Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Jaguar F-type

Few cars have been as eagerly anticipated as the Jaguar F-type, and this successor to the legendary E-type is now only months away from showrooms. Despite the choice of name – and the classic front-engined, rear-wheel-drive layout – the new F-type is a thoroughly modern car.

 Its lightweight aluminium body is seriously stiff, and Jaguar has even dispensed with the oval front grille that it's been putting on its sports cars for decades. The F-type will be launched as a convertible, but a coupe will follow later this year, with more hardcore versions also planned.We won't get to drive the car until April. However, we can tell you what it's like to ride in the passenger's seat, after being driven in pre-production cars which Jaguar says are dynamically representative.

The entry-level F-type has a supercharged 3.0-litre V6 with 335bhp, but we went out in the two more powerful launch models: a 375bhp version of the V6 and a 488bhp V8.Both feel properly quick and make a glorious crackling noise on the overrun. Surprisingly, though, it's the V6 that sounds better under acceleration, and this engine's rev-hungry nature seems better suited to a sports car, too.What seems less fitting at first is the eight-speed automatic gearbox that's standard on every model (expect a manual to follow later), but it delivers super-quick shifts and can be controlled manually using steering wheel-mounted paddles.

Upshifts are smooth in the V8, no matter which setting the gearbox is in, but you feel them kick through the V6 car in Dynamic mode, adding to the sense of drama.Dynamic mode also speeds up shifts, sharpens the throttle responses and adds a bit of extra weight to the steering, although you can program it to affect only one or two of these areas if you prefer.Both of the models we went out in get adaptive dampers as standard (the entry-level V6 makes do with conventional dampers) and these help counteract pitch and roll. The result is a car that stays very flat in corners and seems beautifully controlled over high-speed dips and crests.

From the passenger's seat, at least, there are no obvious signs of body flex, and while the low-speed ride is firm, it's not overly punishing by sports car standards.A wind deflector that fits between the rear rollover hoops will be available, but even without it bluster isn't excessive.The cabin feels very driver focused thanks to deeply cowled instruments and a central grab handle that seems to fence the passenger off from the dashboard controls.

Jaguar has also tried to keep the overall design uncluttered; most functions are accessed through a touch-screen rather than conventional switchgear, while the central air vents rise out of the dash top only when required.Perceived quality is one area where Jaguar usually falls well short of its German rivals, but if the pre-production cars are anything to go by, the F-type will have one of the company's classiest interiors yet.The seats are more solid and supportive than those in the XF or XJ, and the cabin is smartly trimmed. Only minor details, such as the lightweight plastic gearshift paddles, let the side down.

There's plenty of space inside for a couple of six-footers, but they'll have to pack light because the boot is very shallow.At least you don't lose any space when the roof is down; Jaguar decided against fitting a folding metal roof, and has instead used a fabric hood that can be opened or closed electronically in just 12 seconds, at speeds of up to 30mph.

The entry-level V6 model looks overpriced; it costs £58,500, which is £11k more than a Porsche Boxster S equipped with a PDK twin-clutch gearbox, despite the fact the Porsche is both lighter and more powerful. By contrast, the 375bhp V6 F-type has a 30bhp advantage over a Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet, while its £67,500 price makes it around £16,000 cheaper than the PDK version of the Porsche.

This mid-range version of the F-type also comes with desirable features that are missing from its less powerful sister car, including an active exhaust system and those clever adaptive dampers.If it feels as good from the driver's seat as it does from the passenger’s seat, this could well be the sports car to have in 2013.