By: Denis Droppa in Pamplona, Spain
It was perhaps fitting that Jaguar chose Pamplona for the launch of its new F-Type roadster, successor to the E-Type which was one of the most beautiful and iconic sportscars of all time.
The Spanish city is famous for its annual Running of the Bulls event, where people test their bravado by running ahead of a stampeding herd of bad-attitude bovines in a cordoned-off section of town. In terms of upholding its predecessor’s legend, the F-Type has been similarly thrust into the bull ring and stands to have its reputation trampled.
But it’s hit the ground running.
Perhaps its shape isn’t as iconic as the E-Type’s, that beautiful long-nosed beast of the 1960s and 1970s. The F-Type is undoubtedly eye-catching and beautiful but in a generic kind of way, and I don’t necessarily see it gracing the covers of as many future coffee-table books.
But in terms of its dynamic ability, Jag’s new beast hits the mark. With the weight of its predecessor’s legendary status on its shoulders it needed to be brilliant to drive, and it is. With its lightweight aluminium body and range of growling supercharged engines, the F-Type is a super-athlete that serves up straight-line pace, cornering ability and charisma.
Modern Jaguars like the XF sedan and second-generation XK coupé/convertible are gradually changing the brand’s reputation as making old-school cars for elderly gents who wear tweed jackets. Unlike the heavier XK, the F-Type’s no grand tourer but is pitched directly against agile athletes such as the Porsche 911 and Audi R8.
Jag’s two-seater revelled in the meandering mountain passes and the Navarra racetrack of northern Spain where I drove it at the world media launch last week. Despite the big power on tap (which we’ll get to in a moment), the roadster danced through twisty turns in a most nimble and forgiving fashion and the rear-wheel drive car has no scary tail-happiness.
The light aluminium construction plays a major part in giving the F-Type a fleet-footed, point-and-squirt feel, and it has impressive torsional stiffness without the body judder that afflicts some open-roofed cars. Jaguar’s engineers have excelled in the suspension department, delivering a firm setup that resists body-roll but still glides pretty gracefully over bumps.
The car has the fastest steering ratio ever used in a Jaguar, providing a very direct and quick-turning feel, although my one criticism is that it feels a little light. It’s a hydraulic system but feels more like electric power steering, and even in the sportier of its two settings, a bit of a meatier feel would be welcome.
Apart from the steering, the engine and transmission response, as well as the stiffness of the adaptive dampers (if fitted), can be adjusted between mild and wild by using the Drive Controller.
Nestled under the snout is a choice of three supercharged petrol engines. There are two 3-litre V6s, the baseline version producing 250kW and 450Nm while the more powerful F-Type S gets tweaked to 280kW/460Nm. With respective claimed figures of 0-100km/h in 5.3 seconds and 4.9 seconds, and top speeds of 260 and 275km/h, the V6 versions aren’t under-endowed in the muscle department. But it’s the big daddy 5-litre V8 S that delivers true supercar performance, wielding 364kW and 625Nm of bull-charging pace for quoted figures of 300km/h and 0-100 in 4.3 seconds.
The two S models get active rear diffs for enhanced traction; a mechanical limited-slip version in the V6 S and an electronic diff in the V8 S.
Jaguar’s bucked the dual-clutch trend and has instead chosen an eight-speed “Quickshift” to do its gear-changing. It has rapid-fire shifts that do justice to the name, and comes with a manual override using either steering wheel paddles or the gearstick.
A proper sportscar needs a proper noise and all three F-Type versions are acoustically spectacular – especially so when you press a button that opens an exhaust valve which liberates a holler under acceleration and a racecar-like crackle on the overrun. The noise already comes through loud and clear with the soft top closed, but peel it off (it takes just 12 seconds) and you get the full heavy-metal concert.
Charging through mountain passes with the thunderous roar echoing off the walls, at the wheel of a true thoroughbred, you couldn’t think of a happier place to be.
Jaguar’s bravado has paid off; the car’s a stunning effort.
F-Type will reach SA in July and indicative pricing is R825 000 for the V6, R945 000 for the V6 S and R1 345 000 for the V8 S. -Star Motoring