Jaguar is a company that probably shouldn’t still be around. For almost four decades, the leaping cat traded on the long-faded glories of the E-Type and Mk II, the marque’s styling becoming progressively more timid under Ford’s stewardship when Jaguar was part of the ill-fated Premier Automotive Group.
When Indian giant Tata bought in, many were aghast that one of the icons of British motoring was now in the hands of a former colony. Clearly, these people needn’t have worried (or, better still, checked their prejudice at the door). Because the all-new Jaguar F-Type is a belter.
Our car was the entry-level V6 manual coupe, which starts at $119,470. For that you will receive a reasonably well-specced car, with a ten-speaker Meridian-branded stereo with USB and Bluetooth, 18-inch alloy wheels, climate-control, theft alarm, keyless entry and go, cruise control, electric seats, sat-nav, headlamp washers, bi-xenon headlights, auto headlights and wipers, a mix of real and fake leather trim, park assist and power mirrors and windows.
Added to our test car was 19-inch black-and-diamond alloys ($5100), memory seat pack ($2040), panoramic roof ($2000), powered tailgate ($1100), black pack ($1280) and DAB radio ($600), taking the total to $131,950 plus on-roads.
On the outside, the Jaguar F-Type is stunning. Penned by design legend Ian Callum, it has a road presence few cars can match. Out of all the cars we’ve had on our driveway, the only one that got more attention was the BMW i8. Our normally taciturn neighbour stopped and stared.
That long bonnet (with the achingly cool forward hinged bonnet) feeds into a steeply-angled windscreen and back down again into a classic teardrop fastback. It absolutely looks the business.
Of course, there are drawbacks, and they’re all inside. Entry is a bit difficult for the driver and there’s limited rearward movement of the seats, heavily based as the car is on the convertible.
The boot is laughably small.
Despite the shortcomings, it’s a great place to spend time. The driving position is low and racy but vision forward down the long bonnet is excellent. The only rear drama is over the shoulder, so make sure the door mirrors are correctly adjusted.
Everything fits very well, the seats look and feel great and everything is where it should be. To sit in it feels like a much more expensive Italian supercar, which is a neat trick as at this price level, there’s pretty much nothing not to like the F-Type.
Six airbags, ABS and brake force distribution, traction and stability controls, active safety system on the bonnet, rear parking sensors.
There is no ANCAP safety rating for the F-Type.
If you’re worried the software is like the outgoing XF’s, you can breathe easy – the F-Type’s system is streets ahead. A simple touchscreen interface gets you into the stereo, sat-nav, phone, etc.
There’s no rotary dials as with German premium manufacturers, the Jaguars sharing the touchscreen from the Land Rover range. It could be more responsive and the sat-nav a bit more intuitive, but there was good sound from the Meridian-branded stereo and it was much easier to use than Jaguar’s past.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
Powered by Jaguar’s 250 kW supercharged 3.0 litre V6, the F-Type will sprint to 100 km/h in 5.7 seconds and on to 275 km/h should you happen to be in the Northern Territory. The engine also packs 450 Nm of torque to help get its 1600 kg frame moving.
Coupled to the six-speed transmission, Jaguar thinks you can achieve 9.8L/100km but this is extremely unlikely, with 13.7L in our hands.
Press the starter and valves in the exhaust open briefly for a tremendous bark on start-up, letting you and your postcode know the F is ready for business.
You can then slink out of the driveway with minimal fuss, as long as you haven’t pushed the sport button recently. In normal mode, the throttle is reasonably soft and the exhaust note quiet, without any histrionics. Once you’ve worked out you’re basically sitting on the rear wheels and there’s a lot of bonnet in front of you – you could almost park a Mini between the front wheel and the front door aperture – it’s a very easy car to drive.
The clutch has good feel and weight, the six-speeder’s shift is reasonably fluid (if a touch notchy) and the ride on the sport suspension pretty reasonable, no doubt helped by the long wheelbase. It’s not especially quiet – the addition of the roof hasn’t really been a full success when it comes to noise suppression – but it’s rolling on very big, very fat tyres.
Press the Sport mode and you’re back to the snarling, barking version of the beast. The F-Type may not be the fastest car for the money nor the best handling but it is definitely a load of fun. With the bonds loosened slightly and the tremendous exhaust racket egging you on, you can have a real blast.
Handling is progressive but a load of fun, with plenty of confidence-inducing compliance in the chassis – it won’t bite you – and the ride won’t knock your teeth out of your head or your spine out of whack.
Many owners will never do this, though – they’ll be hugely pleased to admire the car in the driveway, shop windows and in the faces of passers-by. This is a popular car and a lot of people give you a grin and a thumbs-up that you won’t get in a BMW or Merc in this class. Don’t ask why, we don’t really know either.
SUMMING UP 4/5
The F-Type is the embodiment of what happens when a business like Tata, with its forward-thinking, investment-first attitude permeates a struggling luxury carmaker that had sunk as low as sharing a platform with the Ford Mondeo.
It’s got bags of character, a revered badge and wonderful sense of drama with crackly-poppy exhaust and punchy rear drive chassis.
Jaguar F-Type looks gorgeous, is relatively good value and it will make you a minor celebrity.
LIKES: Stunning looks, enormous street appeal, cracking engine
DISLIKES: Slow touchscreen, needs to lose some weight, ridiculous boot