It’s thirty-nine years since Jaguar built its last proper two-seater sports car. You might have heard of it. It was called the E-Type and along with the Mini it became an icon that defined the 60s. But by 1974 the E-Type – a car considered by many to be the most beautiful ever made – was gone.
Meanwhile, in 1961, a small sports car maker in Stuttgart was gearing up to launch its newest model, the 911. Since then, Porsche has built seven generations of 911 – considered by many to be the worlds finest production sports car.
So, perhaps it’s no surprise that Jaguar’s marketing people mention the 911 at every opportunity during the F-Type launch in Pamplona, Spain. It’s certainly an indication of how confident Jaguar is in its new roadster. Jaguar wants to put its sporting heritage back at the heart of the brand. No British sports car has been quite as eagerly anticipated as this one, and Jaguar says it’s expecting 90 per cent of F-Type buyers to be new to the brand. I drove all three versions – a 335bhp 3.0-litre V6 priced at £58,520, a 375bhp 3.0-litre V6S priced at £67,520 and the range topping 488bhp 5.0-litre V8S priced at £79,985 – through the spectacular Navarre mountain roads in northwest Spain.
Thankfully, Jaguar has not attempted a silly retro design. The pursuit of beauty is such that form has taken precedence over function (there is virtually no practical boot space, for example). The car stands on its own; an elegant but muscular blend of unbroken lines and gracefully lifting haunches. The rear, with its thin, elegant tail-lights, is magnificent.
The interior is just as smart; luxurious, clever and quirky. The cockpit is totally orientated to the driver, though the passenger gets a central grab handle (which he will almost certainly need). The fighter jet-inspired orange paddle shifters, combined with the dynamic switch and gear shifter, enhance the feeling of being at one with the car. The central dashboard vents rise and lower balletically; a necessary complication to ensure an unbroken panoramic view from the front seats, according to Jaguar’s design chief Ian Callum.
At first sight the V6S appears to be the pick of the bunch thanks to its combination of performance and price. But it was the V8S that absolutely blew me away. It is a staggeringly fast and talented car, capable of delivering the one attribute that the original E-Type was designed for: fun.
This isn’t to say its siblings are slouches. The V6 is capable of reaching 62mph in 5.3 seconds and goes on to 161mph. Unsurprisingly the V6S is quicker with figures of 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 171mph. But the V8S, capable of travelling from 0-62mph in just 4.3 seconds and on to 186mph, is the best of the bunch. It’s blisteringly fast and hellishly loud. It is powerful and agile; a fine sports car capable of making your hair stand on end.
Make no mistake, the new F-Type V8S is utterly engrossing. This car will give you unforgettable driving days. Jaguar is back.
0-62MPH: 4.3 secs
TOP SPEED: 186mph
CO2 G/KM: 259g/km
MPG COMBINED: 25.5mpg
DESIGN Five Stars
PERFORMANCE Five Stars
PRACTICALITY One Star
VALUE FOR MONEY Three Stars