In bottom-of-the-range form as a standard V6 automatic, without even the added ‘S’ badge, is the achingly gorgeous F-Type Coupé all hiss and no claws, or does it still pack a big-cat punch? We spent a week with one to find out.
When I drove it around the Dales one afternoon, we stopped in Hawes for lunch and parked the F-Type on the main street. When we came out of the pub, quite a few people were standing around looking at it. Later on, we observed one gentleman from a distance, who stood at the front and stared it up and down. He then moved round to the side and did the same, followed by the rear. Nobody had a bad word to say about it, obviously proud to see such a beautiful British car out and about. If I was spending my money, I’d specify the optional panoramic glass roof and also the 18″ alloys, which don’t look as good but would soften the ride a bit.
I’m only little at 5ft so luckily the F-Type’s seats had enough adjustments so that I could get comfortable behind the wheel. The long bonnet, low seating position and small rear window made visibility quite difficult but thanks to the parking sensors, reversing camera (£550) and auto-dipping wing mirrors, I got used to the F-Type’s dimensions fairly quickly. The seat controls being positioned by the door handle was a bit strange but having bolster and side support adjustment meant long journeys in the F-Type were really relaxing.
Ever since I drove the convertible version last autumn, I’ve always rated the driver-focussed cockpit layout along with its flick switches, joystick-esque gear selector and nicely-proportioned steering wheel. As soon as you sit in the driver’s seat, you feel wonderfully cocooned and ready for action. Everyone who sat in the F-Type agreed that the seatbelts are poorly positioned, resulting in us grappling with them every time. Being picky, some elements of the cabin were ever so slightly plasticy but truly great sports cars live and die primarily based on their driving experience, so in the F-Type Coupé, this can be forgiven. Although the infotainment system now looks and feels a little dated, it still worked pretty well and we all enjoyed the easy postcode sat nav entry, DAB radio, decent Meridian sound system (£850) and the welcoming little touches Jaguar have endowed it with such as the illuminated treadplates and customisable interior lighting (£250). On the whole, sitting in a Jaguar F-Type Coupé feels special.
This is the entry-level F-Type but I would hardly call 340PS, 450Nm of torque, a 0-60mph time of 5.1 seconds and a top speed of 151mph underwhelming. In fact, it’s more pleasurable to be able to explore the fuller extents of a lesser car’s talents than only scratch the surface of a lunatic’s capabilities. Having said that, low winter sun, slushy roads and general sensibility meant that we still only partially wrung the rear-wheel drive F-Type’s sponge. Nevertheless, immense fun resulted from this highly likeable and rewarding supercharged coupé. The 3-litre engine may not have a vocal range as delightful as the V8 but it still fires up with a lovely roar and burble. I have great affection for cars that produce a sense of occasion each time you sit in them and start them up. This is that kind of car. Press the button to activate the sports (note: the ‘Active’ system sounds even more heavenly) exhaust system and the centre-mounted twin exhaust pipes make some wonderful noises, especially when in Dynamic Mode using the flappy paddles, or at full throttle. Find a nice, straight moorland road, stick it in Dynamic, floor it and the effect is really quite exhilarating, the acceleration more than brisk enough for my tastes and with a lovely snap, crackle and pop soundtrack to accompany it.
The F-Type was totally at home in the Yorkshire Dales. With its aluminium body it felt light and agile and the steering certainly seemed crisp and responsive to me on the sharp twists and turns. Its smallish size made it an easy car to manoeuvre and also meant it wasn’t a worry whenever a tractor or lorry was coming towards us. Other car marques (naming no names) perhaps attract more bitter remarks from farmers, but they all seemed to love the F-Type and enjoy seeing and hearing it go past. I liked the fact that the gearbox adapts to your driving style, so when we wanted to take it more gently and enjoy the scenery and sound system, the Jaguar settled down into a nice, smooth, GT-like car. My wife Adrienne certainly enjoyed being a passenger and didn’t have any complaints apart from those seatbelts again, and having to advise me whenever we came to sharp junctions, due to the poor visibility.
I was the one who ended up driving the F-Type Coupé on long motorway stretches and it really was a very comfortable sports car. The sports sunvisor was way too shallow for me but I never felt tired after driving it and with the sports exhaust turned off it was quiet and refined. I’m someone who always has economy in mind and kept looking at the trip computer. The digital fuel gauge seemed to go down quite quickly but the range always stayed relatively high and I was really smug that we averaged 28.8mpg at the end of the 625-mile week, as the Jaguar was driven aggressively by the two men, one of whom was insistent on pressing the button to raise the spoiler at slower speeds.
With one of the previous days spent roaring up and down the lanes of Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, we thought a great place to really revel in the F-Type in its final 48 hours with us would be Holme Moss, which formed part of the Tour de France route. In a nod to Team Sky’s own lovely black F-Type Coupé, I absolutely stoked it up one side of the famous-ish hill only to be met by a covering of snow at the top, along with strong winds. Okay, it’s not ballistically fast until you put it in Dynamic mode but as soon as you do, the acceleration is enough to press your head firmly back against the seat. Leave the Quickshift 8-speed automatic gearbox to its own devices and you can sense most gear changes, with an ever-so-slight lunge at times.
Out on the country roads, I much preferred to use the paddles, so the manual version of the F-Type V6 would certainly make a more appealing proposition for many purists. On the whole, though, the 8-speed auto’ box did its thing well. Even with only the basic suspension rather than the Active Dynamics setup of the S and R versions, the V6 handled excellently by and large although on 19” rims (£1,750), the rear-wheel drive coupé did feel twitchy at times, surface imperfections sometimes thudded into the cabin at lower speeds and it bobbled and skipped around a bit on really poor roads. Going back to the Holme Moss visit, encountering a covering of snow on an unsalted road meant we opted to take it sensibly along with other motorists and it gave us a great opportunity to drive it in Snow/Ice mode. The throttle was subdued suitably, the resultant lag appropriate for the conditions. Of course, as soon as surface conditions had improved, it was immediately put back in Dynamic mode.
The Coupé version of the F-Type not only looks more beautiful but is also stiffer so performs slightly better, and provides increased boot space over the convertible which is woeful in this regard. In base V6 guise, the starting price of £51,250 initially sounds pretty reasonable, but like some of their German rivals, Jaguar’s options list soon bumps the price up and our test car cost £61,200, with the Jaguar Super Performance Braking System with Red Callipers alone costing £2,500 and the Seat Memory Pack and Meridian Sound System accounting for another £2,000.
Even without the upgraded suspension, power, dynamics and other enhancements present in the V6S and V8R models, the entry level V6 handles very well indeed and dishes up bags of sports coupé driving enjoyment. The standard V6 F-Type costs considerably less than a Porsche 911, on which it has set its sights, but on the other hand costs quite a bit more than the revered Cayman in base form. A simply beautiful car that will gain respect wherever you go, the bog standard V6 F-Type Coupé is well worth test driving if you don’t really have the funds to stretch to the V6S, V8R, a 911 or equally the Aston Vantage V8 you’ve always yearned after. Prospective R8 V8 and BMW M4 owners shouldn’t dismiss the standard F-Type Coupé either. After all, if you take UK roads for what they are, you’ll be able to eke more out of the base F-Type V6 Coupé’s potential and have more money to feed its relatively frugal fuel tank. Go on, try one. Unless you’re the kind of person who’d be gutted if your football team thrashed mighty opposition by ‘only’ six goals and not eight, you won’t be disappointed.