New Jaguar F-Type: The sports car rebooted
13th Jun 2013 | 09:00
Old-school fun with a techy, all-alloy twist
Baggage. In more ways than one, it's the biggest problem for the all-new Jaguar F-Type roadster.
For starters, there's a Louis Vuitton-load to deal with courtesy of ye olde Jaguar E-Type. The slinky 60s sportster is a true icon and a model some would say was Jag's last pukka sports car.
Whatever, the E-Type is held in preposterous regard and 50-odd years on, the F-Type is more hotly anticipated than a week-delayed episode of Game of Thrones. Jag fans are desperate for this car.
Then there's the F-Type's puny boot, which conspires baggage issues of a completely different kind. But that's a detail flaw. The broader picture penned by Jag with its new roadster, as we'll see, is something of a modern masterpiece.
Back to basics
So let's start with the basics. Front-engine, rear-drive layout. V6 and V8 powerplants. Anything from 340 to 500 petrol-powered ponies. Our test car is the base model with a 3.0-litre, 340hp supercharged V6.
Anyway, it all sounds like a bit of throwback, but there's plenty of cutting edge technology. For starters, the body and chassis are all-aluminium. And not just any aluminium. A new alloy, lighter and stronger, was developed for the F-Type.
It's packed with tech, albeit some of it optional, to aid driving dynamics. There's an eight-speed gearbox, configurable driving modes, active suspension, active aerodynamics, even an active exhaust.
Inside, there's touchscreen functionality, configurable displays and more.
But let's start with the tech you can tweak for driving. The eight-speed gearbox is a ZF unit. It's pretty widely used in the car industry currently.
That's because it's really rather good. However, it is a torque converter rather than dual-clutch gearbox. Is it thus suboptimal in an unambiguous sports car like the F-Type?
That's debatable. It's about the most advanced torque converter gearbox currently available. And comes complete with a locking clutch. Add in steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters and you have a 'box that's quick, crisp and responsive when driven in maximum attack mode.
It's actually around town at more sedate speed that the soft, slurry shifts expose the gearbox's architecture. It's not a major issue, but the F-Type would definitely be just a little bit better with a dual-clutch box.
Next up is the Dynamic Drive selector. It's a switch in the centre console that gives you access to three basic driving modes. There's a low grip mode for winter driving, a normal every-day mode and finally a foot-to-the-floor Dynamic mode.
The latter sharpens up throttle response, gives the steering a little more weight, quickens up the shifts from the gearbox and also has the gearbox hold onto gears longer.
You can also knock the gear selector across into manual mode at which point the gearbox will just hold onto whatever gear you're in unless you select a new one. Yup, you can bounce it off the limiter if that's your bag.
Meanwhile, the active sports exhaust involves a flap that opens up at 3,000rpm and unleashes some serious sonic fury. Or if you choose, you can hit the exhaust button and have open at all times. Just don't expect your neighbours to thank for that. It's loud, very loud, with the flap permanently open.
Then there's the Adaptive Dynamics tech. It's optional on the V6 models, but standard on the V6S and V8 models. Here, we're talking active dampers on each corner that control pitch and roll rates.
The system is capable of adjusting the dampers up to 500 times a second according to road conditions and driving style. When fitted, it's another parameter you can tweak with the Dynamic Drive selector.
You can also plump for Configurable Dynamics, which exposes the individual Dynamic Drive settings via the main touchscreen, allowing you to tweak Dynamic mode to deliver your preferred mix of settings. Prefer weightier steering and quicker shifts, but don't fancy a firmer ride? Not a problem.
It's not all about performance, either. Stop-start tech is standard and contributes to a surprisingly modest CO2 rating of 209g/km for this 340hp open-top rocket.
A touch of tech
As for the rest of the in-car kit, the touchscreen system will be familiar to anyone who's driven a recent Jaguar or Land Rover vehicle (the two are sister brands of the same company).
That's both good and bad. The touchscreen is a welcome alternative to the wheel-input systems that dominate the competition from Audi, BMW and Mercedes. And in terms of basic functionality, it works well.
Bluetooth syncing is slick and flawless for both voice and audio streaming. There's a USB socket for playback from mass storage devies and iPods.
The navigation, meanwhile, supports full UK postcodes and offers clear mapping and excellence visual and audio guidance cues, even if some of the routing it chooses is sometimes rather suspect.
However, what Jag's touchscreen platform doesn't deliver is anything by way of true smartphone integration or internet connectivity. So, there are no apps, no Google searching, no high-definition traffic services for the navigation system.
In a market where some brands allow you to unlock your car remotely with a smartphone app (BMW), drive on-screen apps with an iPhone (Mercedes) or have an entire platform built on Google's Android and centred around apps (Renault), the F-Type's infotainment feels pretty old hat.
This cat has confidence
But like we said, what the system does, it largely does pretty well. As an overall proposition, then, the F-Type is a pleasure to live with. The configurable dynamics give the car a split personality.
It's gentle and relaxing when you want it to be. Rowdy and responsive when you're in the mood.
And make no mistake, Jaguar has nailed the dynamics. By modern standards, the steering is gorgeous. It's super quick, but full of feel, especially loaded up through the apex of a corner. Even the basic V6 engine sounds glorious and goes like stink.
And the chassis is simply super. The first time you pitch the F-Type into a corner, you just know you are going to be good friends. It's so adjustable and telegraphs grip levels so clearly, it fills you with confidence from the get go.
Boot's a bit of a bummer
If there is a draw back to the day-to-day experience served up by the F-Type, it involves the boot. It really is pitifully small. There are plenty of roadsters out there with much larger boots. Even Porsche's mid-engine Boxster manages to provide miles more luggage space.
Put it altogether and the F-Type is just a bigger boot and an infotainment upgrade away from near perfection. Even as it is, the overall feel-good factor served up by Jag's new sports car is pretty much off the map. In most regards, the F-Type absolutely nails it.
The Jaguar F-Type is available now. Prices start at £58,520.