TEST DRIVE: Jaguar F-Type Convertible

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Steve Sharpe drives Jaguar’s roaring roadster

It’s fair to say that the F-Type Jaguar caused a bit of a stir when it arrived.

Such is the love and adoration that we Brits hold for the legendary E-Type Jag that it could be viewed as a bit of a risk giving the car a name so close to what is truly a design icon.

But any doubts must have evaporated as soon as the designers dropped the blueprints on the table.

The all-new two-seater sports convertible took a bow at the end of 2012 and within the time it takes to get to 60mph it was deluged with motoring awards.

Critics and the public alike were bowled over by its performance and its looks. And you only have to look at it to see why it’s captured the imagination of car-lovers everywhere.

The coupe version of the F- Type, which came later, shares its beauty. It really is a design triumph, a thing of great beauty.

Sleek and sinuous as a classic sports roadster of the past, it’s also brought up to date with a hint of a supercar.

It’s broad and flat, and extremely low-slung – you really have to swing yourself in and pull yourself out – with a big, bold grille and gill-like air intakes on the wings and the bonnet.

At the rear the boot curves down to meet the upsweep of the lower body.

The bulk of the car appears to be at the front, while the shoulder line curves up and down over the rear wheels to create a beautiful line running down the length of the car.

The canvas roof – the designers went against the current trend of a folding metal roof – is actually quite small, and folds swiftly back into itself to be hidden in the boot.

Such is the design and the lightness of the canvas roof that you can actually raise and lower the roof while on the move in just 12 seconds, at speeds up to 30mph.

Unlike some convertibles, the F-Type keeps its looks with its roof in place, but with it folded away it looks even better.

Its natural curves carry from the front end up over the sharply raked windscreen then suddenly drop away at the top of the windscreen.

It really is a gorgeous car, one that seems to have an appeal to all types of people.

I might have driven cars with more road presence, more head-turning appeal, but none spring to mind.

Driving this F-Type on the road is like driving a car with “Look at Me, aren’t I lovely?” plastered down the side.

They’re not a common sight up here in the North East and people just openly admire it when it passes by – drivers in the next lane slow down to take a gander, and people pause to look at it when it’s parked.

I’ve never known a car to have such an effect, to raise such a reaction, as the F-Type.

And we haven’t even mentioned how it drives.

Looking at the spec sheet of the F-Type is a journey into excess.

The V8 Convertible is powered by a five-litre supercharged petrol engine and runs on 20-inch alloys (if you have a ruler handy pick it up and see how wide 20 inches is).It produces 489bhp and will reach 60mph from a standing start in 4.2 seconds – that’s less than the time it takes to read this sentence.

Top speed is 188mph – 50 mph to 75mph takes 2.5 seconds.

The F-Type is a true two-seater – no miniature munchkin-fitting seats in the back on this Jag.

Although it’s a large car the inside is compact although there’s enough legroom and headroom – your knee, though, is close to the central column and your left hand isn’t far from it on the steering wheel.

The boot is extremely small and awkwardly shaped, and you’ll struggle to get a big overnight bag in there let alone a suitcase

The dashboard follows a curve down between the seats, with the large vents on top of the dash rising electronically when needed.

Traditional-looking heating dials have a modern twist by featuring a digital readout of the temperature on each one, while the satnav / media screen sits above them.

It’s large and crystal clear, but it’s convoluted to use, with plenty of boxes to click on to get the next menu.

Unusually, the CD player is towards the back of the cabin between the two seats.

As you would hope the craftsmanship is top notch throughout the seating area, and there’s an air of luxury throughout.

Starting up Jaguar models over the last few years has the driver greeted by some kind of performance, where the air vents may slide open, the knob that selects the gear rises silently out of the dashboard and a digital display on the dash illuminates like the opening credits of a sci fi film.

On this roadster the door handles do spring out of hiding in the front doors but the F-Type relies mainly on sound for a performance.

The V8 S version I drove roars into life with the most glorious howl. It sounds like you’ve floored the accelerator while in neutral, even when you’re just sitting there in awe.

With this much power in your hands, you have to be careful how you drive. The F- Type will pull slowly away but if you hit the pedal you rocket forward in a surge of power.

At any speed the eight-speed automatic transmission will almost instantly change up, propelling you forward at an alarming rate.

The surge of power is breathtaking and it does take require some restraint.

But the F-Type has handling to match its performance. The steering is beautifully weighted and precise, and the roadster sticks to the road on even the tightest corners.

But despite its supercar performance the F-Type provides a comfortable ride when its needed.

It is revvy in lower gears but the huge wheels soak up road imperfections, and the designers have a fine job is keeping outside noise to a minimum with the roof up, and the deflector behind the seats does a good job of keeping the wind out when the roof’s down.

Jaguar have really hit the jackpot with this two-seater – the F-Type is a beautiful car to look at and a joy to drive.

There are three version available – a three-litre V6, 3-litre V6 S version and the 5-litre V8, with the range starting at around £58,000.

That’s a huge amount of money, but when you consider high-performance rivals from Germany and beyond, it compares very well indeed – even the range-topping V8 I drove, at an eye-watering £80,000, gives you supercar performance and a prestigious name for less than many competitors.

The F-Type isn’t the kind of car you can jump into and, while your pootling along, plan your working day ahead or what you are going to have for dinner.

It’s impossible to drive the stunning, head-turning Jaguar without being totally absorbed by it – and there’s not many cars you can say that about.

Fact file

Jaguar F Type 

Engine: 5 litre petrol

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.

0-62: 4.2 seconds.

Top Speed: 188mph.

Economy: Avg 25.5mpg

Price: £79.995.