Hold tight as we drive with the sound and fury of Jaguar’s new F-Type
Even at this remove, the senses recreate the after-burn of speed and sound from drives in Jaguar's first full-blooded sports car for 50 years.
There I am, behind the wheel of the new F-Type, spiritual successor to the famous E-Type. You might like to settle back for a minute there and let me take you on a drive into the realms of fantasy. We may not have the money but we can still sample, enjoy and wonder. First, just a tiny bit of context.
The F-Type is a high-powered, two-seater convertible, with rear-wheel drive, and stunning looks (a description used too often but well deserved in this case).
It has a lot to live up to. The iconic E-Type defined an era. Its mystique lingers like a good perfume. And those who drive rivals such as the Porsche 911 may well decide it’s not for them.
You can expect this to cost from around €108,000 for the 3- litre V6 ‘entry-level’ F-Type, €125,000 for the more powerful ‘S’ and €150,000 for the F-Type V8 S when it arrives in June.
Sit into the leather seat, electronically dispatch the roof to the boot in 12 seconds and welcome in the sun.
Press the start button. Hear the three-litre V6 engine growl, roar, and then snarl to life. Strange, but it puts you in anticipatory good humour. Slip the gearshift into drive (eight-speed Quickshift automatic gearbox) and off with us. Along sweeps of motorway and spellbinding mountain valley zig-zag roads where hairpins are so tight we’re nearly meeting ourselves coming back.
Stamp on the accelerator and hear that throaty trombone rasp of power bellow out the exhausts (specially engineered to do so). Stamp on the brake and the raspy trombone player adds a circus-ring whip-crackle of ‘backfire'. The sort you hear in Formula 1. We slow down so we can hear that sound-speed sensation again. And again.
Sling it around tight left-andright handers, let it loose over green-fringed stretches of tarmac. Feel the wind-speed threatening to unroot your hair. Your driving companion won't be able to resist a ‘wooohoo'. And another one, when you loop several left and right-handers with the rhythm and assurance born of trust that the suspension, track and huge-tyre grip will compensate for your human failings.
Bolder with every kilometre, you push and push. More wooohoos.
You slip the gearbox into Sport. That V6 340bhp engine pumps up the volume. We are in the groove and going like hell. After lunch and a briefing on the next car, and safety, we put on helmets and take to the race track in the 390bhp V6 ‘S’ version. Chris is the expert sitting in. After showing the way round for two laps, I take over.
Chris encourages. I brake later, and later, coming into corners, certain I am going to go off. But the big, big brakes (380mm front discs) haul me back.
Powering out of corners, sweating a little with the shock and force of changing direction and speed.
Then you settle a bit; believe you can do better, drive at 220kmh, maybe 240kmh (you can't look). Brake, point, accelerate. Sweet God, I wonder if there are any F1 scouts around? “Not bad, Ed.” Chris. “But you need to brake harder when you start to brake.”
Back to earth. No F1 scouts in sight, thank God.
Elated, we take liquids on board and head for the green countryside, its hush shattered by the roar from the engine.
We’ll go up a notch. Flick the switch to Dynamic mode, putting the car on higher-performance footing.
Faster into bends, feeling the tyres grip (they squeal sometimes), the chassis tightens up to keep the body upright – the wide track planting big footprints at corners, with the wind beating against our smiling brows.
Then we listen to the experts tell us how and why they made it, as it sits with its predecessors.
They used a lot of aluminium to help keep the F-Type lighter (but not that light) and taut. When it is moving it feels like it looks. Even the door handles ‘disappear’ when the doors close. Then we eat, sleep and dream of swirling on mountain crests. Then we rise and drive off in the 5-litre V8 (495bhp).
The difference from the ‘S’ is distinct. It is smooth, madly quick. Now we're in Sport and Dynamic and I'm using the steering wheel paddles. Push each gear to the red line. In, out. Corners, bends, loops, straights, bumps, hills. They all blur by.
For some reason, I don't like this as much as the S. Maybe it is the electric differential that limits wheelspin and gets better grip, and maybe I like the more hands-on feel of the ‘S’.
Yet, the V8 engrosses us. Oh dear. My red-line driving has nearly drained the tank. We're kilometres from final base.
The gauge says we have 16km left in fuel. 14km. 12km. We hand over the keys on 10km. We blame the car. F-Type fever. It’s easing, but we’re still not fully over that bout of driving a full-blooded sports car.
Fifty years? Worth the wait.