Jaguar gears up to rival Porsche 911 with F-Type

Pricing is attractive when pitted against its rivals at Porsche – and also against the more niche F-Type convertible variant already on sale

The pricing is attractive when pitted against its rivals at Porsche – and also against the more niche F-Type convertible variant already on sale. Video: Michael McAleer


Several years ago, as Jaguar launched its new XJ, we got a chance to chat with its then chief executive Mike O’Driscoll. Within minutes the talk turned to future plans and there was only one car on his mind: a Jaguar rival to the Porsche 911.

At dinner that night he and his executive team outlined a very rough plan they were working on to give Jaguar a real halo model, something they could really hang their new sports luxury image on. The F-Type is the end result.

Most of those executives have moved on, but they must be happy with what’s now on the road. One man who is still there is Ian Callum, the brand’s chief designer and the one credited with shaking off the stuffy image of old and giving Jaguar real appeal.

As with the earlier launched convertible, the F-Type coupe comes with three engine options: the coupe with 3-litre V6 340bhp; coupe S with the same V6 and 380bhp or the flagship F-Type R with a V8 5-litre 550bhp.

The 8-speed automatic transmission – controlled from either the paddle shift on the steering wheel or a short stubby gear lever – gets the most from the powertrains.

With its concept car creases the F-Type looks as glorious in the metal as it does in its photographs, though colour choice is vital, as the award-winning lines are at their best in black, silver or white. In those colours it looks a worthy rival to a Maserati or Aston Martin. In red strangely it looks like a sibling of the Toyota GT86.

The compact cabin interior can feel a little confined, but that’ s the way with two-seater sports cars. It also boasts a lot of button controls, but the key one is te starter. Hit that and the hairs on the back of your neck spring to life. Acoustically the F-Type’s raspy engine note is addictive. A lot of work has gone into getting the sound right and enthusiasts will be enthralled.

Both on the road and on the test track the F-Type demonstrates incredible poise, albeit slightly unnerved by some badly surfaced corners. Nonetheless with the optional Adaptive Dynamics System fitted to the Coupe S we tested, there’s little chance of getting into trouble. From the hydraulic assisted steering - which is weighty and direct - to the incredible grip and smooth acceleration throught the eight-speed transmission, it’s a car that makes even the most ordinary driver feel talented.

The top of the range, the R Coupe also features an electronic active differential for high speed cornering precision and a new torque vectoring system for lower speed corrections. Both are impressive but even after some incredible fun at the racetrack in the R, it’s hard to look further than the Coupe S, given the difference in price between the two is a whopping €52,170. A blast across the Spanish plains with the F-Type R showcased what a complete package the flagship version is, with incredible power on tap. This is no grand tourer; it’s an all-out performance car with 550bhp on tap at any time and incredible cornering poise. Behind the wheel it’s hard to argue against, but while the heart says R, all but the most bulging of bank accounts will live well with the 3-litre V6 S and spend some extra cash on the optional ceramic brakes, which defy physics with their stopping power.

Pricing is attractive when pitted against its rivals at Porsche – and also against the more niche F-Type convertible variant already on sale. Whereas the convertible F-Type starts at €108,250, the arguably better looking coupe comes in at €94,820.

Meanwhile, the 350bhp Porsche 911 Carrera starts at €130,319, a detail Jaguar includes on its own pricelist, eager to remind everyone of who it has in its sights.

While the focus for now is on chasing those select group of sports car buyers looking for an alternative to Porsche, this is only the taster for what is arguably the most important car to feature the Jaguar brand in over a decade: the upcoming XE.

As the firm’s new rival to the 3-Series and Audi A4, reports suggest that engineers have been burning the midnight oil on this project. We may be excited by the F-Type and its eye-catching looks, but all the talk at Jaguar is of the car that will hit Irish roads this time next year.