Our Jaguar F-Type has proven itself to be a consummate all-rounder, excelling on both long-haul journeys and B-road blasts, but it’s very much a sports car at heart. And like an itch that needs scratching, we couldn’t wait any longer to take it on a track and have some fun.
But here’s the problem: with Pirelli P Zero 295/30 R20 rear tyres for the F-Type costing around £380 each, and a full set of brake pads setting you back around £340 (£252 for the front set and £90 for the rear), smoking around a race track can be an expensive day out. Luckily Thruxton motorsport centre in Andover, Hampshire, has a solution.
The famous race circuit opened a new low-friction wet skid pan facility in January, which allows anyone to experience the basics of car control. And you can feel the thrill of oversteer at safe speeds, without tearing your tyres to shreds. While we waited for the built-in sprinklers to drench the concrete surface, Josh Tuersley, skid pan manager at Thruxton, gave us some pointers.
Our first decision was which driving mode to select. With grip levels similar to those on a frozen lake, throttle sensitivity was key to controlling the car. A snow and ice mode dampens throttle response, but the lag between extending our right foot and power arriving at the rear wheels was a hindrance. In the end we found Dynamic mode perfect, letting us tickle the throttle and keep the car drifting sideways. The way it turned the exhaust volume up to 11 was a bonus.
With so little purchase for the rear tyres, we were only travelling at low speeds, but even so, the F-Type’s natural balance and precise steering shone through. Also apparent were the benefits of the S’s mechanical limited-slip differential (the V8 S makes do with an electronic diff). It distributes drive between the two rear tyres, so they both spin up evenly and maintain smooth forward momentum.
With the recent bout of warm weather the Convertible’s fabric roof has come into its own, especially as you can drop it at speeds of up to 30mph to make the most of any sunny spells, however brief. The fact that it has its own stowage area means you don’t have to empty the boot before folding it back.
As a keen golfer, I find the boot just fits my set of clubs, but it’s a squeeze and doesn’t leave any room if a friend wants to bring his clubs along, too. It’s got me thinking about the trade-off between the F-Type Convertible and the Coupe – one lets you enjoy the weather, while the other offers more than double the boot space. Given my hobby, I’m leaning towards the latter.
Our only niggle with the F-Type is the sat-nav – it’s overly optimistic or pessimistic about the journey time. Crawl through town on your way to the motorway and it assumes you’ll maintain that snail’s pace for the rest of the journey, skewing your predicted time of arrival. Roll on the new system in the XE saloon later this year.
Being born and bred in south London, I’ve never seen the appeal of living in the countryside – but that was before our Jaguar F-Type arrived. My six- mile commute into our offices in central London can take anything up to an hour in snarled-up traffic – hugely frustrating when you’ve 375bhp and a chassis tuned to devour corners underneath you.
As I discovered, though, there is a way around this without leaving the city limits. Wait until commuters have returned home, darkness has descended and the capital’s clogged arteries begin to flow more freely, and the F-Type comes alive. Pick the right roads and you’re treated to a spectacular light show of some of the capital’s most famous landmarks, too.
While a blast through central London like this won’t let me explore the F-Type’s limits (more on that in my next update), it highlights the fact that you don’t need to have your foot welded to the floor, gripping the wheel with white knuckles and eyes bulging to have fun. It’s a car that makes you feel special at any speed.
Sitting in a traffic jam, the thumbs up are non-stop, while even crawling between speed bumps the exhaust can be coaxed into a short blare followed by a flurry of explosions with a prod of the throttle. Following traffic at 30mph, the suspension soaks up bumps brilliantly while you sink down into the heated, leather-trimmed wing-back sports seats and listen to the superb Meridian stereo.
It’s a trait that’s often overlooked with modern sports cars – as a manufacturer strives to knock a few seconds off its Nürburgring lap time, it forgets that a car should let its owner feel good whether you’re smoking your rear tyres on a track, or popping to the shops.
Take the Nissan GT-R for instance – at low speeds, the drivetrain whines and shunts, while you crash over manhole covers and sleeping policemen. Show it a wide, well sighted road and it’s a wonder, but I’m not sure I’d have the patience to deal with the stuff in between.
What Jaguar has created, then, is a car that appeals to all of your senses all of the time, and that sounds, looks and feels special even when faced with the more mundane journeys in life. Perhaps that’s why I’m falling for this landmark model in a big way.
If you’re going to drive a fast car, you might as well get noticed. That was our thinking when it came to speccing our very own F-Type – well, it is for the next 12 months, at least. When we ‘built’ our dream V6S on Jag’s online configurator, the Firesand metallic paint split opinion in the office. But now the car has arrived, it’s a unanimous thumbs-up for the lairiest member of our fleet.
We didn’t want to visit any old dealer to take delivery of the marque’s newest and most exciting model, so we drove 220 miles to Roger Young Jaguar in Saltash, Cornwall, to get our hands on the keys. Why? Because it’s one of the world’s newest Jag showrooms. It’s based on the brand’s Arch Concept, and you’ll see this hi-tech design rolling out at other UK Jag dealers soon. But for now, Roger Young is one of only three franchises to sport the new look globally. The other two are in Mumbai and Frankfurt.
There was another reason why collecting the car in Cornwall appealed to me personally, of course – because the 220-mile drive home would let me get to know the F-Type a little better. I’d driven one on a track in Italy a while before, and was blown away by the wall of sound produced by the trumpet-shaped exhausts, plus how controllable the car was at the limit. Yet there’s no test like a long drive on UK roads, taking in narrow lanes, fast B-roads and wet motorways.
Let’s get the mundane stuff out of the way first. With the adaptive dampers in their softer setting, the F-Type feels pretty firm on bad surfaces at slow speeds.
Yet on smooth roads it flows along beautifully, allowing me to dispatch hundreds of motorway miles with ease.
The fun part comes when you switch the optional sports exhaust (a must-have option at £350) to its ‘loud’ setting, select Dynamic mode and use the paddles to change gear. The bark from the exhausts under acceleration, and artillery fire when you lift off, are plain naughty, while the throttle response is razor-sharp. Put the ESP in its intermediate setting and there’s just enough slip to let you slide around on a wide road.
It’s no surprise that the F-Type attracts attention wherever it goes, from wide-eyed school children to respectfully nodding Porsche drivers. The cabin is a great piece of design, too, and boasts some choice options. The wing-back performance seats (with co-ordinating orange stitching) are comfortable, snug and look fantastic; well worth £1,450.
The upgraded Meridian stereo is steep at £1,700, but it sounds crisp, detailed and very loud. It’s just a shame that the infotainment interface looks more dated than the rest of the cabin – in particular, gadget fans will love the air vent rising dramatically from the dash.
With all the recent wet weather, we haven’t had much chance to drop the roof, so more on that later. The tiny boot hasn’t proven too small yet – but we have plenty planned for the F-Type, so rest assured we’ll be testing every feature.
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