Effing Good: Lusso reviews the Jaguar F-Type V6S
‘I don’t bloody care what the interior of the Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona is like or about the quality of the food served at the journalists’ dinner at Finca Prats Hotel in Lleida or whether Ian Callum is a visionary and also you can cut out your usual preamble of nonsequitur bollocks that leads to nice wrap up at the end. I want to know what that thing is like to drive!’
Not an angry email from my publisher. No, this is a missive from Lusso’s editor. And since that happens to be me, we can safely conclude even my very own subconscious is beginning to lose a sense of perspective. This is not a total surprise.
The F-Type Coupe has been the single most anticipated (non-hypercar) production motor vehicle for probably a decade. Ever since those first pictures of the CX-16, gleaming like an arc of carved mercury in the hot Spanish sun were released in 2011, one suspects the majority of the male population – and many, many females as well – have been in a state of Jaguar-induced monomania. You can see why.
Rarely has a concept car seemed to be so, well, perfectly ready to roll out. Described coyly as a ‘production concept’ and an indicator of Jaguar’s ‘future intent’, the seductively gorgeous one-off swayed its booty around the world’s motor shows, dropping jaws and inducing puddles of drool in its trail. Every time one of those lithe doors was prised open, revealing an engorged hot-red interior, audiences would do a little wee of excitement. In its loins, it may have only possessed a V6 3-litre petrol engine, but it was attached to Jag’s hybrid KERS-like kinetic system. “PLEASE LET THIS FINALLY BE THE F-TYPE!”, the world pleaded. And, after pretending to think about it and have their arm twisted, the company admitted that it had always been the F-Type and, yes, it was going into production.
Clever. They’d made what was merely good pragmatic business look like an emotive gesture – a rush of blood to the (petrol)head. However, since Jaguar Land Rover’s parent company, Tata, has total assets over $100 billion, one can conclude that they sort of know what they’re doing. Talk to any of the key personnel at Jaguar and they will tell you that the irresistible success of the brand in the last five years has come from the 2008 acquisition from Ford.
Their new Indian bosses, a family that has been steadily growing their business since only 1868 were keen to let the brand off the leash. Under Ford, design and development was linked to Detroit, who weren’t as motivated by the romance of heritage and brave decisions seemed restrained by layers of corporate sign off and internal rivalry.
Today’s numbers speak for themselves. Jaguar was the fastest growing premium brand in the world in 2013, with a 42% increase in year on year sales. The 77,000 units sold made it the strongest year since 2005. They only sold 72,529 E-Types ever. And the projected market for F-Type Coupe buyers who are new to the marque is a staggering 90%.
What’s that? Shut up and tell us about driving it, you say? Well, I agree with you. Totally. But first some context. First out of the blocks was the convertible version, on sale from early 2013. The entry-level V6 cost £58,500 and fitted a nice market gap between the Porsche Boxster and the Porsche 911. Now without the hybrid element, ‘merely’ a supercharged V6 engine of
fering 336 bhp, it came with Jag’s now standard eight-speed ZF Quickshift gearbox. Testers noted that ‘it feels more grown up than a Boxster but also more approachable financially than a 911. And it steers and rides more sweetly than either of them.’
It was the lowest, widest, shortest Jag ever made and everyone loved it, but one sublime element was missing – the CX-16’s perfect roof line. The convertible was a great car but somehow lacked the je ne sais quoi of the E-Type, the car Enzo Ferrari himself described it as “the most beautiful car ever made.” Nothing more be added. And the F is now working it from every angle. SO…
Having flown in to Barcelona with a cadre of Britain’s most experienced motoring scribes and Jaguar’s top people (did I mention we stayed at the Patricia Urquiola-designed Mandarin Oriental? Yes? Good. Moving on…) we take a very short charter jet ride (40 minutes) down to Lleida Airport in Aragon, home of the eponymous non-beauty, Catherine and also the Motorland race circuit, home of one of four annual Moto GP bike races in Spain. At the airport, we are briefed and led out towards a pride of Jaguars. These are the V6S versions. I’m ensconced in a Polaris White one with the now famous smoked-glass roof. I turn it on. Woooff. Or should that be ‘gentle Roaaar’?
The cat growls and we head off on serpentine local roads towards the circuit.
So. What’s the F-Type V6S like to drive? We should contextualize and look at the stats first. It’s powered by Jaguar’s 3.0-litre V6 supercharged petrol engine that pulls at 375bhp, giving 0-60mph in 4.8 seconds and top speeds of 171mph. It’s about 20kg lighter than the convertible, too. The killer fact though, is that the body is 80% stiffer than its roofless sister. And this is where you notice the difference. The coupe is meant to be thrown about, because frankly, just like a honey badger, it just doesn’t give a shit.
Pull out on a slow coach/tractor/octogenarian/Spanish donkey cart and there is no roll. Nor a jolt.
