Any AROnline readers who have read returning Contributor Martin Williamson’s recent article on the fortunes of the MG marque will recall that he has switched his allegiance to Jaguar Land Rover for his daily transport – having now had two Jaguar F-Types, here are his reflections on the long-term ownership of Jaguar’s halo model…
Jaguar: Can it cut the mustard?
The two occasions when you love an F-Type? The day you buy one and the day you trade it in – except, in my case, that would be four times. That’s because I was daft enough to have a second one. Actually, that’s not quite true, there was a fifth time: the day I lost my ‘Ring virginity – as in the fabled ‘Ring and an evening Tourist lap.
As a lifelong MG addict, 2015 was a seminal year for me. Owing to various issues, I decided it was time to try something new, so out went my MG6. I’d done this once before when, back in 2010, a Launch Edition Mazda MX-5 appeared in my life. Four months later, that was replaced by an MG TF LE 500. So, could another British brand succeed where the Japanese hadn’t?
Well, in order to find out, I bought a 2006 Jaguar XK. The bog standard, 4.2-litre, 315bhp one, albeit with an uprated set of exhaust tips – four instead of two. I proceeded to add a further 18,000 reliable miles to it in the following 12 months. Admittedly, on purchase, it needed a new set of rear bushes, some tyres and a replacement air-con radiator, but from then on, it was simply brilliant.
However, rather like the time I owned a Rover 75 and then bought an MG ZT, the XK started to feel like Granddad’s car. Sure, it was a fantastic Grand Tourer, it turned heads and it felt like a million dollars inside! But it wasn’t a sports car like an MX-5 or TF. So, on the basis that a nine-year-old Jaguar could be reliable, the decision was made to jump into a newer F-Type. By all accounts, it was the focused sports car the E-type had been.
The ‘Look at me!’ button
After much research, an 18-month-old coupe (on a 64 plate) was found with just 22,000 miles. Again, an entry-level 340bhp 3.0-litre V6 supercharged model, but with the various extras which marked the car out as the one to have: power tail-gate, panoramic roof, full leather seats, 20in alloys, reversing camera and the all-important ‘Look at me’ button.
I called it that because the button was marked with what was meant to be a set of exhaust tips which looked for all the world like some spectacles. Add in that, when pressed, the car emitted a noise, to quote Jeremy Clarkson, like a rhinoceros farting. With this turned on, it basically proclaimed: ‘Look at me!’
At first, I was much smitten with the new Cat. All was well! It was quicker than the XK: on paper it could do the 0-60mph in 5.1 seconds (the F-Type S with 380bhp was only two tenths of a second quicker). With 25bhp more than the XK’s 4.2-litre V8 road tax was cheaper and the fuel economy better. Fuel economy? Who buys a car like this and worries about mpg? Me… As I use these for work with runs to Aberdeen, across to Ireland and even business trips to Germany, I rack up the miles, so that is an issue – especially as I am a big believer in the benefits of high-octane fuel, too.
All went well for the first eight months and then the engine management light came on. No bother, it was still under warranty – it turned out the O2 sensor had failed. Needless to say Jaguar Assist got me booked into our local Jaguar dealership (at that time, H.A. Fox in Chester) and an XE was duly provided as a courtesy car. Sadly, it was wasn’t the XE S which would have made for a nice comparison having the same V6 3.0-litre engine.
‘That will be £5700, Sir!’
By November 2017, the Jaguar Land Rover warranty was coming to an end. So, I booked it into my preferred local independent garage, Graham Walker Limited, for an MoT. To my surprise they reported a leaking oil seal on the differential. I took it along to the main dealer who immediately said the car could not be driven but didn’t have a courtesy car. Suffice to say the seal was replaced under warranty.
Then, two further issues combined to make me question the sanity of owning a Jaguar. Oil had been spilt on the exhaust and was causing all sorts of smells and smokescreens which would have made 007 proud. In addition, the stop-start caused an issue in the outside lane of the M62 one night when sitting in traffic. The dealer wanted me to pay one hour of labour to investigate and basically denied the spilt oil was their fault. I declined on the investigation which I knew would not show up on their £150 test drive.
Having then done some research, I discovered that a software update was needed to cure the problem. However, as I was about to go and argue the case, the diff starting growling. Now I know Jaguars are referred to as Growlers, but this was not on. The car was now a month out of warranty, and, yes, a new diff was required. ‘That will be £5700, Sir!’
After much arguing about the fact they had done the seal replacement, it was agreed that it would be covered by Jaguar. Well, until there was a ‘phone call: ‘Had I bought the car from H.A. Fox?’ Er… No. In the end, they had me for a £500 contribution just to get my car back. I suspect they were having to cover the cost, not Jaguar. At least they agreed to update the software at the same time free of charge. Internet reading shows that this diff failure is not an uncommon issue, either.
