Getting to grips with the power and pace of Jaguar's new F-TYPE AWD
I make no secret of being an ardent admirer of the Jaguar F-TYPE sports car. I love the way it looks, drives (especially the Coupe) and sounds.
Now they've gone and made an all-wheel-drive version.
Doing so meant changes to accommodate the technology (the bonnet is a little higher and has two styling 'creases' to distinguish it) as well as providing an opportunity to get a raft of updates and tweaks on board.
They have also added the option of a 6spd manual transmission to the range - on the rear-wheel-drive supercharged V6 models.
It is part of a steadily expanding F-TYPE lineup. Between the jigs and reels of bodystyles and powertrains etc, there are now 14 models - up from six.
Let me start with the manual transmission because I can dispense with it fairly quickly.
It wasn't great on the open road. It was sticky and clunky though to be fair it was early days and I'd need a longer drive on home soil before I'd say more.
There are few gearboxes as good as the 8spd in the Land Rover/Jaguar 'family' so even if the manual lowers the price a little, I'd still favour the auto.
Really the main reason we gathered at Estoril in Portugal was to judge the impact of AWD's extra traction and grip on a car already renowned for its ability to hug a road.
And let's start at the top. The 550bhp F-TYPE R Coupé goes from 0-100km in four seconds or thereabouts.
The supercharged V8 replaces the 495bhp V8 S in the Convertible. What a combination. I could bamboozle you with facts and figures but as I've said before, the F-TYPE has to be driven.
And thanks to some expert guidance from a real pro I was let loose on the track. And later on the wet track.
It is only when you stream around at a reasonably smart rate of knots that you realise just how unbelievable 'real' drivers are.
And how vital decent grip and traction can be. I messed up on a few exits and many a car would have spun or gone off. Not with this. I was able to right things without losing too much face or pace.
First couple of laps I was a bit tentative. But, I said to myself, when I had torque-on-demand all-wheel drive, I should be going faster. So I pushed on. The more I circled, the better I got and the more I pushed and trusted the technology. There was still the feel-of-rear wheel drive but I knew I was getting more from the front two as well.
Then I got into a version with ceramic brakes. And they made a huge difference. Having them meant I could brake much later - and go faster for longer.
On to the wet track then, where a tight slalom course showed what AWD brings to really slippery conditions. It was fun and informative.
The downside is that this all costs a lot of money and you are looking at adding thousands and thousands to the price of the X-TYPE - the roadster is already expensive enough.
And that would put a brake on your enthusiasm. But then if you have one, you are already are an enthusiast.
I'm sure there are people out there who will consider the AWD. It is an impressive extra dimension but really the 'basic' car remains a wonderful drive.