Jaguar F-Type V8 S: Muscle machine’s absolute power corrupts absolutely
JAGUAR F-TYPE V8 S
What exactly is it?: The V8 S is the flagship model for the F-Type range, which also includes two V6 models. It’s only available as a roadster at the moment but a coupe will follow in 2014.
Powertrain: 5.0-litre supercharged petrol V8 producing 364kW/625Nm. Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive. Combined fuel consumption 11.1 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 4.3 seconds.
Anything interesting in the equipment list?: Aside from the monster engine, the F-Type V8 S features Jaguar’s Super Performance braking system and an electronic active differential. An active sports exhaust is also standard but our car was fitted with the optional switchable system – think of it as a loud button. The car pictured here also wears a gloss-black styling package and 20-inch Tornado Black alloy wheels.
Base price: $180,000
There is an apocryphal story about the Jaguar F-Type that I have been hearing for over two decades now.
It’s not the F-Type that you are probably thinking of, though.
This story dates back to the early 1970s, when everybody knew that the iconic E-Type was winding down; notebooks and long lenses were out as everybody tried to discover what sports-car masterpiece Jaguar was developing to replace it.
I have long since forgotten the names and dates that go with this story, if there were ever any. But it goes like this: for one reason or another, an automotive photographer found himself in the bowels of Jaguar headquarters unsupervised. Tucked in one corner was a low-slung coupe he did not recognise. He took a closer look but decided it was too unfortunate-looking to be related to any new Jaguar, let alone a replacement for the beautiful E-Type. He didn’t even bother to take a picture.
That car was of course the as-yet-unseen XJS, Jaguar’s replacement for the E-Type. Or so the story goes.
History never retreats
The XJS was unloved at launch in 1975, the wrong car at the wrong time: too controversial looking, too thirsty when the world was in the grip of an oil crisis. But we haven’t forgotten it already, have we?
There has been far too much hype about the new F-Type, too much talk about it being the successor to the E-Type after 50 years of waiting. Jaguar may not have called its 1975 coupe the F-Type as expected, but the marque has still had a continuous chain of sports models since 1961: E-Type, XJS (later XJ-S) and XK.
The F-Type is of course a crucial car: completely new and much smaller than the XK (which continues for the time being). But just because Jaguar has finally seen fit to apply the “F” badge to a new model, that’s no reason to drown in sentiment. Perhaps that’s just me, for I am not a fan of old Jaguars in any way, shape or form.
The new F-Type exists because Jaguar is once again full of confidence about its ability to produce cars that put as much emphasis on driver appeal and a modern image as they do on luxury. Indeed, subtlety and restraint are optional when it comes to this new sports car. Consider: the F-Type is compact by any measure, at under 4.5 metres long (shorter than a Toyota Corolla). Yet the flagship model boasts an outrageous supercharged V8 engine, with 364kW.
It is fast to an antisocial degree. Yet, in truth, the F-Type is not as light as it should be, given its diminutive exterior dimensions and aluminium construction. The V8 S is 1665kg, some of which is down to that monstrous engine. But not all, as the entry V6 is only 70 kg lighter. I digress, because the kilograms are neither here nor there with this much power: the F-Type V8 S accelerates with genuine supercar speed and drama.
Yes, the drama. I don’t think I have ever driven a car with such an outrageous exhaust note: this F-Type drowns out Ferraris and Lamborghinis. The resonance of the V8 under acceleration goes right to your core but, if anything, it’s even more arresting on over-run: the exhaust pops and crackles to the extent that one of my passengers was convinced there was something wrong with it.
Our test car did have the optional “switchable” active exhaust system, which increases the volume when required. But I tried it both on and off and it was still aurally intensive/offensive even without the loud button. If you’re uncomfortable attracting attention, this is not the car for you.
The V8 S is the closest thing I can think of to a modern-day TVR. I mean that in a good way, because you get everything that used to be good about TVR, sans the shoddy build and overwhelming smell of glue. The F
Type has an excess of grip but with over-the-top engine output and a short wheelbase, it only takes a twitch of the right foot to break traction. Everything about the powertrain and chassis seems to encourage bad behaviour, from the naughty noise to the active differential that comes standard with the V8 S. If you catch my drift.
If there is anything missing from this exhilarating car, it’s a little more finesse. The steering, powertrain and chassis are invested in providing very adult entertainment but it all seems larger than life. The F-Type is not clumsy but its handling is measured in absolutes, not by degrees.
For that reason, I don’t think it’s an issue that the F-Type is only available with an automatic transmission. It fits the character of the car and it’s an exceptionally good gearbox: all eight ratios of it. Same goes for the chunky cabin styling: the leather is beautifully done, as you’d expect, and Jaguar Land Rover’s mission to reduce cabin complexity has resulted in a pleasingly simple array of switchgear (something it has also achieved with the latest Range Rover models).
Some of the styling details are a bit cheesy but then this is not a car that takes itself entirely seriously. Many of the important cabin controls are coloured bronze (gearshift paddles, stability control), because that’s the colour used in fighter-jet cockpits. Easy to identify at a glance, apparently.
The F-Type persists with the trademark Jaguar “handshake” cabin concept, which sees the dashboard vents rising up to meet you when you turn the car on; that’s getting a bit tired. But thankfully, the car dispenses with Jaguar’s rotary transmission selector in favour of a traditional gearlever.
However, in the spirit of pointless powered bits, the exterior doorhandles are completely flush, then electronically extend to meet your hand when required.
To get bogged down in the small details is to miss the point, because this is a machine that’s all about making a big impact. The F-Type is not a nimble sports car; more a deliciously compact muscle machine that will corrupt you with absolute power.
Like the XJS before it, the F-Type is perhaps not exactly what people were expecting. But everybody seems to love it anyway and rightly so.