At this point, with nearly 42,000 miles on the clock, I invested in an aftermarket warranty. That turned out to be a prudent move. I also took the decision to use the independent garage for any work. First up was the sat-nav aerial failing. The Jaguar dealership quoted an astronomical cost for a replacement ‘because the cover has to be painted.’ The independent did it for a fraction of the cost by swapping the covers.
The final straw for F-Type #1 came in the May 2018 when, with around 48,000 miles on the clock, a fuel injector failed. Once again, the AA recovered me, and the aftermarket warranty saved the day.
Out with the old, in with the new(er)
With the disappointment of that, I started looking around. The F-Type had become a liability. I test drove various cars from Aston Martins to Porsches, but kept coming round to the fact that the F-Type was a very pretty car, and easy to drive, with that sense of familiarity. A part of me kept thinking that, whilst the V6 was the sweet spot in the range for handling, the sound of the V8 was just too enticing. Plus, there’s that extra power. While 340bhp is probably more than enough power for most people the F-Type, despite being an all-aluminium structure, still weighs in at a portly 1800kg or so.
I found myself looking at an April 2017 F-Type R AWD V8 convertible at an Aston Martin dealer – just 12 months old and with 2,700 miles on the clock, it had been traded in against a Vantage, but supplied new by my local Jaguar dealer. I convinced myself, ironically, that any Aston Martin was a bigger liability, so having had the coupe and with the Summer of 2018 proving too good to be true weather-wise, the convertible landed on the drive.
What a pleasure! Two immediately noticeable differences were the lack of rigidity compared to the coupe and the restricted rear vision with the hood up. But these were minor issues. The supercharged 550bhp V8 engine was brutal. Power was instant. Give me a supercharger over a turbocharger every day. You can keep the ‘sweet spot’ V6 and its handling and give me the V8 all day long – for me, 0-60mph in 3.9 seconds says it all.
One might think a difference of 1.2 seconds to 60mph is neither here nor there compared to the 340bhp V6, but it is very noticeable. Very! This thing was addictive – rather like holding a live AC cable, knowing you should let go, but can’t. Pressing the throttle on this thing was the same – knowing you should let up, but can’t! The noise! It was on a whole different level. With the ‘Look at me’ button engaged, everyone in a fifteen-mile radius knew you were coming off the throttle – if ever there was a car made for tunnels, this was it!
Jaguar knew how to do theatre. It started in the XF with the rotating air-vents. The F-type had a rising centre dash vent. According to Ian Callum, this was so that, when not in use, it disappeared to give a more focused drive. There were the details like the grab rail on the centre console and the headlights that looked like a camera lens with the text on the rim of the bulb housing. It was just part of the drama. As was the blue dash lighting changing to red when engaging the Dynamic Sport mode. The ‘angry eyes’ look is what I found myself calling it when staring at the twin analogue gauges.
Whilst it was relaxing to let the gearbox do the shifting in traffic, I found myself using the manual mode a lot – just because… The changes were instant. I seldom used the actual lever to do manual shifting, it was always the paddles. But it added to the sense of being in control.
In both cases, the F-Type proved to be a very practical daily driver, even in the depths of Winter. I say that with caution and only if you’re single or have a family vehicle for those times you need one. That said, even with the miniscule proportions of the convertible’s boot, it was surprising what could be carried on board. The secret was to use soft bags that squash easily into odd shapes. My wife and I managed a trip down to Cork for a conference and had two cases, plus a computer screen, three roll-up displays and all the various clutter one must drag along to such events. We had several trips away together, either on business or leisure, and never struggled to get everything in.
Despite the extra power and capacity, the 5.0-litre V8 could cruise almost as economically as the 3.0-litre V6 and I’d regularly see 32mpg on runs at legal speeds on the motorways. In fact, up in Scotland, where average speed cameras abound, setting the cruise to 70mph would see this go as high as 37mpg and, in a mix of 50mph limits, I even saw 40mpg. In many ways, the V8 AWD felt the safer car, too, even compared to the lower-powered V6.
In Winter, the AWD was very adept at catching any moments when standing water or ice was an issue. In fact, when stopping up at the Spittal of Glenshee on a snow-covered car park with the ‘Snow/Ice’ mode engaged, there wasn’t any wheel spin even up a slight incline – contrast that with the V6, which had needed assistance when I got caught on the final approach to the summit in a sudden snow flurry a few years earlier.
The V8 was the car to have
As you may have inferred so far, the V8 was the car to have, in my opinion. However, even with the V6, one of the downsides to the F-Type is that every boy-racer in town wants to take you on. These days, with SUVs having as much performance, one must pick one’s battles very carefully. That Skoda Fabia may well have been tweaked and the owner invariably wants to prove it! In the end, the easier option is to ignore them and, if necessary, slow right down.
