Colin Hubbard continues his series: Since Tata bought Jaguar and Land Rover in 2008 both companies fortunes and successes have flourished to make them a worldwide premium brand. Look down a celebrities’ street or box office movie and both brands will be commonplace. Jaguar have traditionally been a gentleman’s car builder, making cars for the more mature professional. My Father aspired to own one for many years and took the plunge in 1993 with an XJ6, followed that with an XJ8 and then a modern day Morse car replica the S-Type.
The mature gent image took some shaking off to encourage younger buyers into their cars but by Jove Jaguar struck gold in 2013 when they launched the hugely anticipated F-Type. Available as a convertible only it was an absolutely gorgeous looking creation courtesy of Ian Callum and team who created a stunning shape extruded from aluminium featuring some pretty curves, shapes and haunches which also help give the lightweight chassis and panels additional strength. It also featured some nifty touches such as door handles that glided out when the car was unlocked and air vents that smoothly raised out of the dash when the ignition was switched on.
The F-Type continued Jaguar’s love affair with the supercharger where it features in all models, the crank-driven blower boosting power in two states of tune in the 3 litre V6 models and also a 5 litre V8 for those of a brave disposition.
What I mean by brave is that the V8’s chassis was set up intentionally to be playful and ended up as a bit of a hooligan’s car. I recall one completely dry day whilst out on test I dropped it down to second around a not so tight corner, gave it probably a little too much throttle and even with the traction control fully on the back end stepped out what felt like a few metres but in reality probably just a single metre. After that I had utter respect for it.
The only negative points were a fairly high list price and an utterly useless boot. To this day I still can’t believe it is so small and find myself looking under trim panels to see what’s under there.
In 2014 the F-Type Coupé was launched to a jaw-dropped public. Could the F-Type really get any prettier? Oh yes! Callum had once again worked his magic and created a Jaguar which in the right colour and spec is arguably better looking that the equivalent Aston Martin, the Vantage. Just look at the shapes and body lines, the way extenuated rear arches flow into a sharp crease above the eagle eye rear lights and try to tell me otherwise. This is no old man’s car, this is a proper head turning jaw- dropping sports car.
With a stronger bodyshell the power in the 5 litre V8 was upped from 495bhp to 542bhp but it was more than quick enough in the convertible and even more ballistic in the Coupé. The two downsides to the Convertible were addressed in Coupé with a boot more than twice size and capable of carrying not one set of golf clubs but two and the price tag was £5.5k cheaper than the equivalent soft top, a seemingly reverse strategy to Porsches premium for their hardtop Boxster, the Cayman. The 407 litre boot capacity (up 215 litres over the Convertible) may have found more buyers who like to chase a ball around a field but for me the Coupé ‘s looks were enough to win me over.
So it seems Jaguar has a strategy to keep adding to the range thus appealing to existing F-Type owners who want something difference in their next purchase but also to F-Type virgins who don’t want what is currently offered. The offerings for 2015 are an all wheel drive chassis option and a manual gearbox. A manual gearbox in a Jag?!
Sadly I’m not testing the manual version today because it isn’t available in the 5 litre V8, but that’s no bad thing as I am in the 5 litre V8 All Wheel Drive or to give it’s full title, ahem, deep breath – the Jaguar F-TYPE Coupé R 5.0 Litre V8 550 Supercharged AWD – Automatic.
Let’s get the figures out of the way first. 550 is PS which equates to 542bhp and there is huge 502 lb/ft torque which is plenty to propel 1730kg which is 80kg up on the rear drive only car. This puts down a 0-60mph time of 3.9 seconds (0.3 seconds ahead of the two wheel drive car) and goes all the way to a un-nannied 186 mph.
The cabin is as ever a quality affair with good aesthetic design along with nice to the touch materials. Interior space is at a premium over the convertible as they didn’t have to worry about the shape to accommodate a folding roof so there is more headroom and along with option £1,250 panoramic roof there’s an airy feeling.
