The Great British Public has spoken: the Jaguar E-Type has officially been voted the greatest homegrown car ever made, ahead of the Mini, McLaren F1 and Aston Martin DB5.
A previous poll also named it the most beautiful car of all time – even Enzo Ferrari agreed. Yet, without wishing to crush a million middle-aged dreams, the E-Type is actually pretty disappointing to drive. Admittedly, the late-model V12 Coupe I tried isn’t the best of the breed.
But it felt lethargic and woolly in its responses, with a chassis that wobbled like a fidget spinner. I’ve driven contemporary Ferraris and Porsche 911s that are more rewarding from behind the wheel.
I felt the same way about the F-Type, too. The car that, four decades on, has the unenviable task of following Jaguar’s icon, trades delicate details for modern muscularity – yet still looks utterly fantastic. It may be the most stylish car on sale today, but it doesn’t quite deliver the driving experience to match. It feels soft for a sports car, with steering that seems unsure what its wayward rear tyres are doing.
Enter the F-Type SVR, the third car to emerge from Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations skunkworks – following the limited-edition F-Type Project 7 and Range Rover Sport SVR. Based on the existing V8 R and available as a coupe or roadster, it boasts more power (up 25hp to 575hp), a sharper chassis and four-wheel drive. It’s also the first Jaguar since the XJ220 to reach 200mph.
You can spot the SVR by its more aggressive bumpers, lightweight 20-inch alloy wheels and, most obviously, its active carbon fibre rear wing. Perhaps it’s gilding the lily, but there’s no denying this top cat has presence. Then the sound of heavy metal thunder erupting from those four titanium and inconel tailpipesdemand attention.
Frankly, the F-Type’s interior isn’t befitting of a car at this price – sumptuous quilted leather and tasteful carbon fibre notwithstanding.
That noise, with its upshift cracks and over-run pops, is a big part of the car’s appeal. Nothing this side of a Lamborghini Huracan rivals it for aural drama, not even the baritone blast of the AMG GT S. Soundtrack aside, however, the SVR is a more subtle proposition than you might expect. This is no stripped-out 911 GT3 challenger; it’s harder and faster, but still has a whiff of luxury GT – a car that could cross continents as readily as tear up a B-road.
This is an F-Type R that gives 10 per cent more. Its handling is honed, but without sacrificing ride comfort. Its retuned steering feels more incisive. And its four-wheel-drive system (more rear-biased here than in the regular F-Type AWD) allows you to exploit the seismic grunt of that 5.0-litre supercharged V8 with confidence.
Unsurprisingly, the SVR is the most expensive F-Type yet, the first to venture into six figures, at £110,880 for the coupe and £116,365 for the drop-top. Nonetheless, it still undercuts rivals from Audi, Mercedes-AMG and Porsche, while ‘big-league’ supercars from Ferrari, Lamborghini and McLaren – which offer more kudos but only slightly more speed – are at least £40,000 more.
Not convinced? Neither am I. Frankly, the F-Type’s interior isn’t befitting of a car at this price – sumptuous quilted leather and tasteful carbon fibre notwithstanding. And for all its undoubted ability, it lacks the dynamic sparkle of the very best sports cars. It only truly feels fun when you’re going fast, and that’s rarely an option in the south-east of England.
Even so, this remains a beautiful and very enjoyable car. It’s not only the best Jaguar F-Type yet, it’s even better than the over-rated E-Type – another reason to distrust the polls.
Tim Pitt works for motoringresearch.com