Overall rating: 4.5/5
Jaguar is insistent that driving enthusiasts looking to buy into its F-Type Coupé range want the option to change gear themselves. So both the 340- and 380hp V6 models will get a six-speed gearbox designed to up the Jag's sportiness quotient. Going against the global trend, does this brave decision pay off?
In the Metal:
Not much to add here to what you already know about the sensational Jaguar F-Type Coupé, namely that it's the finest-looking two-seat hard-top machine on the market. It is superb in anything from base V6 specification and a sober colour right up to lurid R trim in bright red and on black wheels, and there is nothing that externally identifies the manual from its automatic brethren. For that, you need to lean your head into the cabin and clock the H-pattern gear knob and third pedal in the driver's footwell. Other than the range-wide addition of the new InControl Touch infotainment system (which is a significant step on from the old software), it's brilliant business as usual for the F-Type.
This is really tough for us, because the manual gearbox is fine to use and it's wonderful to have a 'proper' driver's transmission in the superb F-Type Coupé, allowing it to fully compete with the Porsche Cayman. It has a chunky, mechanical-feeling throw with a nice, positive action, so while it's not the slickest operator in the business, it's a pleasure to use. Finding the right ratio is easy, as Jaguar has tweaked things since our prototype drive, but it can still easily head towards reverse gear when you're moving down into second at speed - engaging reverse, to the left and alongside first, is a case of depressing the lever so if you don't pay attention, you can push down and slide past second momentarily, something Neil also found when he drove it a few months back.
Jaguar says automatic rev-matching on downshifts - something both the Cayman and Nissan 370Z Nismo do - isn't necessary, preferring instead to let keen drivers perform their own heel-and-toe downshifts. These are not hard to enact, because the throttle mapping, positioning of the brake and accelerator pedals make pinging the V6's revs up approaching a corner or junction an easy delight. So all the necessary driver interactivity is there in the V6S Coupé manual.
No, the problem is that the automatic F-Type V6 S is excellent as it is and while the manual will be cheaper to buy in the showrooms, there are significant financial penalties to pay in terms of VRT and fuel economy compared to the self-shifting unit. Consumption creeps up, as you'll use more than an extra litre of fuel per 100km versus the auto on average (9.8 litres/100km instead of 8.6 litres/100km, or 28.8mpg plays 32.9mpg), while CO2 emissions rocket by 31g/km. You might think we're being dramatic by using the word 'rocket', but that's enough of a hike to shunt the manual V6S into Band G instead of F - meaning your annual road tax will be €2,350 instead of €1,200. Further, the auto does 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds, the manual lagging way behind at 5.5 seconds, although top speed on both is identical. The manual does counter by being €980 cheaper to buy and 10kg lighter at 1,584kg all-in, but as you'll have to fork out another €1,150 on tax straight away, that's that pro removed from the list, while the weight saving is marginal at this sort of level and never makes itself felt.
So, with all this Top Trumps-esque statistical spiel, does the manual gearbox bring enough to the F-Type's driving experience to merit such downsides? Our heart uncertainly says 'possibly', for those very odd occasions when you're on a proper mountain pass with the sun shining and an open road ahead, but our head counters with a much firmer 'no'. It's not cheap enough, clean enough or quick enough compared to the excellent automatic. Shame.
What you get for your Money:
You can't get the manual gearbox on the V8-powered R models, and nor can it be paired to all-wheel drive, so rear-wheel drive it is. As ever, the S gets a few more toys than the already generously-equipped V6 base F-Type, so it's worth the €16,000+ premium to plonk your backside in the 380hp car.
Audi TTS: no manual option and it's considerably down on power and glamour, good as it is, but it's actually quicker to 100km/h and also considerably cheaper. As in, about €40,000 cheaper.
Nissan 370Z Nismo: old-school thrills but any 370Z is a special order product in Ireland and the Nismo version isn't officially available so you'd have to import one from the UK. The Jag is far nicer prospect in all areas, although it should be given its price...
Porsche Cayman GTS: the Jag beats it on looks and has broadly similar straight-line go, but the Porsche is just a tiny bit more polished in the dynamics stakes.
It's a bizarre thing for us to write - because we love focused cars with manual gearboxes and we absolutely applaud Jaguar's decision to drop such a transmission into the brilliant F-Type - but the eight-speed automatic is such a good gearbox and the manual brings such substantial economy/emissions penalties to the game, that we can't wholeheartedly recommend a car to which we've given almost full marks. If you can afford to buy and run an F-Type, and you are really, really committed to shifting gear yourself, you'll love the manual V6 S. But you'll also love the automatic version, which makes a lot more sense in our market.