It has been a long time coming, but the V8 version of the Jaguar F-Type has been worth it. While it comes with more compromises than its obvious Porsche 911 rival, it's more fun too.
In the Metal:
There's very little that's not been said already about Jaguar's F-Type, but there's no denying that it looks good. Wider than the XK, shorter, lower and more taut as a result, the F-Type's dimensions are pure sports car. The V8 model is marked out by its quad rear exhausts - replacing the dual central ones in the V6 versions - while the standard wheel grows to 20-inches in diameter. It's good looking then, but very colour sensitive, it looking best in bolder hues or metallic finishes, which show off the F's detailing best.
The cabin is snug, the seats good and the driving position just right. The F-Type's designer, Ian Callum, said a lot of time went into the controls, saying they wanted physical switches and dials to allow you to navigate them via touch. It all works well enough, though Jaguar's infotainment system's clunky interface and blocky old-world graphics are a real disappointment in an otherwise impressive interior.
The F-Type has some pretty serious convincing to do here, not least to live up to the looks - and the bluster that is the V8 engine. It's loud for a start; the engine's flare and blare on start-up creates such a fission of anticipation that there's a nagging expectation that it'll never live up to its aural promise. It does. Anything with 495hp is going to be interesting and the V8 is as strong as its numbers and noise suggests. Peak power is produced at 6,500rpm, but with maximum torque arriving at 2,500rpm and maintained until 5,500rpm there's decent tractability and low rev response. High revs are where the real firecracker pace is, the engine at its most potent, both in physical and aural performance.
The exhaust is outrageously vocal, blaring under power, crackling, popping and fizzing on the over-run; it sounds like you've a sniper out back fending off an army of Tommy-gun-wielding-snare-drum-playing attackers. Never has a production exhaust been so expressive, and joyously extrovert in its character; it's so loud we wonder how Jaguar ever managed to make it pass the drive-by regulations.
All that is matched by a chassis that achieves the rare balance of real poise and composure mated to quickness and accuracy that allows the F-Type to absolutely monster almost any road. The steering is a highlight, achieving sharp response and speed without nervousness, the Jaguar's front-end precision remarkable. That steering is hydraulic, which imbues it with greater feel than rivals' electric power steering, too. Add strong brakes and an eight-speed automatic transmission that works beautifully in either manual mode or on its own and the F-Type impresses.
If there's a weak link it's the accelerator's response. Even if you've fiddled with the settings, in Dynamic mode response is always a touch too sharp, robbing the car of some smoothness, being a bit spiky when you want to mete out the engine's power smoothly. It does little to upset the F-Type's overall composure, which, even with the stability systems off, remains remarkably benign up to and above its limits of grip and traction.
What you get for your Money:
This is a pure sports car. Rivals are increasingly populating the middle ground between sports car and GT, but for all the F-Type's roundedness it feels more focused and single-minded in its make-up. It's a two-seater with a tiny boot (really tiny) and big performance, 100km/h arriving in 4.3 seconds for example. Equipment levels are high, and your money buys you 95hp more than a 911 Carrera S's 400hp.
This range-topping model comes with an electrically controlled differential rather than the mechanical one of its V6 S relative. It allows the diff to react quicker and pre-load, improving control further.
The F-Type - in V8 S form at least - is a car of rare ability, possessing performance and the means to exploit it at a level that is enough to take on, and beat, the very best in its class. We can't wait for the coupé to join it, and the inevitable R and RS models in time...