'Jaguar's first true sports car for over 50 years.' That's how Jaguar's global brand director Adrian Hallmark described the F-Type in 2012, a year after its Frankfurt Show preview as the C-X16 concept.
Hallmark also said that the F-Type was as essential to Jaguar as the 911 was to Porsche, though, there was another perhaps less welcome similarity to the 911, namely long gestation periods. The first public F-Type concept, a Geoff Lawson design, had made its debut at the 2000 Detroit Show, but in-house sports car concepts had been floating around Browns Lane since the early 1980s.
Given that long gestation, some wondered - not unreasonably - why the F-Type ended up being built on a shortened version of the 1997 XK8's platform rather than on its own all-new platform. For the answer to that, look up 'Ford's takeover of Jaguar in 1989'. A radical modernisation programme of Jaguar's production facilities was deemed far more important than the fate of one model.
Here and now though, let's just celebrate the fact that the F-Type did eventually come out, first in roadster form in the middle of 2013 and then as a coupe in 2014. Has it been a success? Well, despite slightly lukewarm early press commentaries about the car's cost, weight and luggage space, the F-Type has won lots of awards and secured the lowest average customer age of any car in the Jaguar range. Between 2013 and 2015 more Fs were sold in the US than Porsche Boxsters or Caymans.
And why not? The F is a really good driver's car, and used examples are now available for under £23,000. That's around a third of what they cost new in 2013. Perhaps more interestingly they are now £9,000 under what they were just two years ago. £23k doesn't seem like a lot for a modern, supercharged 375hp sports car with a four-second 0-62mph time - and considerably more powerful V8-powered Fs can be had for just a little more dosh. Without anybody really noticing, the F-Type appears to have turned into a classic Jaguar: grace, space and pace, plus value. William Lyons would have loved it.
Interested? Then come with us now as we stroll through the sunlit uplands (and the occasional murky bog) of F-Type ownership.
Before getting into the detail, let's start with a quick runthrough of the models you can choose from. At the start in 2013, your aluminium-chassised, Ian Callum-designed F-Type Roadster came with a choice of two supercharged 3.0 24-valve V6 engines or one supercharged 5.0 32-valve V8. The basic V6 produced 335hp at 6,500rpm and 332lb ft of torque between 3,500 and 5,000rpm, while the V6 S had 375hp and 339lb ft at the same rpms, along with a mechanical limited-slip diff and adaptive suspension. The 5.0 V8 S, which had an electronic diff, put out something approaching 490hp at 6,500rpm and 461lb ft of torque from 2,500-5,500rpm. Both S cars had an active exhaust system with a switch on the centre console to tone down or beef up the noise. Crackletastic.
The 1,600kg entry-level V6 F did the 0-60mph run in 5.1sec and went on to 162mph, with an official combined fuel consumption figure of 31.4mpg. The equivalent figures for the 1,614kg V6 S were 4.8sec, 171mph and 31mpg, while for the V8 S they were 4.2sec, 186mph and 25.4mpg. The V8 also had a claimed 0-100mph time of under nine seconds, which is tramping on a bit. Even in fourth gear you had to watch its throttle in the middle of a corner, but the manner in which the initial understeer gave way to smoky oversteer was very benign.
The Coupe arrived in 2014 with the same two 335hp and 375hp S V6 options, but the blown 5.0 V8 was now generating getting on for 540hp and 502lb ft between 2,500 and 5,500rpm in the new 1,650kg R. It covered the 0-60 in 4.0sec, but the 186mph top speed was unchanged. All these early Fs (from 2013 to 2015-16) were rear-wheel drive only, and all had a paddle-shifted eight-speed ZF auto.
Again in 2014, two hundred and fifty 5.0 V8 Project 7 derivatives were hand-built by Jaguar's Special Vehicle Operations division to celebrate Jaguar's seven wins at Le Mans. Not one for shrinking violets or those without a garage, the open-topped 570hp Project 7 had a D-type style body and in-your-face roundels, although these could be deleted.
In 2016 and 2017 another eight versions were added to the F range. All-Wheel Drive and Intelligent Driveline Dynamics were introduced. AWD became an option on V6 S cars, and a six-speed manual gearbox became an option on both V6s, but that was a rarely ticked box. The 490hp Convertible was replaced by the 545hp R Convertible, a British Design Edition was launched, and the 568hp, 516lb ft SVR (Special Vehicle Racing) arrived in coupe and convertible format. It had a 200mph top end, a 3.5sec 0-60 time, an active rear wing, an utterly rortmungous exhaust noise and a £110,000 price tag. With a softer front end, a stiffer rear and 50kg less weight than the regular R, the AWD SVR rode well for a car with its level of performance, but some testers thought that the eight-speed ZF box felt slightly left behind by the rest of the mechanical package.
