Roadworks. The arch-nemesis of the motorist. They go on and on for mile upon mile, they slow us down, they bunch us up, they frustrate our efforts to just go about our day. We know we need them, because without them we’d be walking to work, tip-toeing between the craters that erupt in the surface whenever we have a cold snap. But we still moan and complain and compose stiff tweets to whom it may concern about the roadworks. In the end, like reality TV stars or the flu virus, we have to put up with them.
Well, I’ve found the antidote.
It is prescribed with a 3.0-litre supercharged V6 engine, four powered wheels, launch control, an active-exhaust, and is draped in one of the most photogenic bodies this side of a Kardashian. If you haven’t already guessed from the title of this review, I’m talking about the Jaguar F-Type S Coupe.
It’s almost as if High-Command at Jaguar Land Rover had asked design director Ian Callum to dream up the perfect sports car and the team at Castle Bromwich made it real. What you see here is pretty much identical to the C-X16 concept first unveiled back in 2011. The roadster version hit the streets first, but it would have been a crime if the two-seat coupe never followed. This car can sit comfortably on Jaguar’s timeline among the other “most beautiful cars in the world” that the Coventry company has made over the years.
The details are extraordinary. The flush door handles that ease out when the car is unlocked; the air-vents that rise from – and descend into – the dashboard on demand; the copper tinted gearshift paddles and heavy-duty launch control switch. While in most cars you take the layout for granted, in here there is a tangible sense that a lot of thought has gone into everything. Okay, the door pockets aren’t much use for the stuff you normally put in door pockets, but there are plenty of other bins and buckets hidden around the cabin.
Jaguar describe this as a 1+1 rather than a two seater, as it’s so driver oriented. The passenger is barred from the cockpit by a thick grab handle which, in itself, hints at the ferocious performance waiting to be unleashed. But we’ll get to that shortly.
On the streets of Manchester the F-Type feels pretty wide, particularly on busy dual carriageways with trucks sitting uncomfortably close on either side. Sliding back the overhead fabric to reveal the enormous panoramic glass roof, also reveals the reason the lorries are getting so close – everyone wants a photo. Out on the motorway, drivers careering up the outside lane, slow down and move over to get a better look at the F-Type. Even other F-Type drivers. Kids in the back seats of family cars, laden with holiday gear, scramble over each other to catch a glimpse of the Jag, no doubt creating a memory that will last into adulthood.
Moving out to overtake these family cars isn’t strictly necessary, but when I do, the smiles on the faces inside are as big as my own. It is in these moments when I realise that the character of this car is not in the stunning design, or the precise handling, or the superb interior. It is in the sound it makes under acceleration.
If the words existed to adequately convey the fantasticality of the sound of this car, I’d be using them here. It’s uncivilised. Barbaric. Neanderthal. Officially, this automatic S breaches 60mph from a standstill in a smidge under five seconds but floor the gas pedal at any speed and Brian Blessed himself cries havoc and lets slip the dogs of war. The All-Wheel-Drive system keeps the car planted while it hunkers down and surges forward with an urgency that matches the anti-social soundtrack. It’s addictive. Settle back into a cruise and it all calms down again. It is instantly unflustered.
And so the roadworks begin. At first, I resort to type, grumbling to no-one in particular about the miles of cones and lack of workers they protect. But pretty soon the antidote kicks in. At some point ahead the speed restriction will lift and I’ll get another hit of bad medicine. Each stretch of roadworks is now welcome when you have a car that sounds this good at the end of them. This is a good time to draw your attention to a small, curious button in the centre console. This is the Active Exhaust button – for those times when you need the citizens of Bergen to know that you’re out for a drive in your F-type.
With Active Exhaust turned on, the Jaguar sounds like a Spitfire. Fitting, as the heroic fighter plane was built in the same factory as the F-Type. It’s an extraordinary way to draw out that DNA and create an unmistakably British soundtrack. And when a Porsche 911 GT3 drew up alongside, spoiling for a fight, it was tempting to see a little bit of history repeating. Discretion being the better part of valour, the Jag and I behaved. Besides, that’s what the 200mph SVR version is for.
The F-type is a car that gets into your veins. It’s so comfortable you could drive it all day, everyday. Yes, there will be times when the gratuitous start-up roar is completely inappropriate, and you need to be prepared for the moments when other drivers almost crash trying to get a closer look. But it is a highly accomplished sports car, a comfortable motorway cruiser, a work of art and an orchestral masterpiece all at the same time.
Brand new, this F-Type S Coupe would set you back almost £73,500, but they are starting to filter into the used market around the £30k mark. If you’ve got that kind of cash set aside for a nearly new sports car, seriously consider it. You’ll never complain about roadworks again.