Anyone who has experienced a Jaguar F-Type will know they are not for shrinking violets when their engines are turning; it makes me jump when it turns over then quickly catches fire. The V8 has a more ferocious bark than the V6’s which is itself pretty riotous. This is my first drive in a Coupé plus one with All Wheel Drive and on the road it initially feels more composed than the rear-drive Convertible which I’m guessing is down the extra 80 kilos over the front axle and a more rigid structure.
The ride is actually quite comfortable for a sports car despite it running on 20” alloys and soaks up minor and major bumps with ease. The front springs have been uprated to handle the extra weight of the front differential but the ride is more pliant than any previous F-Type I have driven, so assume the more rigid structure has allowed the chassis engineers to soften the set up in the Coupé.
It doesn’t want for much in the twisties though as it handled beautifully on Millbrook’s Alpine Course with little body roll. It is planted to the road through sweeping bends and the front end actually pulls it out of the corners. Aiding the all-wheel drive is torque vectoring rather than a mechanical LSD so individual wheels are braked as required, braking the inside wheels at varying rates which can turn the car like a tank turns, hence it feels like it is pulling itself through the corner.
It is a more grown up set-up than the rear-drive hooligan; each car has notably difference character so if you are looking to buy one make sure you try both before signing on the dotted line. The brakes are strong and feel-some with steel discs and large callipers all round. Braking ability wasn’t an issue on the gruesome hill course with some steep slopes and the ABS didn’t cut in once, but that could be down to the glorious weather and grippy 255 section Pirelli Pzeros.
The engine is the key part of the experience as it is a hugely powerful unit with a broad spread of torque provided by that supercharger which is never lacking in power. The beauty of the crank-driver blower is that being constantly driven it continually produces power with small doses of boost at lower revs and larger doses at higher revs but no step in the rev range. The smooth but quick shifting 8 ratio’d ZF gearbox keeps performance on boil when pressing on. When antagonised it keeps the revs between 5,000 and 7,000rpm where acceleration is best described as dramatic.
The soundtrack is epic if not anarchic; the noise that comes from the 4 tailpipes seems barely legal with the silencers keeping within drive-by regulations but quickly bypassed by the active exhaust switch on the console or by the ECU itself when pressing on. Even with the exhaust flaps shut and the gases directed through the silencers the output is loud but press the noisy switch and the sound turns demoniac with an almost straight through noise being transmitted from the rear of the car.
The best way to describe the sound it makes on the overrun is when you stand by a bonfire and the wood get so hot it splits and releases steam into the fire and that loud bonfire crackle is heard. In the F-Type it is like you are standing in said bonfire when it crackles almost as if the un-burnt fuel is exploding in the back boxes. The noise is best experienced with the windows down although wind noise does interfere with proceedings. If you can find something for it to bounce off it works best; there are no tunnels at Millbrook but the armco worked just fine reverberating the glorious sound back towards the cabin.
After only a lap of the handling circuit I get confident with the handling, throwing it around fairly easily and the chassis becomes hugely confidence inspiring. Where the rear driven F-Type wanted to oversteer the AWD car just wants to go fast. Not that it is dull at all, instead goading you to drive faster as it uses energy for forward motion instead of showboating. With the subtle but road hugging suspension, huge traction and torque-rich motor performance around the track is super, super quick and that I found highly satisfying for a high performance GT car.
The all-wheel drive chassis is perfect for the type of buyer this car will end up with, just hard enough, satisfyingly predicable and superbly grippy. It is still a proper gentleman’s sports-cum-GT car but also one that appeals to younger buyers. The price, as tested is dead on £100k which on paper is a natural rival to the Aston Martin V8 Vantage which starts at £85k although performance in the Jag is leaps ahead.
I’m hoping that Callum and Co keep on finding different variations of the F-Type. My money and hopes for 2016 are on a Jaguar F-Type Shooting Brake.
Positives – That soundtrack, superb traction and drop dead gorgeous looks.
Negatives – Not as playful as the rear drive F-Type
Price – £91,660
Price as tested – £100,000
Engine – 5 litre V8 Supercharged
Transmission – 8 Speed Automatic
Drive – four wheel drive
0-60mph – 3.9s
Top speed – 186mph
Power – 542 bhp
Torque – 502 lb ft
Economy – 25mpg (combined)
CO2 – 269 g/km
Kerb weight – 1730 kg