Other new arrivals included the V8 R AWD and, in July 2017 for one year only, the £70,000 V6 400 Sport. Some experts had been taking the view that the V8 was a little too much for British roads, and that the V6 would often be quicker over a given route. The 400 Sport was an attempt to combine the V6's agility with something a little nearer to the power of the V8, and that would also be cheaper than the V8. It came with two- or four-wheel drive and the eight-speed auto only. There was no increase in the 339lb ft torque figure, just a power boost to 395hp. That small increase made very little difference in practice - the 0-60 time and the fuel consumption were unchanged - but the 400 did sound slightly better at higher rpm and had five-spoke 20-inch alloys and other bits and bobs as standard. It also previewed upcoming changes to the F range with its racy black leather seats with yellow stitching, which were thinner to enhance the sense of space between the passengers and dash.
Also at this time a 296hp/295lb ft turbo 2.0 Ingenium four was added to the range, again in both open and closed formats. At £49,900, the 2.0 i4 was the first F-Type below £50,000, addressing one of the complaints levelled at the car on launch, ie that it was too expensive. As ever, you won some and you lost some. In this case you lost the character of the multi-cylindered cars, but you didn't lose too much of the performance with a 0-60 of 5.4sec. It went on to 155mph, with good thrust from as little as 1,500rpm. The fuel consumption was impressive, too, at a whisker short of 40mpg. The slightly softer springing gave a nicely composed ride and the power steering was okay as long as you weren't braking in a straight line, when it was given to an odd tugging through the rim.
- Bodywork & Interior
Although the aluminium F had plenty that was modern about it, including lots of dash screen-activated adjustments for the suspension, gearbox, engine and steering responses, its older-school XK8 ancestry helped to give it a nicely analogue feel on the road. It was also subject to some old-school-sounding problems.
Stone chips on the nose haven't been expunged from anyone's motoring life yet, and that's certainly true with the F. While you're bent over the bonnet tutting at your chips, have a look at the bonnet panel gaps to try and discern any misalignment, which was a thing with some cars. Some 400 Sport owners reported poor door fitting too, while paint flaking has been reported in the crease between the back of the door and the rear wheel arch.
Back on stones for a minute, early Fs could get these stuck between the side windows and the seals, causing scratches on the glass. Modded seals were fitted on a free of charge basis by Jaguar.
The power hood on the roadster was sturdily constructed, with a Thinsulate layer to help to reduce the cabin noise to almost Coupe-like levels. These hoods were designed to be raise- or lower-able at up to 30mph, but they can get stuck in a nearly-closed-but-not-quite position, and some of the mechanism can sit proud when the top is down. Sometimes they won't open unless the engine is started.
It is a fact that F-Type boot is very small, or the space in it is at any rate, the spare wheel sitting right in the middle taking up about 90 per cent of the room, which is a hell of a compromise for anyone planning on going touring. You can get boot racks, but they're not cheap at around £250 and to be honest they look pants.
Inside, a lovely bronzed start button, electric memory seats and various hues of ambient mood lighting created a genuinely luxurious feel. Seven years down the road it's reasonable to assume that the seat bolsters are going to be looking slightly worse for wear. The V8's seats have inflatable bolsters whose operation you might want to check. A recall was issued in 2016 for non-deploying seatbelt pretensioners, so make sure that work has been done too.
The electrically rising dash air vents and rear spoiler were flash touches that appealed to many, though curmudgeonly types might see them as more things to go wrong in a used car. In the case of the air vents they would be right to be suspicious, as these do not have a blameless reliability record. Sometimes they will get stuck halfway up, or not go up at all, or only half retract. The popout door handles can also fall into this 'why did they bother with that idea' category by failing to retract as they're supposed to.
The fuel filler locking cap sometimes doesn't lock. Brake lights can remain lit, requiring a new brake light switch. Instrumentation can go on the flicker. Condensation can form inside the headlamps, and the dash can creak a bit.
- Engine & Transmission
Tappets can become over-tappety and superchargers can develop a wheeziness, but generally speaking the V6 is a strong engine with few major problems. V8s might suffer from noisy timing chain tensioners, which would be a pain as they are situated at the bottom of the engine. Jaguar was quoting 13 hours for the work - including parts, the repair bill could come to over £4,000.
The V8s will also throw up a 'restricted performance' error message if the high-pressure fuel pump is failing. More worryingly, 330 Ingenium four-powered F-Types, XEs, XFs and F-Paces had poorly manufactured fuel rails which presented a risk of fire. So did a loose alternator cable on 2014-model Fs. All recalls to check. You need to keep an eye out for the condition of the battery too. If it's on the the way out systems will start to drop out. The stop-start system can stop working.
Although a six-speed manual became available on 2016 model year V6s, it was a rarely ticked box. The 'Quickshift' ZF eight-speed automatic wasn't a double-clutcher, but it still offered a lovely choice of fast GT cruisability in full auto mode or snappy changing in manual. It was another of those supposedly sealed-for-life boxes that in the real world should have their fluid changed at least every 70,000 miles. ATF can leak from the rear diff's main seal. A gearbox software error could occur on start up, preventing the engagement of any drive, forward or reverse, but all cars should have been sorted by now.
