I have not been a fan of the Jaguar F-Type.
When I drove an F-Type R in 2015, I came away from the experience grateful but annoyed. The allegedly glorious and gorgeous machine pestered my nerves for days.
I concluded the car is pretentious. “The car the F-Type is supposed to evoke is the legendary Jaguar E-Type, regarded by many as the most beautiful car of all time,” I wrote then. “F comes after E, so the F-Type was conceived to be a modern-day version of the E-Type. It certainly has presence. But that presence is loud. The E-Type whispered. The F-Type roars.”
The F-Type, I concluded, has a personality problem, “full of sound and fury.” I thought it “bellowed like a beautifully dressed, overmuscled Englishman who just took a few grand off the house at a craps table in Vegas.”
My colleague Ben Zhang disagreed. He thought the F-Type was the most beautiful car he’d ever seen. And he did say that he thought the F-Type with a supercharged six-cylinder engine and manual transmission would change my tune (the F-Type R had a big supercharged V8 and no stick).
And so, about a year after my last F-Type drive, I got to spend a few days with V6. (The F-Type S test car tipped the cost scales at about $85,000, and it was very well optioned.)
Oh my sweet lord, was I ever wrong about the F-Type!
OK, I wasn’t wrong about the F-Type R, which is spiritually just too much of a departure from what a Jag sports car is supposed to be: suave yet slightly irreverent, a gentleman with a sense of humour and an appetite for stylish fun.
But not every F-Type deserves that scorn. Take away two cylinders and it becomes a magnificent thing.
The engine note put me in the mind of Eric Clapton’s opening riff from “Layla”: aggressive, kinda loud, but mature, and ultimately the lead-in to a love song. This is not the wild wail of the turbocharged V8 in the Ferrari California T, not the stonking stomp of the V8 in the Corvette Stingray or Z06, and not the dignified growl of the V12 in the stupendous Aston Martin DB9. It is also not the aforementioned bellow of the V8 F-Type.
There’s a bit of pleasing drone to the F-Type’s six-banger, making it sound light on its feet until it punches above its weight. It’s easily among the best sounding V6s I’ve ever heard. Syrup, smoke, and sparkle. What a range of lovely sounds, and all of them thick and creamy, yet episodically piquant, strong flavour for the sonic palate.
The car also looks sportier and, to be honest, smaller minus the F-Type R’s all-wheel-drive system and bigger motor. This is entirely subjective, but the F-Type with the V6 presents the appearance of being light on its radials.
And it does more than just present: slip into the elegant interior, all stitched leather and mellow aromas, grasp the leather-wrapped steering wheel, then allow your hand to fall naturally on the smooth-shifting 6-speed manual — a bit of gas and off you go. A bit more gas and you’re going good.
And then the fun really starts, as the engine note and the exceptionally planted driving dynamics, coupled with the fact that you’re directly controlling the transmission, merge into an exceptionally taut — but not too taut — motoring experience.
On the freeway, you just want to keep going. In the curves, you want to press the machine every so slightly until it asks for more. And then happily gives it. A V8 under the hood would be pointless. Sure, there would be more power, but as I noted when I drove the F-Type R, it’s unnecessary. Overdone. The engine of a braggart rather than a driver. The 380 horses of the V6 are just fine, because they are 380 horses that are damn satisfying to ride (and if even that’s too much, you can get a 340-horsepower version).
This isn’t exactly a bonkers high-performance car. It’s been reviewed a lot, and there have been complaints about the manual transmission — that it isn’t sharp enough, that it feels less-than-serious. Which is probably true — but it didn’t bother me at all. It felt buttery enough, and it was no trouble when we used it to make a video about how to drive an old-school manual.
So I’m now a raving fanboy for the Jag F-Type. OK, I’m still not down with the V8 version. But grabbing gears and putting the hammer down in the V6 is a sexy little slice of motoring heaven. I admit it, Jaguar: I was — mostly — wrong.
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