No amount of visual rehearsal can prepare you for the sheer drama of seeing the Jaguar F-type in the flesh for the very first time.
It is a car that Instagrams well, but its presence has the power to kill any conversation other than about itself. It’s hard to approach a car like this Jag without preconceived notions. Its open-top version, the F-type Convertible, was our Car of the Year back in the day, and a few months later, Jaguar has announced its most important sportscar in the last 50 years, the F-type Coupé. Sure, it doesn’t sound like a big enough event to celebrate the building of a roof on a car, but Jaguar promises this is more than just a wig job. That’s a tall enough claim to go to Spain and put the new cat through its paces. On the road, as well as on the track!
In a sequence from a heist movie, our chartered Bombardier arrives on cue to a fleet of waiting Jags, primed and ready to show the driving destination on the sat-nav screen. Improved graphics over the Convertible help in keeping things more current but, more excitingly, the destination readout says ‘Motorland Aragon’. That’s the newest FIA-certified racing track in Europe and is going to be made available to us exclusively for the whole day!
But before that, even more reason to smile: 256 kilometres of desolate Spanish country roads with some of the lowest density of cars anywhere in this part of the continent were to lead our convoy to the track. This means that the F-type would have more than enough opportunities to strut its stuff on winding mountain roads with blind corners, switchbacks and plenty of tunnels to soak up the big cat’s glorious growl. So, after a quick driver briefing and a mild lecture on rural sportscar etiquette, I’m back on the tarmac, devilishly hiding a grin wider than the F-type’s grille.
The Coupé sits lower than the Convertible and looks even more purposeful as an undiluted, front-engined, rear-wheel-drive sportscar. The long bonnet perfectly blends into an elegant side profile and menacing shoulder haunches that complete the powerful look. Ian Callum’s design language always maintains perfect proportions and the subtle homage to the E-type is a brilliant touch.
The Coupé looks even more well sorted- out than the Convertible, creating a harmonious shape that simply doesn’t have a bad angle. But the grin on the face is quickly turning into a teeth- clenching sprint to the parked car, thanks to absurdly high winds and dipping mercury. Good time to fire up that raucous V6 and get some heat. The plan is to drive the V6S model on the road to the track and, once on the circuit, move to the angrier V8.
All teched up
The model differentiation remains the same as in the Convertible, with two V6 models in different states of tune and an all-out V8R model that is even more powerful than its Convertible sister. Powering up the V6S to life hardly gives away anything in terms of aural excitement to the V8 version and, unless compared side-by-side, you would be hard pressed to tell which one blew your friend’s skirt away. It puts its 380bhp to the road via the rear wheels and an 8-speed Quickshift transmission that isn’t F1-inspired, nor dual-clutch, but really is the best automatic tranny on any sportscar I’ve had my lead foot on.
Nary a break in power while upshifting and lightning downshifts for overtaking make for a gearbox that is a joy to use. Paddle shifts are fun again! Of course, what really makes the F-type truly involving to drive is the sport exhaust that seems to speak to my right foot in a manner no other car does. In any gear, all I need to do is tighten the leash and this cat responds with a snarl that will scare any big dawg in its path and clear the next corner for me.
The narrow but smooth mountain roads that lead me to Motorland Aragon are the perfect playground to test out this brilliant package. There are multiple electronic nannies to opt for, but the instant power delivery from the supercharged engine never fails to light up the rear end. Thankfully, the ultra-precise steering captures my synapses and transfers them to the front wheels without any hesitation, making me feel like I’ve saved yet another day.
In many of the narrower sections, there are human signboards reminding me to drive at absolute minimum pace, but to be behind the wheel of this car requires tremendous amount of self-restrain. The snug cockpit, the perfect ergonomics and the orange-tinted paddle shifters become an extension of my body, and once the exhaust valves open up, even my mind and soul want to submit themselves to the complete driving experience.
Comfort in the creature
Despite its menacing demeanour, there is a softer side to the sporty Jag. Everything is powered- seats, steering rack and even the AC vents rise up gently on ignition!
The Meridian 12-speaker surround sound system puts up a strong fight against the open valve symphony being played live in the belly of this beast, but eventually loses out. It may well be the one option you can leave unchecked in your order form.
This cabin feels nice and plush, but perhaps not as appropriately special as its iconic exterior lines. There is definitely room for more drama here. But to fault this would be like finding faults with Mona Lisa’s smile. So I won’t.