This is the Jaguar F-type, in top-spec V8 S guise. Its supercharged V8 engine sends 488bhp to the rear wheels, giving the £75k F-type the performance of a £100k XKR-S. But can the F-type live up to the best sports cars In the class - and its legendary E-type ancestor? Read on for the CAR verdict.
Give me some more F-type V8 S specs
Our car is the range-topping V8 S (recognisable by the quad exhaust pipes), which is fitted with a new, lightweight version of Jaguar’s trusty 5.0-litre supercharged V8, good for 488bhp and a whopping 460lb ft of torque. Jaguar claims 0-60mph in 4.2 seconds and a top speed of 186mph, but forget the stats, just listen to that noise! The V8 emits a gravelly baritone growl that grows to a rapid, multi-cylindered snarl as the revs reach the 7000rpm redline; and then it pops and crackles like a NASCAR as you release the throttle. It’s so much fun it, sounds illegal, like the EU might ban it.
What's the Jaguar F-type like inside?
Open the door (using the pop-out handle – lovely detail) and slide into the strictly two-seater cockpit. It’s pretty snug in here, more Boxster-sized than 911, but the details are all top-end premium. I love the big, rotary heater dials; the copper-coloured starter button and gearshift paddles; and the swept-in passenger-side grab handle (a crafty, knowing reference to the E-type’s grab handle, suggesting driver prowess, and weak-kneed passenger submission). The optional ‘performance’ seats are excellent too, with wide shoulders and waist-hugging bolsters. The Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel feels small, and not hugely comfortable to hold (your fingers have nothing to wrap around at the back of the quarter-to-three position); but the paddles are well positioned and precise.
What's the F-type like to drive?
At 1665kg, the V8 is hardly a lightweight car (despite the all-alloy construction); but this engine feels like it could pick up the F-type and swat it like a flea, it’s so potent. All three models in the range – the V6, the V6 S and the V8 S – are fitted with a tightly-packed eight-speed ‘Quickshift’ gearbox; it’s an auto with paddles, and don’t bother asking for a manual. The gearchange in Dynamic mode is, well, as quick as the name ‘Quickshift’ suggests, with lovely blipping downshifts; but more surprising is the steering itself. That too is ‘quick’ – in fact, the hydraulic rack is the fastest ever fitted to a Jaguar, according to the official blurb. It feels direct, utterly slack-free, with zero hesitation when you turn in; and the feedback is full of lovely detail.
The F-type feels shamelessly, rudely rear-wheel drive – a proper, hairy, sharp and slightly scary sports car. It’s partly down to that steering, the throttle response, the eagerness of the gearchange, but the differential is also key. The V6 models get a mechanical limited-slip diff, but the V8 is fitted with an electronic ‘Active’ diff, which uses an electric motor and a multi-plate clutch to tighten or loosen the diff, depending on factors such as stability, traction, and how deep your right foot is mashed into the carpet. Turn into a corner and get on the throttle, and you can feel it squat down and attack the bend, in a way that’s just begging you to boot it and hang the tail out.
The result is dynamite. On our favourite roads in Wales, in the pouring rain, with the car set resolutely in Dynamic mode, my heart was pounding in the F-type. It feels taut, sensitive, even a little fidgety at speed; every short straight is demolished by the V8, every corner is a toe-twitch away from an extravagant slide. The responses are hair-trigger instantaneous, and that torque looms large over every move you make, every input you dare feed in. It is fantastically, absurdly, implausibly exciting to drive – challenging (on the limit) in a way you just wouldn’t expect in a modern Jaguar.
Traditional XJ owners might find it all a bit too rampant for their tastes; even modern Porsche and Maserati drivers might be taken aback; TVR drivers will feel right at home, though they’ll wonder why the interior doesn’t smell of superglue. The F-type is a new kind of Jaguar. Or maybe it’s an old kind of Jaguar. Either way, I’m glad they made it.
For Mark’s complete drive of the new Jaguar F-type, plus a three-way fight between the new Jag, Porsche 911 and Audi R8 Spyder, check out the May issue of CAR magazine, on sale now. To whet your appetite, click here for our preview.