13:41 Thursday 27 February 2014

REVIEW: Why the Jaguar F-Type is the king of the Brits

Written byGARETH BUTTERFIELD

IT’S very easy to get all misty-eyed and declare the Jaguar F-Type the best car you’ve ever driven after spending even a short time behind the wheel of it. But it has one fundamental problem. The boot’s a bit small.

There we go, we’ve got that out of the way. Now back to addressing the most important points about why Britain should be extremely proud of what is fundamentally one of the best sports cars it has ever created.

Just look at it. From every angle it has our nation’s great pedigree of producing heart-stoppingly beautiful cars seaping out of its pores. All the lines simply work well together. The designers have woven in traits from its celebrated predecessors without making it look in any way ‘retro’. You could stare at the F-Type for hours and never get bored.

It’s as good inside as it is out. The cabin feels special. More so than any modern Jaguar, in fact. It’s cosy, but not cramped and the console that surrounds the driver is sculpted so that everything falls to hand.

More than that though, it feels special. There are all sorts of touches that make it feel like a genuinely expensive product. When you start the engine, for example the two vents rise up slowly and purposely from the dashboard.

The start button, dynamic mode switch and the gear shift paddles are all coloured orange. And, when you flick the switch to select the sportiest setting a message flashes up on the instrument binnacle to say ‘dynamic mode confirmed’ - as if you’ve just primed a missile for launch.

Gone is the rotating gear selector seen in other Jaguar models, instead there’s a short, stubby but beautifully sculpted stick in the centre console and the touch-screen which controls most of the car’s functions is in just the right place to be seen and to be prodded at.

The big seats hold the driver and passenger perfectly and there’s plenty of adjustment and the passenger’s side is flanked by what looks like a grab-handle which encloses the centre console, bringing its focus squarely to the driver. It’s all very dramatic, but in a modern and wonderfully sporty way.

But the real drama is reserved for the sheer experience of driving it.

I spent a week in the supercharged V6 model. There are three to choose from, starting with a normally-aspirated 3.0 litre V6, the supercharged version of the same engine and a five litre V8.

Starting the F-Type up, in any of the three versions is an event in itself. The free-flowing exhausts cough and splutter into life with a mechanically-engineered dab of the throttle before settling into a much quieter idle. Prodding the throttle unleashes the beast and it barks, burbles and even pops and bangs in answer to every slight input from the driver. It feels alive.

This glorious show of its bravado can be made all the more significant with an optional setting that opens valves in the exhaust to allow for even more noise, drama and power. It’s thoroughly addictive for the driver - but perhaps less enjoyable for the neighbours.

Thundering around town, all this popping and banging will certainly draw attention, nearly as much as the looks of the car itself, but it can be reined in if you’re not in the mood for showing off and, driven sensibly, the F-Type is remarkably civilised. The suspension is firm, but other than that you might as well be driving an XF at low speeds. It’s comfortable, everything’s light and easy to use and visibility is good, even with the fabric hood raised.

Out on the open road, it’s every bit as exciting as you’d expect. The V6 engine is an absolute delight and the chassis and suspension make for a perfectly balanced driving experience that handles the enormous dollop of 374bhp with ease, making for a car that is easy to drive quickly.

Before the F-Type was driven by the motoring press, a lot of fuss was made about its price. Even in its most basic form it will set you back nearly £60,000 and that’s a lot more than what was first considered to be its closest rival, the Porsche Boxster.

The V8 will set you back close to £80,000 and the V6S I was testing, arguably the pick of the bunch, starts at £67,500. It’s a lot of money for a Porsche Boxster rival.

But there’s more to it than that. Threading the Boxster through your favourite stretch of rural B road is like a using a beautifully machined rifle to shoot a dinner plate. Its inherent precision will ensure the bullet leaves a perfect hole in the centre.

With the F-Type it’s like you’ve set about the same task with a sub-atomic machine gun, blowing the plate into a thousand pieces. The effect is the same, the plate is useless, but which one sounds more fun?

At the end of the day, once you’ve spent even a short amount of time in the F-Type you quickly realise it’s a totally different animal to the Porsche.

Yes, it’s more expensive, but it genuinely feels more expensive. And I don’t mean it exudes quality and workmanship, because on that count the Boxster probably scores higher. But the Jag makes you feel so much more special than the Porsche. It’s the drama and the sense of occasion, and the looks you get driving it. It feels like you’re in a supercar while the Porsche feels like a sports car.

The Boxster is ubiquitous which, as good as it is, makes it inherently boring when sat alongside the more dramatic and freshly-styled F-Type. A Porsche buyer might not be won over by the funky pop-out door handles, for example, or the questionable practicality.

But it’s their loss. For me, the Jaguar pulls off what it sets out to achieve. It’s incredibly exciting and it feels completely alive. I love it.

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