sprawl you can stretch the V6, at which point it turns into a howling banshee and delivers a riotous symphony of pops and crackles on the overrun. Some say it’s a bit over the top, too showy, but I love it and it really does add to the character of this bright orange sports car.
If you think this base model is all mouth and no trousers then you’re most certainly wrong. The 340PS V6 is more than enough to make the F-Type an interesting prospect on an empty roundabout and it’s only 40PS shy of the V6S. The fact that you’re saving £9,000 sweetens the deal and gives you the chance to play with the options list, starting with that active exhaust and bright paint. Bigger wheels (19-inch items are fitted to this car) will be a popular option and there are plenty of other tempting upgrades to tease the money from your bank account.
I’m not going to make any snap judgements on whether the F-Type is better on road than its obvious German rivals but what I can say with certainty is that it feels special. The steering is sharp and the nose responds eagerly. There’s plenty of grip at the rear and even with 450Nm from the 3.0-litre V6 the tail takes some provocation to break free. That inspires confidence and encourages you to make the most of the available power, with the rewards being ridiculous speed and glorious noises.
The eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox is a delight. Wheel-mounted paddles make it easy to surf up and down the ratios and the changes are quick and smooth. For the most part I only used second and third gear as they’re enough to allow you to enjoy the rich sound and performance without landing you in trouble with the law.
On narrow, twisting lanes the F-Type feels nimble, more so than you’d expect from a car weighing almost 1,600kg. It’s not small but at no point did it feel unwieldy, while on the dual carriageway it turns into a refined cruiser, even with the roof down. The V6 has to make do without the Adaptive Chassis technology of the V6S and V8 but it still strikes a good compromise between comfort and handling.
So the F-Type is a great drive and feels special but there is a problem with it … and that’s the price. This V6 model starts at £58,520 and that makes it an uncomfortable £12k more expensive than the Porsche Boxster S. The two are practically identical in terms of performance so that can’t be used to explain the price difference and the Boxster’s revised cabin gives the F-Type a good run for the money.
To my mind the V6 sits on the wrong side of £50k. Jaguar are clearly trying to pitch the F-Type as a more upmarket proposal than the Boxster but I don’t think it’s far enough ahead of the Porsche to justify the extra outlay.
Ultimately your own opinions of the Porsche and Jaguar badges will determine whether you think the F-Type is worth its asking price. The F-Type is certainly beautiful to behold and is very much the car of the moment, whereas the Boxster’s appeal is diminished by familiarity and its (completely undeserved) reputation as the poor man’s 911.
It’s a tough choice but seeing as I don’t have £58 grand burning a hole in my pocket it’s not one I have to worry about. Put it this way – if you’re happy spending that much money on a car then you’ll almost certainly be happy with the Jaguar F-Type. It’s a wonderfully exciting British sports car that’s packed full of character and is easily the best performance model Jaguar has built in a long time.
|Performance & Economy||Jaguar F-Type V6|
|Engine||2,995cc supercharged V6, petrol|
|Transmission||8-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive|
|Power (PS / bhp)||340 / 335|
|Torque (Nm / lb.ft)||450 / 331|
|0 – 60 mph (seconds)||5.1|
|Top Speed (mph)||161|
|CO2 Emissions (g/km)||209|
|Combined Economy (mpg)||31.4|
|Kerb Weight (kg)||1,597|