A Cat's Swan Song
The new F Type is almost here, but in its first life it always played second fiddle to the 911. Here's why it should have been first chair.
When Jaguar introduced the F Type in 2013, many of us were excited to think that after over 35 years, we were getting a proper successor to the legendary E Type. Certainly, the F Type draws many of its styling cues from the E Type (not that any of us are complaining about that) and keeps its ancestor's sporting nature (not something that can be said of all 1960s icons anymore *cough* FORD *cough*). However, it seems that it hasn't inherited the legendary status of the E Type and that buyers are walking right past the Jaguar dealers and right over to the Porsche showroom. But should they be?
Now the 991 and 991.2 models that the F Type has been competing with were great cars - you won't hear me saying otherwise. Their interiors were just that little bit higher quality than the F Types' and their infotainment systems were slightly better designed. Of course they were also more reliable than the Jag. But the Porsches are German - the entire design and engineering teams would still be in the cooler if that wasn't the case.
On paper, it's easy to see why one would go for the 991s over the F Type. Some would say that it's more appropriate to compare the 718 models as they better align with the pricing and number of seats in the F Type, and I agree that the four cylinder and V6 F Types are better compared to those models, but the V8 models were priced in the same range as the lower trim 991s, and frankly any Porsche buyer is going to go for the "bargain" 911 over a loaded Cayman (excepting of course the GT4). My previous points, though, largely stand the same when talking about the 718 models and again the Porsches outsold the F Type.
From my last drive in an F Type R - the drive that inspired this very article
So far, this article hasn't exactly done a stellar job of convincing anyone that the Jag deserves more love than it gets, but that's because I've been discussing things on paper. The things that you notice just sitting in one at a showroom or an auto show. That's not what the Jag is about. That's not what Jag as a brand has been about since the XKE. You don't buy a Jag because of the numbers. You buy a Jaguar because you know what it means to drive a Jag.
For those of you who have never owned or never driven a Jag, I'll try to explain. If driving an Aston is like wearing a tailored tux and a vintage Ferrari like a fine Italian suit, a Jag is like a beautiful smoking jacket. There's no pretense. No need to prove anything. It's not the most practical garment, but you know the person wearing it is someone that enjoys life how they wish - the sort of person you just want to sit down and have a scotch with. Of course, you'll probably end up with the tab for that scotch since the Jag driver almost certainly "left the wallet in the Jag." You can also make a pretty safe wager that at least one of those smoking jackets is actually just a robe from the Ritz that "accidentally" ended up in the suitcase.
Caddishness aside, the F Type is quite simply, fun to drive. Certainly the Germans are good to drive, but as many German cars do (at least in my opinion), they feel sterile. To put it simply, one drives the Porsches with a very serious face - one must be concentrating on finding the perfect racing line so you can brag about the time you have saved on your phone thanks to your sport chrono package. The Jag though, you drive with a smile at all times, whether it's a slick smirk as you wink at the pretty face in the car next to you or a stupid grin as you take in the crackles and bangs on the overrun.
Any of us who haven't been under a rock since the first reviews of the F Type were released have been aware of the incredible exhaust note across the F Type range. Sure it may be a bit childish to go around hoping your car is going to snap, crackle, and pop every time you lift off the throttle, but try telling that to anyone whose car actually does. Beyond the exhaust, though, the Jag is much more rewarding to drive. Going fast in any modern Porsche is, frankly, easy. They are so well engineered and loaded with so much technology that as long as you're not an absolute bellend, you'll be able to get the Porsche moving. Conversely, the Jag is a little more traditional. As such, if you want to go fast in the F Type, you have to work for it. The Jag isn't the culmination of half a century of lazy designers and stubborn engineers working to prove the concept works. In fact, one could argue it's the first true sports car from Jag since the E Type was retired fourty years ago. Yes, there were two generations of XKR, the second of which included the bonkers XKR-S GT, but at the end of the day the XK was designed to be more grand tourer than sports car, and adding superchargers and body kits and spoilers can't change that - even if the result is wonderfully mad.
This may seem like a detriment, but in my view it's the reason the F Type is so much fun to drive. Jaguar does know how to build a sports car - they were legendary at it for the first half of their existence. But starting fresh means new ways of thinking about how to build the car. Porsche, conversely, has been building the rear engined 911 for almost 60 years and for many of those years they've had a more affordable mid-engined model to accompany it. The net result is that Porsche has essentially perfected the design. But in doing so, year by year, their cars have lost their soul. With the exception of the current 911 T (which was really conceived with the old school driver's car mindset), I find that each generation I drive to have less character than its predecessor.
In the article summary, I said that I would explain why the F Type should fill the first chair. Simply put, it boils down to this: when it comes time for the solo, or in our case the perfect mountain road, who do you want to play it? The one who plays it precisely and perfectly as it was written, or the one who makes it sound like music?