Having sampled almost every performance model Jaguar has offered in recent years, we approached the Jaguar F-Type with a certain predetermined image of what it would feel like to drive. Yet pushing the starter button reveals that the Jaguar F-Type is a little different from what you get with cars like the Jaguar XK.
With the F-Type, Jaguar is keen to exploit the brand’s rich heritage. It gained a reputation throughout the 1960’s and 70’s as one of the key sports car manufacturers. In recent times Jaguar hasn’t done anything of much significance. The last true two-seater Jaguar to leave the production floor was the iconic E-Type which saw three iterations before retiring gracefully in 1974. Whilst technically it was succeeded by the Jaguar XJS, a true Jaguar enthusiast will tell you that, being based on the XJ Saloon, the E-Type still reigned supreme.
So, with almost 40 years of progress to catch up with, the F-Type promises to recapture the brilliance of Jaguar’s mainstay historic sports cars. The F-Type design stems from what we saw with Jaguar’s C-X16 concept at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show. The C-X16 was such a critical success that Jaguar almost immediately gave it the green light, albeit without the coupe body form. It features a traditional two-seater, front engine, rear-wheel drive layout.
Ian Callum, Jaguar’s Chief Designer, points out the key design line starting from the vertical front air intake line and moving upwards, round the right side of the light and up past the bonnet, disappearing as it passes through the rear door. Similarly, the rear arches serve an important purpose. Aside from giving a muscular look, they are sleek and finely styled. Something carried over from the Jaguar E-Type and D-Type. As much as Callum would like to produce something completely inkeeping with the E-Type philosophy, EU legislation outlaws many of the features that made it such a classic beauty.
There are a number of subtle design details that might go unnoticed. The F-Type has what is described in the literature as a clamshell hood. Far from the true clamshell bonnet design of the E-Type, the F-Type bonnet gets a one-piece design which continues down roughly half of the area behind the front fender. In an effort to maintain the sleek look of the side and the rear fenders, Jaguar’s designers also developed a new style of door handle that rises out of the door and moves back in once you pull away.
The chassis that underpins the neo-classic Jaguar design is also all-aluminium. The individual pieces are riveted together; you won’t find a single weld. Jaguar says that this actually saves a small amount of weight. The aluminium is named AC300, a development of the aluminium originally used for the Jaguar XK. It offers higher levels of strength and a reduced weight. All F-Type models use the same basic monocoque.
The Jaguar F-Type in its lowest specification features a 3.0 litre V6 engine. A bespoke build for the Jaguar F-Type V6, the engine blueprint derives from the well established Jaguar V8 engine. Having removed two of the cylinders, it benefits from a supercharger unit fitted between the cylinder banks. It is the entry level F-Type, yet it still has a substantial 340hp.
The Jaguar F-Type V6 manages a 0-100km/h sprint of 5.3 seconds with the slightly shorter milestone of 60mph at 5.1 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 161mph. You’ll be able to tell its the V6 model on account of the dual centre mounted tail pipes and 18 inch wheels.
As you would expect, many of the features that make the V6 S and V8 S dynamically superior are omitted from the standard F-Type V6. It doesn’t have the Dynamic Mode features or the active exhaust system (although the exhaust system can be fitted separately and was actually installed on our test vehicle). Yet in its most basic spec, the F-Type still has an endearing quality.
Being a two-seater roadster, the seating position is naturally very low with the driver sitting just in front of the rear axle. In fact, the F-Type actually sits 20mm lower than any Jaguar has before. Despite rear-biased seating position, and the rear wheel drive setup, the F-Type feels very well balanced with good feel as to what is going on at all four corners.
The Jaguar F-Type V6 gets an 8-speed gearbox which is clearly designed to give the driver as much control over the power and driving experience as possible. It works extremely well in manual mode yet owners will probably only use the automatic function for motorway cruising. It simply feels more natural to use the paddle shifters when having to vary your speeds.
There is another reason too. That exhaust note. The F-Type is probably one of the best sounding sports cars currently available. The active exhaust system is a must have in this respect. It adds a chilling exhaust note. It’s one of those sounds that never gets boring. With the exhaust valves open you get a commanding V6 roar from the engine every time you depress the accelerator.
Looking at the cars vital statistics, many expected a little more performance than the standard 360hp. That might be so in a world where the Nissan GT-R reigns supreme, yet in the real world of real performance, the F-Type feels very nicely balanced. The power the F-Type V6 is perfectly suited to its summer sports car attitude. The chassis setup and exhaust note provide plenty of thrills and V6 provides exactly the sort of performance you would expect from such a roadster. If anything, the inclusion of the supercharger adds that urgent feel across a wider range rev range allowing it a feel that belies its spec sheet.
Having offered us an initial glimpse into the F-Type philosophy (as Jaguar would term it!), we can say that the Jaguar F-Type V6 is every inch the successor to the E-Type. Whilst the 1960’s original used a classic V12 lump, the F-Type uses a similarly impressive engine layout. It really is a sublime car, with almost perfect handling and a very special atmosphere. The V6 probably won’t be the model of choice simply as it lacks a lot of the ‘S’ model features. Yet owners won’t feel short changed. Our recommendation is to choose the active exhaust option!