► 60-unit edition a nod to E-Type's 60th
► Showcases SVO's bespoke options
► Is the F-Type R a supercharged 911 Turbo rival?
The past is not easily forgotten, particularly when you’re Jaguar. You dominate Group C sports car racing: people still think you make nice cars for granddads. You build wild, bespoke weapons like the Project 7 and Project 8: people still think you make nice cars for granddads. You jump on the SUV bandwagon with one of the most handsome, dynamically convincing machines this side of a Macan, the F-Pace: people still think you make nice cars for granddads. You spot the zeitgeist a mile off, bravely sign-off an enormous R&D spend and land the honour of coming out with the first BEV from a premium European car maker, the i-Pace: people still think you make nice cars for granddads.
Even the fast, forward-forging F-Type can’t outrun the past, hence these special editions in E-Type fancy dress to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Enzo’s obsession. The changes are only skin deep. Whether you go coupe or convertible, the car beneath remains an F-Type R, the flagship version of Jag’s two-seater, with its 567bhp supercharged V8 and mandatory all-wheel drive. We’ve driven the convertible here.
Jaguar E-Type Reborn review
Cloyingly retro or deeply handsome?
You’re a better judge of that than me, but I’m firmly in the second camp. Sherwood Green was on the E-Type palette but hasn’t been used on a Jaguar since. It looks stunning here, and far more contemporary than you’d credit, helped along by Julian Thomson’s nicely judged recent evolution of Ian Callum’s original masterpiece. In some lights it looks a little like zeitgeisty greys like Audi’s Nardo or Porsche’s Crayon, but with the added depth and complexity of the green and metallic elements. In sunshine, if you can find any, it’s knockout.
Inside’s a little less convincing, with the tan leather a little too Werther’s Original for my tastes. The hide feels a little plasticky too after the supple refinement of, say, a (much pricier) Bentley cabin.
But the F-Type’s remains a fine one, with its smart new configurable digital driver’s display, great seats, sound ergonomics and a lovely feel, with its high-shouldered doors and tank-slit windscreen. The new Heritage 60 Edition’s soft perforated steering wheel is a joy, making the standard car’s feel cheap in comparison. This, you feel, is a wheel you can work with.
Drives like… an F-Type R?
Funnily enough, yes. And that’s very good news, particularly when the rain’s coming down so hard you wonder how there’s space between the droplets for air to breathe, and there’s so much standing water it’s hard to spot where the rivers end and the road starts.
The F-Type R’s core skills are a tangibly stiff (if not exactly flyweight) structure, awesome ride and handling and a stonking engine.
The supercharged V8 is entirely unlike a turbo engine in character or delivery, being more useable, more linear, more controllable and, ultimately, more exploitable. It drives more like an exceptionally fit naturally-aspirated motor than a turbo, with no sudden storm of boost or tyre-spinning torque.
On the road it’s the F-Type’s most compelling USP, and a perfect foil for the very sorted all-wheel-drive system. With the adaptive dampers in the middle setting (Dynamic’s too stiff for B-roads, and there’s no Ferrari-style bumpy-road mode), the exhaust set to ‘apocalypse’ and you flicking through the gearbox via the paddles, the R is as involving and exciting cross-country as it is ballistic.
Because the car and its suspension can handle anything the surface throws at you, and because there’s an embarrassment of clearly telegraphed grip, you can dip into the V8’s fat seam of drive just as indulgently as you wish, safe in the knowledge that the tyres can cope with both your lateral and longitudinal demands.
Sure, the fuel consumption’s as terrifying as the exhaust noise and sure, the gearbox never feels quite as sharp as twin-clutcher, but the engine and four-wheel-drive system are so stellar you just don’t care. Like BMW’s xDrive this is an overtly rear-biased system and all the better for it, with an incredible amount of grip that will ultimately give out at the rear first under serious provocation.
One-trick pony then?
Not really. Mighty though the R’s powertrain is, the chassis – an F-Type asset right from the off – is a peach too, with taut, direct steering and an ability to both soak up the UK’s bumpiest lumps and maintain body control regardless. The F-Type never feels light or particularly delicate – it’s the anti-Alpine A110, if you like – but nor is it a slouch.
Sports car or GT? A little of both in truth. It’s too heavy (some 1800kg, hence the less than spectacular 0-62mph time, even with huge power and all-wheel drive) and rounded to be an adrenaline-spiking plaything, but it hasn’t the suppressed road noise or rear seats you’d expect of a true GT. Think of it instead as a cut-price Vantage.
Jaguar F-Type R convertible: verdict
The F-Type remains a fine sports car, and the R remains – for the power-hungry at least – the ultimate example of it; handsome, shatteringly fast, brawny and seriously capable.
But the F-Type’s long struggled to look like good value for money, with even the P300 four-cylinder’s list price running dangerously close to that of the six-cylinder Cayman/Boxster GTS, and considerably north of the four-cylinder base Porsche two-seaters.
At the top of the range the standard F-Type R is £97k in coupe form or £102.5k for the convertible. The Heritage 60 cars will be rare – just 60 are being built for global sale, with a single-digit UK allocation – but with pricing from £122.5k (just £12k short of the mighty Porsche 911 Turbo…), you’ll need to be a huge fan of either the concept or its unique colour to want to find the difference.
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