The Dynamic Mode including Active Exhaust of the Jaguar F Type S stays set when you switch off the engine. Unlike many other cars with these options, your settings remain as you left them when you return. The owners handbook says that it remains that way for eight hours. It’s 6.00 am, the neat alloy door handle flips outwards as it senses the key in my pocket. As I slid down into the seat, the thought passed through my mind, “How long since I parked it?” Because when I push the anodised Start button, this thing is going to bark into life, exhausts in full-on Dynamic Mode.
I could, of course, pause and check, maybe turn Dynamic Mode and Active Exhausts off. But I’m sure they’ll understand and after all, 6.00 am in summer time is the best part of the day, surely? Shame not to. Push the button with the door still ajar for the full effect, the Supercharged V6 barks into life. Best not sit too long. Just long enough to drop the fast retracting roof, flick the wipers to clear the light overnight mist from the windscreen, squeeze the .44 Magnum-like trigger on the gearshift, pull for Drive, then sideways for manual. Out onto the main road and as the engine warms, I feel the early morning sun on my face as we emerge from the shadow of some trees. The heated seat is working on the base of my back and as the speed builds, there’s a gentle ‘crack’ from the Active Exhaust on each upshift. Life is good.
The supercharged 3.0 litre V6 is pretty damned quick with 380bhp. The 460 nm of torque make it very smooth and beautifully linear. Not ‘quick’ in an utterly ballistic sense. Not time warp fast, but it’s very quick in all the right ways.Too often with big horsepower cars you find yourself frustrated. Frustrated that either surrounding traffic or the rules of the land prevent you from opening it up. It’s rare to be able to exploit this performance for more than a few moments in today’s crowded UK roads.
The F Type has just the right amount of grin inducing power, but none of that frustration. It’s small, compact dimensions and smooth power delivery, coupled with that fantastic exhaust, give the perfect combination of outright speed, agility and hilarious fun. So obvously, more power than for example a Lotus Elise, but without the crazy power of a McLaren or 911 Turbo. The XRR-S I drove last year was truly spectacular in it’s power and indeed every car manufacture needs 500bhp + cars. I was quite happy to hand back the XKR-S after seven days, as I knew that my license was living on borrowed time, but I wanted to keep the F Type far longer.
Blasting down the type of country lane that would make an XKR-S feel muscle bound and just a little too wide, where an Elise would feel good fun but a tad underpowered, the F Type S the felt perfect combination. Shift up by simply listening and you’re making good progress. Glance at the tacho, realising you actually have plenty of RPM still to go, hang that gear for longer, let it rev instead of shifting up, that smooth torque turns into really good horsepower, the V6 feeling as smooth as a straight six, coupled with the most superb sounds and gaining a hard edged tone as the revs rise, before popping and crackling like a Spitfire coming in to land on the overrun. It’s infectious as time after time, I feel that involuntary smile in the corner of my mouth. My previous favourite V6 point of reference for sounds was a 280i Capri with Bilstein dampers and Janspeed exhausts, way back in my younger days. Happy times and an utterly glorious sound. The F Type beats it. And that’ s a fifteen year old memory…..
Gear selector in Manual mode is how it should be – pull back for upshift, push for downshift in the intuitive motorsport-shift action. Too many cars these days have it the opposite way around, for reasons that escape me. Of course, you could shift using the paddles, but they move with the steering wheel and when you’re unwinding the lock coming out of a junction or tight corner, it’s harder to reach. Far better to simply reach down and pull. I like it. One aspect that I found very odd was the position of the secondary switches, behind the gearshift. It’s all too easy to activate them with the heel of my hand while driving. The Institute of Advanced Motorists, of course, would have a fit. They will claim that’s all my fault. “Both hands on the wheel when not changing gear, shuffle that wheel!” But in the lower gears, the car is cracking on at a fair rate and with eight gears to choose from, the lower gears come quite quickly. Plus, charging down my favourite country lane, I’m constantly up and down the ‘box anyway. For 90% of drivers, I’m guessing it won’t be a problem, as many will opt for the paddles or even, heaven forbid, full Auto.
The chassis, like every single Jaguar I’ve driven recently, is superb. In Dynamic Mode it’s the perfect blend of body control and comfort with rebound damping when landing over crests and across small undulations superbly controlled, with the same pin sharp turn in I found in the Sportbrake and XKR-S. In the short time it was with me, I didn’t have the opportunity to drive along my personal test route and I’d really have liked to have done that. It’s that road we all have in our minds that, mid-week, is largely free from traffic, has the perfect combination of bends, straights, mid-corner bumps, undulations and all the other things that catch out cars with less than perfect setups. And no, I won’t disclose where my road is.
If you buy one, please drive it hood down. Everywhere. And I mean, pretty much everywhere. I love open top cars when they’re executed well. My view is that you should be able to drive them all of the time with the hood down, apart from torrential rain. The F Type design team obviously share my philosophy, as any speed up to 100mph is quite pleasant with the hood retracted. Perhaps if I owned one, the novelty of the breeze may wear off. But I don’t think so. It’s one of the faster moving hoods I’ve seen, taking just moments to fold away, in less time than it takes your iPhone to pair with the 180W audio system.
With time, the novelty of the Dynamic Handling and Active Exhaust may also wear off, but again, I don’t think so. It’s also clear that the wider population of Britain appreciate it too. At low speed moving through traffic with the Active Exhaust engaged, the pop and crackle is just the right volume. Turning heads, yet instead of a disapproving scowl, passers by smile with fondness, in the same way they’d view a distant Spitfire rolling in to land. It’s really quite remarkable how this car was universally approved by everyone who saw it in it’s brief time with me.
A little more room would have been nice. Both in the unusual shaped boot space and also my stupidly long legs would have liked a little more rearwards movement from the seat. But honestly, I really am a minority in the inside leg department. A little creative packing may be called for on week long trips, soft luggage would be the best option, as there is actually plenty of space, it’s just not Samsonite hard case shaped. Most importantly, there’s a recess in the boot floor that happens to be the perfect shape for a case of wine. Someone did indeed give this some thought.
And as for my neighbours? A curious thing happened in the time the F Type was here. Normally the comings and goings of cars illicit the odd curious glance, but little more. My neighbours are used to it. The F Type generated a gentle knock on the door. Not to tell me to keep the racket down, but to ask, “If you’re just popping out, I couldn’t just jump in with you could I? Only if it’s not too much trouble, I mean if you’re too busy I understand…But it is bloody gorgeous, isn’t it?”