Porsche 911 Turbo 2014 review
Stuart Martin road tests and reviews the Porsche 911 Turbo, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
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The brawny British sports car is back from the dead, thanks to Jaguar and its impressive new F-Type roadster. It's taken 40 years for the cat car company to find the cash and commitment to re-join the Porsche players, but it's done the job right.
Say what you like about the styling, or the supercharged V6 and V8 engines fitted old-school in the nose, but the F is a rorty romp to drive and a car that grows on you with every passing kilometre. And the soundtrack from both engines is fantastic.
The prices are not great, starting at $139,000 in Australia, and the F-Type is a bit chunky despite its alloy construction, but all my doubts are erased during a fast blast out of Pamplona during a personal running of the bulls. I'm not draped in white, and I don't have a red scarf around my neck, but nothing can catch me this morning and the F-Type smears me with a smile that won't quit.
The first of the new Fs lands in Australia in August and it's likely there will be a queue - especially for the mid-range car, the F-Type V6 S that balances everything the best and makes the most compelling case to reject a Boxster S or 911 Cabrio for something boldly British.
The pricing is not as sharp as some people had hoped, but the showroom stickers sit exactly where Jaguar always said they would be. That means the $139,000 opener for the regular F-Type is pitched between the Boxster and 911 numbers, and closer to the lesser of the Porsches.
Standard equipment is exactly as you would expect, from aircon and 18-inch alloys to sports suspension and brakes, electric leather seats with suede facings and twin exhaust pipes.
Skip up to the V6 S from $171,400 and you also get an active sport exhaust, 19-inch alloys, a limited-slip differential and full leather seats. The top-line V8 S adds four exhaust pipes under the tail, 20-inch alloys, an electronic active differential and more.
There is a giant touchscreen in the dashboard, punchy Meridian sound in all cars. To put the prices into perspective, a Boxster S starts at $133,000 and a 911 Cabrio from $254,600. And Jaguar has also gone all working class with the F-Type, including free scheduled servicing for three years or 100,000 kilometres.
The starting point for the F-Type is an all-alloy body with what Jaguar calls a Z-fold canvas roof, which does its work in 12 seconds at up to 50km/h.
So the basic structure is very, very strong and quite light - not just a coupe that's had its top chopped - and the engines are all supercharged, and hooked to Jaguar's regular eight-speed automatic with heavy re-tuning for manual-style sports shifts.
The engine numbers are 250kW and 450Nm for 0-100km/h in 5.3 and 9.0 litres/100km in the starter car, rising to 280/460 and 4.9/9.1 in the V6 S and then 364/625 and 4.3/11.1 in the V8 S.
The cars come with satnav and plenty of cabin fun stuff, but the basics are old-school with fully-independent suspension, big brakes at each corner, and rear-wheel drive with wide tyres. Jaguar has even rejected electric power steering because it says its variable hydraulic system gives better feel, although the cars all have stop-start systems for a little better efficiency.
You have to sit the F-Type alongside its predecessors to really understand it. Yes, it's chunky - and, for me, a bit like a more-muscular Honda S2000 - and it sits away from the other members of the current Jaguar family.
But that has been the Jaguar way in the past and it looks right beside the C-Type roadster and D-Type Le Mans racer. In this company, the classic E-Type looks way too dainty and - call it sacrilege - and out of place.
The shape is tightly drawn, the cabin is roomy with some nice design touches - including a passenger grab handle on the centre console - there is reasonable boot space and the folding top is well integrated into the design. It also sits nicely away without forcing Jaguar to include a heavy folding metal roof.
No-one at Jaguar talks ANCAP scores because "this is a limited-run sports car" and it is not likely to be crashed through the full battery of tests. But the structure is strong, there are four airbags and built-in rollover protection, and the usual ABS-ESP electronic systems are backed-up by classy dynamics that makes it tough to get into trouble.
You can talk all you like, and fire up endless facts and figures, but the only thing that counts for a sports car is how it drives. And the F-Type is a great drive. My first experience of the F-Type is not as emotional as a dropping into a Porsche, but the brawny Brit really stars with things like blacked-out wheels and the right sports car colours. But when the V6 engine starts cracking up towards the redline I'm hooked.
You sit right down in the car and there is terrific wind protection with the top down. With the roof in place you might as well be riding in a coupe. Over two days we begin in the basic car, then move to the V6 S for track and road driving, then graduate to the V8 S on the second morning.
It's a smart move by Jaguar - no surprise there - because the cars get quicker and more involving as you gain experience. That also means you can push harder and find more to enjoy, and exploit.
The basic F-Type impresses with its rigid chassis and an engine that just does the job. It needs a rev but the gearbox is terrific, slurring around the Spanish cities like a regular auto but delivering rifle-crack manual shifts when you unleash the sports programs in the car's electronics.
The V6 S is the Goldilocks car, just right in every way, with an engine that gives everything you need - especially with the active sports exhaust delivering a cracking soundtrack to the action - a chassis with limited-slip assistance for turns, and great brakes and a very supple ride.
The V8 S delivers almost supercar-style straight-line performance that is intoxicating, and sure to win people across from Porsche, but the downside is extra weight in the nose that upsets the chassis balance. It's not bad, but keen drivers will notice the deterioration in front-end grip and a need to pre-plan any quick cornering.
"My favourite is the V6 S, because it all works so well together," Jaguar's chief test driver, Mike Cross, tells me during a special Carsguide tuition session. "In the V8, you need a lot of talent or a lot of road."
What's not to like? The steering wheel is not very sports car, with too many 21st century fiddly buttons, there's not much boot space and the pricing means a lot of Jaguar wannabes won't be able to afford an F-Type.
But the more time I spend with the F-Type the more I like it. And, yes, it's even a car I could come to love as a V6 S. The chassis is always incredibly well balanced, you can brake late and hard without worry, and all three engines provide enough crack to get you going. The V6 S is easiest to keep in the sweet spot, either fast or slow, and the V8 is the right choice for long-legged touring.
The F-Type is a real sports car in every way, yet you can also sit back and cruise in traffic and even dribble through stop-start commuters without the car getting grumpy. It's impossible to give a final verdict after such an exhilarating Spanish preview drive, because Jaguar has presented the car in the best possible way and there are no Porsches - or even AMG droptop Benzes or costly Aston Martins or Maseratis - for comparison work.
But the F-Type is a landmark car, a special car that is a fantastically rewarding drive, and certain to be a success. I'm giving it four stars for now, with space to lift the grade once I have driven it at home in Australia.
It's been a long time coming, but the F-Type is worth the wait.