This thing just slides across lanes and round corners without seemingly being party to the forces of gravity that the rest of us have to obey. Then I play with the adaptive dynamic settings – including exhaust settings. This opens or closes flaps inside the exhaust. Close them and you can purr around a garage or car park or, maybe, a small Spanish village where everyone is sick of journalists in F-Types who have been blasting through their sleepy abode for the past few days. Open them and the pipes spit and scream and gargle. Perfect for opening up inside a tunnel, a garage or, maybe, a small Spanish village where everyone is sick of journalists in F-Types who have been blasting through their sleepy abode for the past few days. Worth the price of entry alone, that sound gives more pleasure than any new music I’ve heard in the last five years. Coldplay would soil themselves.
It says here that ‘Adaptive Dynamics system continuously monitors driver inputs and the attitude of the car on the road, adjusting damper rates accordingly up to 500 times a second to optimise stability’. Also – the dynamic settings make the dials glow red and gives you a tiptronic option to whack the paddles. It’s very cool. And by proxy, I’m now cool. The 12 loudspeaker 770W stereo by Meridian. The Meridian systems benefit from the company’s huge experience in digital signal processing to create audio reproduction that is clean and pure. With no ipod to dock, we listen to Spanish local radio. The top of the range ‘Trifield’ technology, which should deliver an authentic and consistent surround sound to both occupants is thus curtailed, because no one wants to listen to Bon Jovi in any kind of fidelity in these circumstances. Because I’m cool now.
The glass roof certainly helps give a feeling of space – which is certainly not a thing that’s in huge premium. There’s plenty of headroom and legroom for you and your passenger, but behind the seats is literally nothing but a ledge. The boot space is, of course, bearable but negligible. Just buy new clothes on route and throw the old ones at slack-jawed villagers. It’s not even pretending, like the 911, to be a 2 + 2.
That said, you can see why many people think that the V6S, at £60,235 (£9000 more than the plain V6) is a worthy competitor for the air-cooled Aryan.
This thing is slick, firm and incredibly nimble. The steering wheel might be a little thick for those of small to medium glove sizes (of both sexes) and the view through the back slightly limited – but this is a true sportscar and Jaguar have delivered on every expectation. So there you are. Or is it?
Finally, we get to Motorland. A beautiful snaking circuit, 3.321 miles long, near Alcañiz. The circuit has been designed by well-known German architect Hermann Tilke in conjunction with Foster + Partners. Here’s where we meet the F-Daddy – the V8R.
This beast is something different. Four exhausts, not two. 542 bhp. Top speed of 186mph.
And more – we’re taking out the top package that comes in at £91,000 (the standard R is £85,000) around the circuit. This one has more toys – Torque vectoring and Carbon Ceramic Matrix brakes. Torque Vectoring determines when corner entry speed may induce understeer. It then calculates the level of brake force needed to correct the car’s direction and, via the ABS system, applies that precise braking force to individual inner wheels as necessary.
In short, it flatters you. The CCM brakes cost £6,000 but are worth every penny. Amazing confidence and agility comes from something that actually makes a massive difference to the usual steel brakes that come as standard. Across six laps of the circuit in a Salsa Red version where I mildly discomfort Jaguar’s Lead Pro Driver, Chris Dredge, there was no fade on them at all. There was on the colour of Mr. Dredge’s Mediterranean complexion – but hey, is my late braking on a 170mph straight or wrongly heading for the outside of a long left hander really going to scare a professional. He was just joking as he half-laughed ‘Wall of Death! Wall of Death!’, I’m sure.
The V8R is, in short, not a sports car. It’s an entry-level supercar. And should be loved by all who own and drive it. Sublime and muscular. Suave and brutal. On the road, this thing allows for telepathic driving. You really notice the poke that 170 more bhp and all the toys gives you.
On the motorway, it’s supreme. But I can’t bring myself to floor it on the rural back routes, because it intimidates me. This was why a long train of V8-R F-Types bunched up behind yours truly when we hit a winding set of mountainous S-bends. I could feel the projected resentment on the back of my neck and I use this opportunity to apologise to my colleagues – who wasted no time in spitting past me when I finally was able to pull in. Brave men and women, one and all.
So that’s what the F-Type is like to drive. Will it be as classic as the E-Type? Time will tell.
But it’s a thing of beauty and power. The second night, at the Finca Prats Hotel in Lleida (the meal was great, by the way. Nice bit of pork) I’m sat next to Al Whelan, who ran the design team on the F-Type’s sultry body. He tells me of his failure to join his degree buddies on the Royal College of Art’s famous Motor Design MA. How he was a bit depressed until he got a call from a designer at Audi who had seen his degree show, which led to him working on top range cars, whilst his mates were still paying of their student loans. This eventually led him to Ian Callum’s studio and his new baby.
‘I’d come in to the studio and just stare at the F-Type full-scale model. I think it’s amazing.’
I do too, Al. I do too.
The Jaguar F-Type V6 Coupe starts at £51,235. The V6S starts at £60,235. The V8R starts at £85,235. www.jaguar.co.uk.