The valves in the active exhaust system can stick open, which would mean a new back box. Jaguar generally sorted these out under warranty, though.
- Suspension & Steering
Every F had a very stiff bolted/glued-up aluminium chassis with adjustable suspension and double wishbones all round. Journalists found the ride to be perfectly set up for smooth tracks, but some ordinary folk driving on ordinary roads at ordinary speeds were given cause to wonder about the future of their fillings. Clarkson likened the low-speed ride to roller-skating over corrugated iron, which might have been overstating it given that Harris rather liked the springing and damping. Clarkson did concede that increasing your speed improved matters.
Jaguar's cure for thumping from the rear suspension was to send out isolator sleeves for fitting to each coil spring. As with any old car, and particularly one that is designed to be hammered along bumpy roads, the bushes will eventually degrade. On an F the ones at the back are known to crumble, the dust covers for the tie-bars likewise, but that's hardly F-unique. You could say the same about rear subframes, which for just about every car appear to be made out of ridiculously rust-prone metal. That seems to be true for some F-Types. Pre-March 2015 AWD Fs were recalled to make sure they had the right spec anti-roll bars.
You got loads of steering lock, which helped with on-the-limit adjustability. The wheel itself was a bit big and thick-rimmed, and the feel through it wasn't Boxster-precise, but in everyday use it didn't stop the Jaguar's character coming through. On S and R models, selecting Dynamic Mode in the Adaptive Dynamics system (which controlled vertical body movement, roll and pitch) provided adjustment to the damping as well as to the steering weight and throttle response. You'll want to be sure that this all works. Uneven tyre wear is not good. Nor are poor quality tyres.
2014/15 V6s had a management system problem which prevented the rear spoiler from raising as it should. The absence of 120kg of downforce caused significant instability at speeds over 135mph, especially when the speed limiter that was supposed to kick in didn't. This was the subject of another recall. There was also an issue with fixings for engine-mounted belt driven ancillaries on 2014 Fs which could lead to lost power steering assistance.
- Wheels, Tyres & Brakes
The first V6 - regular and S - had 8.5J front and 9.5J rear 19-inch wheels with 245/40 and 275/25 tyres. The V8 S had 9J front and 10.5J rear 20-inch wheels with 255/35 and 295/30 tyres, which on the SVR went up to 265/35 and 305/30.
There's no point denying that F-Types did have quite a few teething issues, but few if any of those historic problems are likely to be present on used cars.
You've got a bigger choice in coupes than roadsters as they outsold them by around two to one. That ratio isn't necessarily reflected in the makeup of Fs actually on sale. It will vary according to the weather, but right now in early March it's around 60/40 coupe/roadster.
As mentioned at the start, you can pick up a 2013 base roadster for £23,000, a 2013 V6 S for around £25,000 and a V8 for under £30,000. These are sobering numbers for the early adopters who would have paid sixty thousand for the basic F, £68k for the V6 S, and eighty grand for the V8. Brilliant news for those of us interested in relieving them of their depreciation-eroded Fs now, though.
Looking at those early V6s, the difference in price between a used S and a similar condition non-S is around £2,000, which when you add in the S's extra 40hp to the other S features is probably worth paying if you can swing it. On the PH Classifieds right now there's a grey/black 42,000-mile 3.0 roadster at £23,680 and a 57,000-mile 3.0 S roadster in black at £25,950. The most affordable V8 on PH (and indeed anywhere) at the time of writing was a 63,000 mile roadster in white at £29,950.
Ingenium 2.0 turbos are obviously relatively expensive as they haven't been around as long as the Vs. Expect to pay at least £32,000 for a 2017 model with under 30,000 miles.
Although sales of the 250-car Project 7 began in 2015, they weren't all snapped up right away. Cars were still being registered well into 2016. Many of the Project 7s that are for sale now are storage queens that have hardly ever seen the road. Mileages may be very low but there's nothing low about the prices being asked. The cheapest (and highest mileage) one we've seen was a 5,700-miler at just under £122,000. Most of the sub-1,000 mile cars are comfortably up around the £140k mark. Not sure how many of them are selling, mind. Although the spec is pukka, with lots of carbon fibre and leather, it's debatable whether such prices are justified by the combination of a highish build number and a vagueish Le Mans connection.
If you're alarmed by the fact that an F-Type you're interested in buying doesn't seem to have any physical service records, don't be: Jaguar moved over to computerised info storage in the same year as the F came out. Once you own the car you can order up a company printout.
If you like the idea of a pocket-sized British muscle car at a bargain price, the F-Type has to figure in your reckoning. It handles well, goes like various levels of stink, shouldn't have too many issues going forward - and sounds amazing.