Oh, to be in the English Countryside in Summertime… the clack of leather meeting willow on the village green, birds singing and the distant cries of Plain Bob from the Parish Church. Of all my favourite spots in blighty, of which there are plenty, East Anglia has to be my spiritual home. This flat and pretty part of the UK is far away from the hubbub of motorways, commuters and my usual daily grind of thick crawling traffic.
It’s pretty much the ideal spot for a little back lane B-road entertainment, so I packed an overnight bag, entered Cambridgeshire into the Sat-Nav of the Jaguar F-Type S Coupe and left the Home Counties far behind for the weekend. Despite the Jaguar looking muscular from certain angles and sounding like all Hell has come to town when firing up the 3.0 supercharged V6, my initial worry of a bone hard ride and noisy cruise were soon forgotten.
The traffic was on my side en route as the Salsa red (an optional colour scheme) F-Type sliced through the newly widened anti-clockwise M25 towards the Dartford Toll. Sure, the Jag has a very firm suspension with barely any vertical travel along with ultra low profile tyres, but motorway cruising and comfort is actually on the right side of acceptable – only deep ruts or cats eyes remind you that you’re at the helm of a low slung performance orientated two seater sports car.
The 8 speed ZF automatic gearbox with Jaguar’s sequential shift is well matched to the 380Ps supercharged V6 petrol and swaps its octave of ratios with barely any noticeable sensation from the cabin. Should you fancy to, you can do the changes from the steering wheel mounted flappy paddles – and while on the subject of steering wheels, the rim is of ideal feel and thickness for the driver to feel in total control. In fairness, there is little to complain about, full stop, about the F’s driving position.
Overall motorway refinement is pretty good with just a hint of wind noise from the frame-less doors and the obligatory tyre rumble on concrete or rough topped road surfaces. Engine noise is well insulated when cruising, it makes itself known to the ear when hurried but it’s not unpleasant in tone and the noise from the chromed twin tailpipe is to die for. In terms of ergonomics, the Jaguar is an easy tool to operate with all of the controls being the usual ‘in-house” type of which regular pilots of JLR product will be familiar with.
After just over an hour behind the wheel, the blue motorway signs are far behind me and I find myself off the rat run somewhere not far from Peterborough. Ok… so it’s not exactly glamour, romance or the Swiss Alps but some of the Fenland B-roads are perfect for some fun with an F. One thing that does come to the fore very quickly is just how sorted and planted the chassis really is – it’s not just good… its bloody superb. The coupe simply devours fast bends with aplomb and the wide track allied to rubber the width of an Aveling Barford road roller ensures your safety and confidence.
Switching on the ‘Active Exhaust” rewinds the clock to 1965. This clever electronically actuated by-pass system of the silencers creates an epic growl under acceleration and a soul-stirring over-run crackle when on a trailing throttle – you could almost think you are travelling in an E-Type. Forget the noise of a Japanese rice rocket like an Evo Lancer or Subaru, the soundtrack of the Jaguar albeit loud is sublime and certain to make the hair stand to attention on the back of your neck. On a long straight road, the active exhaust and speed of the steering wheel paddle gear changes is breath-taking… this is no longer Cambridgeshire, more like Le Mans.
Cornering is effortless, the grip is nigh on perfect and at no point did the 3.0 supercharged V6 seem lacking in power or torque. Even switchback corners can be taken with gutso and the F-Type corners flatter than a Riley professional series snooker table. The traction control will rein you in on occasions but overall, the Jaguar is a well-balanced machine that soothes and excites in equal measures. The massive brakes never faded one bit even under some quick repeated braking and even the overall ride comfort although sportily firm, doesn’t loosen your fillings and the ‘bump thump” of ruts and potholes while being noticeable never spoils the experience.
The dynamic mode setting is there for those who want a little more excitement, with a simple stab of the button gear changes are quickened and the steering and suspension are altered to give a more direct feel. It’s not really needed in all honesty as the Coupe is able to quicken your heart rate without any extra trickery. Despite the input from the computerised gearbox and suspension, the F-Type feels very responsive and is very quick to react to your inputs through the pedals or the wheel. Overall, the Coupe is a very satisfying car to drive be it cruising or when firing both barrels.
There is a decent Meridian Hi-Fi at your fingertips along with a Sat Nav, Bluetooth connectivity and all your expected multi media inputs. Climate control is also there for your delectation too and of course, it’s a dual zone system with commendable output and quietness. The toggle effect switches in the centre console are particularly of note, bang up to date yet harking back to that bake-o-lite era of British six cylinder sports cars. A pair of hand crafted chairs with pneumatic bolster adjustment keeps you upright and come trimmed in hand stitched leather. Even though it’s a huff and puff affair to gain entry, once in, you’ll find no problems with the driving position.
Despite the cozy nature of the car, oddment space is taken care of from some clever storage boxes and cubby holes while the boot has just enough room for a brace of weekend suitcases and a squishy bag… all you need really. In terms of build quality, nothing felt loose or poorly finished with the exception of the indicator stalk but there was one or two little rattles and squeaks from around the cabin. The aluminium bonnet wiggles and wobbles as you lift it up which is a little discerning at first, but in the quest for lightness and efficiency… seems perfectly reasonable. The view under the bonnet is a little plain to the eye but the sight of those lovely plug welds in the alloy framework is a treat for those with an engineering background.
So here we have a car that’s intelligent, soul-stirring, engineered to almost perfection and head turning with sublime looks from every angle – it’s hard not to enjoy the joyful balance of sense and sensibility. Sure, there are some reservations… its painfully thirsty when pushed hard, the fuel tank is a little small, some trim could be better made, rear visibility is compromised and without care it will have you in front of the Magistrate. But if you are looking for a comfortable high speed cruiser that’s pretty and amazingly well engineered – you no longer need to go German!
Thanks are due to Keith Adams for some of the photography.
Engine: 3.0 Supercharged quad cam V6 petrol – 380Ps
Body: Integral construction in alloy
Performance: 0 – 60 in 4.8 seconds Maximum speed 171mph