Jaguar F-Type review | first drive

To understand the brawny new F-Type Jaguar you have to forget the classic E-Type. The new beast is a throwback to the D-Type racer than dominated at Le Mans in the 1950s, not a revival of the style-driven sweetie from the sixties.

It's tough and tightly-drawn, all about making an impact and going fast.

Jaguar has been missing a sports car from its lineup for just on four decades, but the success with the mid-sized XF and XJ limousine have provided the cash and credentials to finally get back to the sharp end of its business. And it's way, way more focussed than the lardy old XK . . .

VALUE

The F-Type is great news for sports car shoppers, since it is capable of going toe-to-toe with Porsche and makes Aston Martin's roadsters look dated and irrelevant.

It's not cheap, with a starting sticker of $139,000 for the basic supercharged V6 model and a top-end whack of $202,300 for the V8-powered S, but it is good value when you look at the Boxster S and 911 Cabrio which are its obvious rivals.

The F-Type is strictly a two-seat convertible, packing everything from aircon and satnav to leather seats and alloy wheels that range from 18 to 20 inches. Its old-school folding canvas top does the job in 12 seconds at speeds up to 50km/h -- But 50 is just the start for a car which has been developed for fun runs on the world's favourite roads.

TECHNOLOGY

It's a classic roadster with the engine in the nose, and eight-speed automatic gearbox in the middle - but tuned by Jaguar and ZF to give manual-style shift feel and timing - and drive to the back wheels.

The engines start with the  3-litre supercharged V6 that makes 250 kiloWatts for a claimed 0-100km/h time of 5.3 seconds, then the V6-powered S jumps to 280 kiloWatts and 4.9 seconds, with the supercharged 5-litre petrol V8 producing 364 kiloWatts for a sprint time of 4.3 seconds. The V6 S has a mechanical limited-slip differential and the V8 gets an electronic diff in the tail. There are no diesels and no fours.

Jaguar has done lots of honing and fine tuning, right down to switchable driving modes and active exhausts - twin tips on the V6s, four pipes for the V8 - that cut loose a banshee howl under acceleration and a fireworks performance of cracks and bangs on twisty roads.

DESIGN

The look of the F-Type has become familiar over the past two years and, in some ways, it's a bit like a Honda S2000 that's been in the gym. At least, that's my first impression.

But after two days I can see that it's another new direction for Jaguar's design team under Ian Callum, who refuses to be predictable or boring.

DRIVING

But the F-Type is all about driving, so here we go. The V6 is a nice car with a comfy cabin and enough power and grip for most drivers. The V6 S lifts the bar and is the Goldilocks car - just right - with real stonk in the engine room, the trick differential to drive you round corners, and the genuine speed that makes track laps in Spain both fast and rewarding.

The V8 S is something else again. It's a bit heavy in the nose, which means you have to think before you turn, but the punch is truly supercar fun. And the noise . . .

The F-Type is sure to be a success and Jaguar is already working on a coupe that will allow it to unleash an RS model that will be truly special. But, for now, the F is great, Jaguar is back in the sports car business, and the world seems right.

Jaguar F-Type V6 S

Price: $139,000
Engine: 3.0-litre supercharged V6, 280kW/460Nm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Thirst: 9.1L/100km, 213g/km CO2

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