We’re in an art gallery. A large white space, filled with large televisions and a Jaguar F-Type concealed beneath a luxurious red blanket. A quintessentially British CEO, Mr. Kevin Flynn of Jaguar/LandRover SA remarks that the F-Type, the successor to the C, D & E-Type “are critical for Jaguar”, and that it is in fact “a very exciting time to be in the organization”. I must agree, especially if you get to drive the Jaguar F-Type home every night … then it’s an exhilarating time to be in the organization.
It’s especially exciting considering the fact that Jaguar F-type has, after much deliberation, really occupied a “white space” in the market, with no direct competitors, but rather many that attack from above and below. Something Jag is actually quite used to, as seen in past product positioning.
The launch of the Jaguar F-Type V6S by John Beale
The Second New Jaguar, from JaguarThe F-Type is Jag’s next big engineering masterpiece and one of two models produced under Jaguar/Land Rover’s own steam and significant investment backing from Tata. (The other being the 2013 Range Rover). It all seems to be paying off, with two recent top JD Power rankings, and a 31% increase in local sales to just over 1400 units. Things are looking up for the four-paw brand here in SA.
The Jaguar F-Type slots in “under” the XK as a front engine, rear-wheel drive convertible sports car. It boasts three engine derivatives, but one body style. The launch route took us through some of the most beautiful roads our country has to offer in the lowveld of Mpumalanga. Long straights, sweeping bends and roads that carved through the hills and forests made for a perfect setting of one of the most beautiful modern Jaguars’ on offer.
On arrival at Hoedspruit airport, Ciro De Siena (my driving partner) chose us the V8 S, the most powerful unit in the lineup (good man!) Of the two other derivatives, only the middle of the range, F-Type S, was on offer to drive, and I’ll be focusing on that model as Ciro has pretty much covered the V8 S.
The Engine, The ApplauseThe V6 S is powered by 3.0 litre supercharged V6 delivering 280kW and 410NM at 7000RPM, ensuring the rear-wheel drive beast leaps to 100km/h in 4.9 econds (0.6 seconds off the V8 S time). What that does not come close to explaining is the machine-gun-fire-fighter-jet-engine-pop-bursting-bubbling cacophony of sound from the active sports exhausts. A button, just under the pistol grip gear lever (thank goodness the silky rotary knob was retired here) switches an already explosive exhaust to “run for cover” levels of noise.
It is the most charismatic part of the vehicle, and gives it character and drama no other Jag, or competitor really has. The V6 is lighter up front, so there’s less tramlining as in the V8, but also just under 100kW less power. It does an excellent job of hauling the 1770kg Jaguar F-Type around, but the V6 needs to work harder, and makes the 8-speed quickshift gearbox work to hunt for power at the top. Where the V8 has instantaneous shove-in-the-gut, the V6 drops down a few cogs for a whoosh-howl of exhaust note and power that then ensues. It is however a spectacle, and leaves kids on the side of the road smiling, cheering and, as we also saw; slow-clap applauding.
Stiffer, Quicker ChassisWhat bystanders won’t know, is that you don’t just have a noise making machine, but one that handles like it could be all wheel drive. 50:50 weight distribution and an all aluminum construction using rivets instead of welded joints, means it’s lighter, and much much stiffer. Jag hasn’t effed around here, and all this engineering effort is felt on the road.
Not only does the F-Type get Jaguar’s fastest (not electric, rejoice!) steering, but also biggest brakes ever fitted to a Jag, and the fastest 8speed transmission. Bronzed flappy paddles on the steering wheel were perfect for keeping the engine up high, howling and sputtering on the overrun like an errant automatic rifle firing away. It’s not as fast as the German units, but quick enough with exceptional ability to double or triple downshift, and hold gears in corners.
The Difference in DifferentialsThe Jaguar F-Type S has a limited slip differential, unlike the electronic differential in the V8 S, which is activated by sensors just before slippage would occur, the limited slip differential needs some slip before it activates. It’s a bit more intrusive and mechanical in the way it goes about sorting power between the wheels, and you could definitely feel it and the stability control reigning things in heavily when the car carried too much speed into corners. The occasional logging truck, had me jumping on the brakes which were confidence inducing and had excellent feel. They showed no sign of fade.
Sweeping through bends and long winding roads and the S never felt unsettled, or even uncomfortable. The adjustable suspension did an incredible job of balancing ride comfort and keeping the 20-inchers glued to the road. The nose tracked exactly where you pointed it no matter how much throttle was thrown down at the same time. Over bad pieces of corrugated tarmac, of which there was quite a bit, the Jag wasn’t unsettled, but rather seemed to hunker down and the more power that was fed to the wheels, the better it coped.
A truly impressive chassis and drivetrain. It’s actually so unlike Jaguar, it’s surprising. I say this because it’s so much more focused and less brute than the XKR-S, with a sense of occasion and drama fit for a mid-century ball.
The Interior of the new Jaguar F-TypeThe occasion and drama continues when you step close to the Jaguar F-Type, the door handles pop out to great you, the entire top of the dash raises with the vents (Jag has a thing with mechanized vents) and greetings abound on screens in the car. The optional Performance seats are a must, (same ones fitted in the XKR). You sit lower than you do in any other Jag, and you can feel it, but you never feel like there’s too much car around you. It’s a drive-able every day car from that perspective.
Where it isn’t, is the ridiculous excuse for a boot. Literally only a laptop bag and maybe a pair of shoes will fit in where the space saver spare takes up most of the… ‘space’. This severely hampers those weekends away, or even roadtrips with a partner, but I guess the R500K saving from buying the V6 S instead of the V8 means you now have the money to buy whatever you intend to wear at your destination.
The interior has touches of jet fighter in its switchgear, combined with the luxury class only Jaguar can bring. With the roof off you can hear all the spluttering and induction noises channeled into the cabin, but talking is a bit of a shouting affair at speed. We found that you can actually hear more of what you really want to hear with the roof up, which is class-leading closing time of 12seconds at speeds up to 50km/h.
New Jaguar F-Type in South Africa - SummaryFor a little over R975 000 you get one of the most beautiful, unique sports cars on the road today. With just over 110 confirmed orders on launch day, it’s certainly looking good for Jag. I can honestly say that the S is all you need. If money is no object, the V8 is your car, but the S will do everything you want it to do and more.
Why the Jag above an R8 / Cayman / Carrera 4S? Well, they don’t really compete. Not in performance or handling, sure the competitors may be better or lighter or quicker, but the Jaguar F-Type is truly different. It’s a spectacle in sound, sight and feel. It’s something else with genuine occasion, drama and Jaguar soul, which when the top end competitors become more and more refined and sterile, is a refreshing and alluring proposition indeed. I would quite like to have MY turn again.