Staring over the bonnet of a voluptuous Jaguar F-type, it occurred to me I’d been waiting to drive this car for as long as I could remember. The svelte E-type passed away in 1974, and we’ve been teased, and then disappointed, with news of a replacement ever since I became a motoring journalist.
Over the years, the proud British firm has been passed around different owners, but since 2012, Jaguar Landrover Group has been a subsidiary of the Indian giant Tata Motors. At last, thanks to some TLC and a lot of cash, the F-type has arrived.
It was designed in the UK and will be made here, in Coventry.
Where the 1960s’ E-type was slender and elegant, the new car is toned, muscular and very fast. It’s apt that one of the first owners will be Jessica Ennis.
You need the Lucy Clayton technique for getting in and out of this long-slung cockpit (swivel on your bum and swing your legs in or out, knees clamped together.) And it is definitely a cockpit, product manager Jonathan Walls tells me the designers had a hoot creating the gearlever modeled on the joystick of a Eurofighter EF-2000 Typhoon, and designing vents that rise up from the smooth sloping dash when you turn the engine on, Top-Gun style.
It’s so tight in here, they had to move the usual buttons for adjusting the seat back, forward, up and down, from the side of the seat itself to the door.
A chunky strut slashes between the passenger and the control panel, partly as a grab handle, partly to give the driver even more of a sense that this is their space. (So you partner can’t start fiddling with the radio and heating controls while you. Hooray!)
The view ahead is over a beautifully curving bonnet with a power bulge down the centre. In the side mirror, you can admire the shapely hip, kicking up behind you.
The first thing I wanted to find was the button that lifts and stows the roof in 12 seconds flat. I was delighted to find there really was a loud button. Once you’re out on the road, a touch of this chunky circular button allows the exhaust to bellow, ridiculously loud.
I chose to drive the V6 because it’s more affordable and economical than the V8 (although I do love the wubble-wubble noise that V8 engine makes). And, with a 3-litre engine boosted by a supercharger, it had plenty of power for me. Out on the serpentine roads around Jaguar’s home turf, it was like hurtling around on a theme park ride.
I realised too late I should have worn a headscarf like the women in 1960s’ car ads. My hair was a bird’s nest, despite the windblocker.
The precise steering and thrilling acceleration are a joy, and the brakes have the authority of a Victorian father over children having too much fun, and bring the speed down in plenty of time for the junction or bend.
The eight-speed automatic swaps gears in less than a blink of an eye, or if you want to feel even more connected to the car, you can change gear by lightly pulling on the paddles behind the steering wheel rim.
Back in town, the Jaguar transforms into a pussycat, and cruises comfortably at every day speeds.
It was all over too fast, and I had to give the keys back. I took a little time to linger and look over the exquisite details of the car, while the next lucky driver got settled. I love the ‘jewellery’ such as the raised chrome leaping Jaguar on the boot, and the optional bronze colour of the gearlever paddles. The deep set lens-like headlamps were inspired by a Star Wars TIE fighter.
Jonathan says the company has already found that a lot of Range Rover owners want to add an E-type to the stable as the fun car. Clearly it hopes to steal customers away from the likes of Porsche and Mercedes in the global market, and with these drop-dead gorgeous looks, it’s likely to be chosen by a lot of female drivers all over the world. Expect to see it in lots of glamorous locations very soon.
Lana Del Rey wrote Burning Desire as the soundtrack to the F-type’s introductory video fim Desire with Damian Lewis
Jaguar F-type V6
Engine 2,995cc V6 supercharged petrol
Power 340bhp at 6,500rpm
Max speed 161 mph
0-60mph 5.1 seconds
Economy 31.4mpg (combined)
As tested £70,260
Options included: Performance seats with premium leather £1,450, Switchable Active Sports Exhaust (loud button) £1,630, wind deflector £250, 19-inch propeller alloys wheels
F-type V6 S £67,520
F-type V8 S £79,690
Liz Turner was on staff at What Car? magazine for five years and has driven everything from a Smart car to the Rolls-Royce Phantom. www.liz-turner.com