Track test: Jaguar F-Type S
After attending the SMMT test day at Millbrook this year, we have a few car updates on their way. They’re not all new cars, either – with News Press, the industry outlet for automotive news celebrating 40 years, there were a few 40-year-old cars to drive, too.
Today though, we’ll start with Jaguar’s eagerly-anticipated F-Type. At the Frankfurt show in 2011, we saw the prototype, named the C-X16. With the inevitable E-Type analogies, the F-Type name was almost inevitable – as was the level of interest at this week’s SMMT event.
I picked the slightly quicker ‘S’ model (380 PS rather than 340) and pointed it toward the Alpine circuit. For those who don’t know, the Millbrook facility offers a wide variety of environments for manufacturers to test vehicles – the ‘bowl’ – a high speed, banked track, off-road areas, a simulated city layout and a twisting, turning ‘Alpine’ road. Take a look at Google Maps and the various curves, straights and hairpins can be seen; what isn’t evident are the deliberately uneven surfaces, steep hills, blind brows and adverse cambers – all present to catch-out the poorly set-up suspension or a miscalculated gear ratio.
As you might imagine, the F-Type was extremely popular but I did grab a few minutes to study it in the metal ahead of driving. The car is extremely pretty – and not materially different from the stunning Frankfurt show car. The broad centre bonnet rib and grill shape are very Jaguar; the shark gills, side air intakes and flush door handles all compliment the delicate profile well. The rear is particularly dainty – helped by the slim lights and slender boot edge-cum-spoiler. Inside it is on the snug side but the ergonomics felt good with everything being in the right place – literally jumping in and driving I didn’t have to think about how stuff worked.
Dropping quickly into Sport mode (many features can be set separately) the car literally came alive. Words sadly don’t do justice to any description of the sound the F-Type makes. The 3.0 V6 engine is good but with the top down, it’s the exhaust which dominates. Three years in development for the exhaust tuning alone and boy, what a job those clever people at Jaguar have done. By moments, this thing is burbling, snarling and screaming then popping wonderfully on back-off – I’m surprised it’s even legal.
Normally it takes a few miles to feel at home in any car but even with the short run, the F-Type felt quick, comfortable, well-balanced and well-behaved. The car’s modest proportions keep it feeling nimble and agile; it tackled the most challenging corners with aplomb. Alas, with the sound from the exhaust, the top down and the sun baking my face, any drive would be too short.
We’ll provide a longer review in future but first impressions are extremely positive. The standard F-Type sneaks in under £60k; this F-Type S starts at £67,520.