Saturday 17 February 2018

This big cat doesn't just purr, it positively roars at the road

Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

What follows is a little bit like a teenager apologising in advance for sneaking a kiss. The Jaguar F-TYPE is a sort of forbidden fruit in many ways simply because it is rather gorgeous, largely unattainable, madly exotic and expensive.

But sweet God it's nearly worth the opprobrium I'm anticipating for driving something that is, I readily acknowledge, irrelevant to most.

My (only) argument is we can all dream can't we? On dreary mornings we need something to give us a lift.

And this is a different world, believe me. One where speed and power and tailpipe noise are in an alternate dimension.

The F-TYPE is the successor to the E-Type of the swinging '60s. It is an exotic, powerful and extraordinarily agile two-seater with a fabric hood which stows away into a tiny boot, leaving only enough room for your wallet and your dreams. Mad.

And it costs €105,000 to start with. My more powerful 'S' version costs €125,250. Absolutely mad money, I agree, yet I would advise the handful with the capacity to do so, to buy this 'S' version. It is significantly better than the entry-level and far more enjoyable than the 5-litre V8.

That has, mostly, to do with the adaptive set-up of the dampers in the suspension and the adaptive (there's that word again) exhaust which emits sonorous tunes and tones depending on speed and engine revs. I ended up propelling the F-TYPE and slowing it just to hear the range of noise – what about that for being child-like in my old age? It's great.

Of course I can't justify this on financial grounds for the vast majority of us. Even on more esoteric footings, it is pricey. But in a land of Porsches (big rivals are seen as the Boxster and 911 Carrera Cabriolet) and high-performance motors, money is not always the main determinant. Prestige, power, looks, dynamism all play their part. Now there's a pipedream for the rest of us.

Yet I was half-glad my test car was a dark colour and not the flagrant red I had when I drove it abroad many months ago. It didn't stop people from oogling, but can you imagine what it would have been like if I had the red one?

The intention behind this is simple: give drivers all you can to get all they can from this stunning-looking car. It is driver, driver, driver. Even the grab rail in the cabin for the passenger appears to distance you from your travelling companion.

I took them at their word. This howled with delight when I pushed it hard. It is so low-slung and tidy it was a delight to fling around the narrow twisty roads of the Wicklow Mountains. It is made for driving at any speed. The energy of engine, suspension, tyres, steering and accelerating always made me feel like this was an adventure.

Let me explain. Some cars, such as BMW's M6 Gran Coupe, can grandstand on speed on the autobahn. It's knuckle-whitening fun. Some cars, such as the F-TYPE, can generate thrills just spurting out of a corner on full revs as you feel every groove, twist and bump of road skimming just a few inches from your well-cosseted bottom.

For such a small car, the cabin had decent room for two. I was far more comfortable than in the BMW Z4. That's because the electronically adjustable seats are shaped and tapered in such a way that my old frame slotted in wonderfully well. I sat unusually forward because this car demands you drive it not just cruise on it.

Boy, did I use the gear-change paddles on the steering wheel to get everything I could from it. To hear it roar down the gears kept me on the road well past my bedtime a few times. A small crib: the paddles feel awfully lightweight and on further inspection I think they should upgrade the plastic on the steering column.

The fabric hood can be opened or closed in 12 seconds, even while on the move at speeds of up to 48kmh. I didn't bother. The weather wasn't great and I just wanted to drive. I've had the roof down in sunnier climes and it was breathtaking. Not in and Irish November though. And anyway you get poisoned with car and lorry fumes in heavy traffic.

Now it is easy to say the F-TYPE is a worthy successor to the E-Type. That's just too pat. I took it on its contemporaneous merits. Technically it measures up on acceleration (0-100kmh in 4.8 seconds) power, looks and performance. Yet it is more than that. It manages to conjure a little magic from all those bags of tricks and that makes it special.

And I felt that, unlike most responses to my furtive teenage kisses, this kinda hugged me back.

Irish Independent

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