Day one The F-type is waiting in an underground car park. Even parked, it’s quite dramatic. It looks wide, which is no surprise since it’s over an inch broader than the XK on which it’s based despite being a foot shorter, and even prettier than it seems in pictures. The attention seeking is completed by the loud bark it makes on start up, like a fat retired barrister clearing his throat after reading something especially startling in The Daily Telegraph. I have to make an unexpected dash across West London. It’s slashing it down and traffic is terrible. The F-type is not immediately endearing. At low speeds the engine drones and the seat digs into my back. Worse yet, the ride is very bumpy, verging on the piss-poor. It’s hard to see what all the fuss is about. Also, this being the middle model with the gruntier of two supercharged V6 engines, is has S badges on the both ends which are slightly garish and nasty, spoiling the lovely looks. Hmph.
Day two Work to do at home. Manage to sneak in a drizzly trip to the supermarket. This throws up another F-type disappointment. The boot is idiotically small. And that’s with the get-home tyre Band Aid. I gather if you opt for the space saver wheel there’s almost no boot at all. And if you had to fit the skinny spare, where would you put the knackered full-size wheel? Jag should have thought of that and offered a thing that lets you mount it to the bootlid like a Rover P6.
Day three No F-type action today, I’m off to a wedding. Bit of a shame because the sun’s just come out.
Day four The sun is still out. I’m going over to a mate’s house to watch the Grand Prix. For the first time I put the roof down, change gear with the paddles on the wheel and push the button that makes the exhaust louder. Suddenly the F-type is a million times more likeable. It’s as good as zooming across London in a bright red sports car should be. And people seem to like the F. Grown men take photos of it. Small children yank urgently on their parents’ arms and point with excitement as it growls past. Better yet, even with the roof down no one gobs on me, even in the manky bit of Finsbury Park.
Day five It’s Bank Holiday Monday. It’s also a beautiful day. It would seem foolish not to go out for a proper drive in the country. So I do. And suddenly it all makes sense. I won’t bore you with the details of how the F-type turns in sharply, how it feels stable but alert, how the gearing and the torque of the engine make it easy to maintain pace, how the weight and polish of the controls make it a satisfying car to drive smoothly at some speed and how you don’t get bored of the pops and farts and minor explosions from the exhaust. All you really want to know is, is the F-type fun to drive down a quiet country road (which you instantly render not quiet with your snorty, farty sports car)? And the answer is yes. It’s brilliant, boisterous, exciting and extraordinarily amusing. Here’s another thing; I didn’t notice the ride once.
Day six At around 60mph a little spoiler pops up from the F-type’s boot. When it does, the Jaguar logo gummed to it becomes visible in the rear view mirror. It’s a nice touch. The F-type is full of nice touches. I like way the bonnet vents let you catch a glimpse of the ‘supercharged’ badges on the top of the engine. I like the way those same vents sometimes create a little heat haze that shimmers in your eye line in traffic. I like the rubberized buttons on the dash and the way the start button, gearshift paddles and switch that puts it into dynamic mode are trimmed in gold. They say this was inspired by the colour of important controls in the Eurofighter Typhoon. It’s a gimmick, but a sweet one. And there’s something quite tongue-in-cheek about it. Likewise, when you ask for the feistier set-up the dash tells you ‘dynamic mode confirmed’ like you’ve just ordered a missile strike. You feel they had some fun designing this car.
Day seven A dull day in the office and then to Yorkshire on Top Gear business. Given that’s it’s shouty and lively and a bit bumpy, you’d expect the F-type to be a big, red migraine in waiting on the long slog up the M1. Actually, it’s a remarkably good cruiser. I suspect it’s partly down to the 8-speed automatic ‘box. Once you’re up to speed it goes into 8th and everything gets a bit calmer. It really is a very good gearbox. At lower speeds, under manual control, the changes are so quick and crisp you’d think it was one of those double clutch jobbies. Yet it brings the benefits of being a torque converter auto, chiefly that when you move away from rest it doesn’t feel like the robo-controller is slipping one of the clutches into dust.
Day eight After a day’s filming I’m giving a colleague a lift back to London. I warn him that he might have to have his bag on his lap. Yet an overnight bag, a rucksack, two laptop bags and a pair of stout boots all fit in with room to spare. And I’m giving the boot extra marks because it has an icy white LED light at the back so that when you open the lid at night it’s like being in a futuristic remake of Pulp Fiction.
Goodbye The Jag is going away. This makes me sad. I have grown extremely fond of it. It’s not perfect, of course. The ride’s too hard around town. It weighs more than an all-aluminium car should, even if you don’t really feel it when you’re driving. The price is pretty stiff, especially once you’ve added things that should be standard in a cabrio like heated seats, a wind deflector and the button that makes the exhaust extra farty. But if you spent the money, I don’t think you’d feel short changed. For one thing, it’s a joy to look at, especially around the back where it appears to taper a bit like the old XJ13. The interior feels pretty special too. It’s also the only two seater sports car I can think of that you couldn’t call girly or hairdresser-ish. It’s too snorty, too fighty, too liable to pop one of its bollocks into your pint while you’re not looking. In that respect it’s a bit like an old TVR. Except that it feels properly developed and properly made. The really smart thing about the F-type, however, is that it has gimmicks like pop-out door handles and rising dashboard vents to entertain your friends but that, underneath these novelty trimmings, there is real depth and texture that you wouldn’t get bored of. What it has is something you don’t get in that many modern cars; a real and extremely likeable personality.
The car talked about here is the Jaguar F-type S which has a 3-litre supercharged V6 engine making 375 horsepower. Jaguar says it can do 0-60 in 4.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 171mph. In standard trim it costs £67,520 although this test car had various options on it and was worth £79,230.