Every so often, there comes a car that simply ticks all the right boxes. It is not a supercar, but a car that is almost affordable, and you just cannot stop yourself from thinking about it. You try everything, beg, borrow, steal or offer your personal services, just to be in the chance of driving it. However, if by some miracle you do get a chance to drive it, you are presented with another problem; this one is in the form of a dilemma. As they often say, you should never meet your heroes, as they will never really be able to meet your high expectations, leaving you slightly disappointed. This is because the more you desire something, the more you picture the ideal scenario, and when reality strikes, it is never as good.
I had this problem before, when I drove the Lamborghini Gallardo. It was on a track, in a very controlled environment. I loved the car, but could not help feeling somewhat disappointed, the whole experience feeling a bit too tame. If I get the chance to drive a Gallardo in different circumstances, maybe I will enjoy it better, in the same way loved my time in the Mercedes C63 AMG or Chevrolet Camaro.
Anyway, this year, the car I have been longing to try was the Jaguar F-Type. Ever since the C-X16 concept of a few years ago, I was hooked. I wished, prayed, even attempting to sell my soul, for the chance to drive one. Then, thanks to Harry Rosen and Jaguar Canada, I got the chance to spend 15 minutes in one, in the streets of Montreal. From the onset, this did not look so good. It looked as if it was going to be another neutered experience, meaning I would once again be disappointed by meeting my hero.
Anyhow, the F-Type. In and out of development for the past 20 years, it is the first proper sports car from Jaguar in 50 years. Which car preceded it? The legendary E-Type. Quite a hard act to follow then.
From a design point though, Ian Callum and his team have managed the impossible. In my mind, the F-Type is as pretty, if not a little prettier than the E-Type. It is rare to find a car today that is simply jaw-dropping, however at that moment, I was in front of one. Yes, you could argue that the front grille, with its gills might be a bight of overkill, but apart from that, the proportions and the lines are simply stunning. Just how Jaguar will refresh this car in a few years time, without spoiling it, is beyond me. Move to the side, and you notice how low the car is, with that beautifully simple roadster look. The best part of the F-Type, in my opinion is from the back. That rear-end is astonishing, with those swooping ¾ panels, reminiscent of the E-Type and it is superbly complemented by those thin, almost menacing, tail-lights. With this V8 version, you get 4 exhaust pipes, which looks better I find, compared to 2 central ones on the V6, definitely more aggressive.
Step inside, and you are greeted by an amazing cabin. Everything feels great to the touch, and looks as if it will last, unlike in Jaguar’s of old. Some people have complained that the standard steering wheel is too big, but the one I drove had the optional Performance Pack, which provides you (amongst other things) with a smaller, flat-bottomed steering wheel, which is perfectly sized. Once you sit in those beautiful sports seats, you are very low in the car, which is a good thing, as this provides you with a very good seating position. Yes visibility is limited in the rear, but this car is meant for driving, why would you spend your time looking behind you? There is a back-up camera anyway.
The big strength of this car, the pièce de résistance, if you will, comes when you press that little orange button that reads “Start Engine Stop”. At that moment, you literally wake the beast. The engine snarls to life, inundating the cabin with that beautiful V8 growl. To put things into context, the Mercedes AMG 6.2L V8 sounds like a dragster, but this Jaguar supercharged 5.0L V8, developing 490bhp and 625Nm or torque sounds like a roaring lion (or jaguar, conveniently) driving a dragster during a thunderstorm. The best sounding V8? Possibly, can’t decide.
Start driving the F-Type, and things only get better. To be honest, I did not get to really push the car, as this was a short city drive in the congested streets of Montreal, so I can’t really say much about the handling or performance. What I can say though, is that in the city, it is a surprisingly easy car to drive. That 8 speed ZF automatic gearbox works a charm, shifting in a very short timeframe, without the slightest jerk. The steering is very precise, while not being too heavy. You can really point the F-Type exactly to where you want it to go. It should be a treat on country roads. The ride also was amazing. Considering how bad the streets of Montreal are, at no point did I find myself being tossed around as you would in any other hardcore sports car. All the while, you are followed by that stupendous soundtrack, the second you touch the throttle. Needless to say, the Performance Pack, with the active exhaust is a must have option!
As with any car, not everything is perfect though. One of the main problems with F-Type, as reported by the automotive press, was the lack of a manual gearbox option. I used to feel strongly about this as well. However, after trying out this 8-speed auto, and seeing how good it was in those conditions, I will be tempted to say that, for this car, you may not need it. Another issue with the F-Type is the boot. It’s minute, however it is a sports car, so is that a problem? One could also argue that, even though it is almost entirely made from aluminium, the F-Type is still a heavy car, at 1.6 tons. But given the power of that V8, do you really notice it? I didn’t… So yes, there are faults with the F-Type, but in the end, it can be debated whether these are actual faults or not.
As you may notice now, even though I did not get to push the car much, and even though the drive lasted only 15 minutes in the busy city, I still enjoyed the car. In fact, my enthusiasm for it has not dropped, but actually risen. I want one so badly! I used to be in favour of the V6, but that V8 growl is just such an adrenaline charge, you just can’t go on without having it in your life. That should tell you something about how good the F-Type is. Even Jeremy Clarkson wants to buy one. If you have the money (CAD$100,000 with a few options), and you have a heart, I don’t really see why you would not want one.