So, how did the V8 fare in terms of reliability? The fact that it got sold on in 18 months should tell you as much as you need to know. It took three visits to the dealership to convince them that water was leaking in around the screen seal. The seal was replaced and was fine thereafter.
Then, in December 2019, on a trip up to Aberdeen, a warning message showed up on the screen, ‘E-Diff Failure’… A ‘phone call to Jaguar Assist and I was told to call in at the nearest dealership. ‘Sorry sir, we won’t be able to look at it for at least a week.’ That prompted another ‘phone call to Jaguar Assist, who turned up in the dealer’s car park. They assured me all was okay and that I could continue to Aberdeen and back to Chester where it would need a software update, which I got the helpful chap to provide in writing via an email.
I knew there was more wrong, though, when I saw the poor fuel economy. I emailed ahead to our Chester dealership (now Inchcape) and was informed that there were no courtesy cars available for the next two months, but to bring it in anyway. On dropping the car off, I was informed that there was no taxi service available to take me back home. The first call later that day was to say nothing had been found, but I needed new rear tyres, would I like them fitting? Not at the dealer prices, no thank you.
However, just as I stumbled on the issue via an internet forum search, I received a call to say they had drained the oil from the transfer box and found it to be contaminated with broken bits, again a not uncommon issue with the AWD. I was told that, until Jaguar approved the work, they would have to keep the car, possibly until after the New Year. On informing the dealer that I would then hire a car and charge it back to them, the approval magically appeared within minutes.
This, together with a combination of terrible dealer attitude and the reliability, had me trading the second F-Type in earlier this year.
As petrolheads, we don’t buy these for an investment
The fact that the first owner probably paid around £110,000 for this new, and I paid nearly half of that a year later should tell you something about the F-Type’s depreciation and the dealer’s attitude towards a customer driving one of them. People used to tell me the MG6 had terrible depreciation – I could have given mine away at the time and still lost significantly less in real terms than what I lost on the second F-Type over 22,000 miles and 18 months! However, as petrolheads, we don’t buy these for an investment. These cars are like mistresses, emptying our wallets in return for providing our pleasures. Ours not to reason why, ours just to enjoy and drive.
The fact is the F-Type is not an Aston Martin, nor a McLaren, nor a Porsche – in short, it will depreciate heavily. That’s sad, because the F-Type is a bloody good car, in principle, and when reliable. A bloody good drive, too! I’ll bow to the expert drivers who claim the Porsche is the better sports car, but the F-Type must surely run it a close second for the money. It manages to be a useable daily as well as having supercar performance. Clearly, though, the market disagrees and so depreciation on these is what it is.
So, why is that? In part, I’d say the dealership experience, at least mine, anyway. I am sure there are far better Jaguar Land Rover dealers out there. But mine! Apart from the issues noted, the dealership could never get the details right. They would ring my wife instead of me because she took her Evoque there. They’d tell me my second F-Type was not under warranty because I had transferred the private plate from the first one and that was the one still on their system. Then I discovered that my car’s service history had gone missing in action on the database, and this was causing issues when looking at its trade-in valuation. That issue was rectified, but without any apology.
Another part of the depreciation factor is perhaps a symptomatic problem within Jaguar Land Rover: cost-cutting. Not only does that show in the poor reliability I’ve experienced, but it also shows in the fit and finish. When I got my first F-type, my wife asked me if I wasn’t disappointed with the interior compared to the XK. By comparison the XK was old school, it had that hand-built, craftsman-like feel. The F-Type, to be honest, is mass production, plastic fantastic by comparison. The latest F-Type, like the revised XE, might be an improvement, but Jaguar, in their haste to lose their pensioner market and save a few bob, lost what made Jaguar special.
Add to that it’s been a long, long time since Jaguar had a proper sports car like the E-type – one that set the world on its head. Very few of us are really old enough to remember just how much the E-type moved the game on. Everything from Jaguar since has been a boulevard cruiser by comparison. Jaguar became the byword for saloons for old men. The F-Type probably isn’t the poster car it should or could have been. A lack of motorsport credentials hasn’t helped either.
The biggest problem, I suspect, with the F-Type, is the fact the range is too extensive. To begin with it was the V6 and the V8, then in 2017, the 300bhp, 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo was added. I liken the problem to the Audi TT and BMW Z4. There’s the hairdressers’ variant, then there’s the hairy-chested version, at more than twice the entry-level price.
Bar the additional side skirts and wheels, which can be specified on the 2.0-litre models anyway, the only real clues that one has the V8 are the bonnet vents and the exhaust arrangement at the rear, utterly meaningless to most. Had the F-Type been kept purely as a halo model offering just the one engine choice in maybe two power outputs, then perhaps there might just have been that added desirability factor which may have made the model more of a success.
Okay, as Keith points out in his piece on the facelift, Jaguar has now made improvements to the interior and equipped the F-Type R with a more powerful engine but, based on my experience, there was never going to be a third F-Type in my garage.