Jaguar's new F-Type harks back to the brand's racing heyday
Some cars have greatness thrust upon them, while others are born into it. The Jaguar F-Type is probably in the latter camp, having existed in the feverish imagination of car enthusiasts ever since its true predecessor, the legendary E-Type, ceased production in 1974. Since then, there have of course been many sporting Jaguars - some of which have been undeniably great. But for whatever reason, the company was never quite comfortable with creating a true successor. Instead, Jaguar happily preferring to go down the road of building beautiful crafted, elegant saloons and grand tourers.
Although Jaguar’s domination of sports car racing back in the 1950s (with a brief resurgence in the nineties) is unlikely to be kickstarted any time soon, the idea that racing improves the breed appeals to engineers and customers alike. As a result, the mythos of the E-Type – and the D- and C-Types before it – have always held sway over Jaguar. It’s taken fresh investment from new owners Tata and the evolution of a sophisticated global market to make the F-Type viable, and even then the company fully expects it to lead through image, rather than sales.
Such is the popularity of Jaguar’s newest machine that it’s taken us several months to track one down. In the flesh, the F-Type's convertible iteration doesn’t disappoint. Although it’s not exactly small, Jaguar design director Ian Callum and his team have shaped a car that fills out its footprint, its perfect proportions giving just the right impression of compact, wieldy potential.
The cockpit is snug without feeling cramped, and the roof stows swiftly and neatly to form a shape that emphasises the car’s shapely flanks and neat rear lights. Spark up the V6 – here supercharged and delivering 380 horsepower – and you’re struck by the immediacy of the noise; this car makes an instant play for the emotions. Unlike it’s larger XK sibling, the F-Type isn’t really a long distance cruiser. At speed, there’s a fair bit of road noise and the ride is easily upset by pock-marked roads.
Instead, the F-Type is about desire, naked desire. It feels ‘on’ all the time, unlike near rivals like the Porsche 911, which have evolved into meek, almost characterless machines in comparison. The F-Type has a ferocity and richness that’s rarely found in cars these days, most of which prefer one over the other and can’t seem to find the right combination of both. A true heir to the original? Possibly, given the constraints of the modern motor industry. But perhaps it’s also a strong symbol of the company’s future intentions as it forges ahead with cars that speak directly to the heart and the mind.