What is it?
You’ve probably heard a lot about the Jaguar F-type this year. Perhaps seen an ad campaign or two, or read a road test or three? If you haven’t been exposed to the extraordinary marketing hype that surrounded its launch, then tell me: how is the weather on the moon?
The F-type V8 S is the range-topping version of the most exciting British sports car in years, and it's part hot-rod, part mini GT car. It’s priced from £79,985.
At this F-type’s heart is the supercharged 5-litre V8 engine seen in all manner of fast Jags and Land Rovers, from XFR and XJ Supersport to XKR-S and Range Rover Autobiography. Here it’s slightly downtuned, producing 488bhp and 461lb ft of torque. Driving the rear wheels via the eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox we’re big fans of elsewhere, the F-type V8 S completes 0-60 in 4.2sec on its way to an electronically limited 186mph top speed – on par with the hardcore new Jaguar XKR-S GT.
Other highlights include an electronically controlled active limited-slip differential, a faster steering rack than the Jaguar XKR and a stability control system with a more lenient track mode.
What’s it like to drive?
Having savoured the performance of a range of increasingly powerful Jaguar sports and saloon cars, if not the driving involvement, we hoped the F-type would hit us with the type of dynamic edge that Porsche has sharpened over the years. The F-type simply could not claim to be a sports car if it rode like a tractor, sounded like a washing machine and responded like an octogenarian goalkeeper. But the first impressions are good. Very, very good.
The F-type does an excellent job of delivering its manifesto the moment you climb in. The joystick gearlever falls to hand, the dashboard has a colour, finish and details that wouldn’t look out of place in Lockheed Martin’s latest warplane, and the engine starts with a scream and a crackle that’s part-Neolithic wolverine, part-porn actress. There’s even a grab-handle for the passenger.
The F-type’s steering rack is direct and fast (the quickest ever fitted to a Jag) and there’s real information filtering up from the road. The damping is abrupt, meaning the 20in wheels (here optioned with carbon spokes) often float over the surface like a speedboat skimming across the waves – traction loading and unloading as the dampers try to keep up. Combine this with an (understandably) overprotective stability control system and your progress over fast ground becomes a jumpy, staccato affair.
It sounds counter-intuitive, but the solution is to switch to Dynamic mode. Throttle response is sharpened, steering weight increased, gearshifts quicken, the adaptive dampers firm up and, most importantly, the stability control system loosens and the V8 S becomes a real joy to push hard – tail-led rather than tail-happy, and superb fun. You need to be absolutely on top of your game to disable the stability systems fully on the road, however; there’s a spikiness to the F-type V8 S that we’ve not experienced in a Jag before – not even in the XKR-S.
The supercharged V8 is as irresistible as ever, sounding absolutely fantastic (and a little bit evil) with a soaring engine note and loud cracks on committed upshifts. It’s very fast too, not feeling its full 54bhp deficit compared to the XKR-S.
How does it compare?
This F-type V8 S is cheaper than the 345bhp, £81,727 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet, but is clearly punchier (if a lot less practical). If you want something eight-cylindered and British, the Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster has 420bhp and is notably pricier at £98,995. Find out how the Jag compares in issue 183 of evo – on sale now.
Anything else I need to know?
The 335bhp F-type V6 costs £58,520, its 375bhp sibling pricier at £67,520. And the soft-top F-type roadster is just the beginning – a coupe version, previewed by the 2011's svelte C-X16 concept car, is on the horizon, as (we suspect) are sportier R and R-S variants.