By Kingsley Wijayasinha
The sportscar market in Thailand is getting pretty interesting with major brands offering lots of attractive products.
This year I've been driving souped-up cars from major German stables like the BMW M2 and Mercedes-AMG SLC 43 and C 43 Coupe. These were pretty much the highlight of the year for me, but then I got a call from Jaguar Land Rover.
Turns out they are offering the Jaguar F-Type 3.0 V6 S for a test drive and I quickly jumped on the opportunity, setting up pickup and return dates for the demo car.
The F-Type is available with a wide range of engines (4-cylinder, V6 and V8) and, of course, also comes in convertible body style. The V6 S I got was the rear-wheel-drive model (there is also an AWD option if you want less drama) priced at a hefty Bt8.999 million.
If you compare the F-Type with cars like the Porsche Boxster GTS and Maserati Gran Turismo, it might not feel expensive, but comparing to the M2 (approximately Bt6 million), SLC 43 (Bt5 million) and C 43 (Bt5.2 million), the Jag may feel way overpriced for the performance it delivers.
But wait, there must be something that attracts people to the Jag. Keep on reading and you'll find out.
Jaguar says that the F-Type is the successor to the legendary E-Type, and the new model made its global debut three years ago.
The F-Type has got the sporty two-seater design and looks great (a little too much detailing though), but in my opinion it doesn't get close to the E-Type in terms of the head-turning factor. The classic E-Type's super-long front end does have hidden meanings I suppose (please use your imagination). Naturally, it makes you think about those long and large V8s and V12s powering the car.
Now with the F-Type I had, the engine is down to a direct-injection V6, but is supercharged to deliver 380 horsepower and 460Nm of torque. Look at the performance figures and you'd find out that it accelerates from rest much more slowly than a 370-hp M2 (4.3 seconds vs 4.9 seconds - big difference!), although the German subcompact coupe has its top speed electronically-locked at 250km/h (you need to purchase a driver's package to unlock it) while the Jag goes all the way to 275km/h non-stop.
The F-Type's steering is to my liking, whether it's due to the shape and size, or precision and feel. The steering weight, along with damping rate, throttle response transmission shift speed and exhaust note can all be adjusted by the driver via the Dynamic Mode. In addition, G-force, lap time, throttle, steering and brake inputs can also be displayed on the 8-inch touchscreen.
But hold on. The Active Sports Exhaust is my favourite feature in the F-Type.
There's a button with a dual exhaust logo on it on the gearshift lever. Press it and you'll hear one of the most engaging sounds you never dreamed a car could make. Trust me.
The 8-speed automatic provides smooth shifting when driven under normal conditions, and as mentioned provides quicker shifts at high speeds when the Dynamic mode is activated.
The aluminium double-wishbone suspension front and rear surprisingly provides pretty good comfort in city driving, although the sporty body dimensions and low seating position make it difficult to manoeuvre in tight spaces. I hate to say it, but the parking sensors are to be gratefully thanked.
You don't buy a sports car for space, and the F-Type is a good example. There's little boot space if any at all (as all the space has been taken by the spare wheel and equipment), and just two seats. Thankfully, both occupants sink into enough space of their own and don't feel cramped. Judging from the way this car can be driven, the extra passenger handle on the centre console is a nice gimmick for the interior.
Speaking of the interior, Jaguar made sure that the F-Type maintains high standards in terms of luxury and elegance. Unlock the doors and the door handles move out from its hiding spot, and when you fire up the engine, the centre air vents also rise up from concealment on the dash.
The joystick-style gearshift lever operates with solidity, while the controls offer a luxury feel, but I wished the turning light combination stick and clicking sound could be improved to the level of a Bt9-million car.
There's a large amount of leather and aluminium in the cabin to set it apart from the cheaper rivals, and you can easily feel that the F-Type is a "proper" luxury sports car in this respect.
Something that the Jag never misses out is driving pleasure and the F-Type can definitely rock-and-roll. You have to take it to a circuit, switch on Dynamic mode and disengage the traction control to truly enjoy this car. Oh, and don't forget to press that exhaust button (a small LED will illuminate).
That's exactly what I did. With cars like this, the priority is to really drive it rather than take it to the beach, order a Margarita and take selfies. You visit the circuit, hit the apexes, spin the wheels and let that Jaguar roar her throat off.
Watch the video and you'll hear how the F-Type lights up firecrackers before each gearshift and snarl with each shiftdown. There's a short retardation from second to third gear, but then be prepared for the strong kick/shove and as it takes off into third.
The F-Type V6 S is the most tail-happy car I've driven this year (actually in a long time). It's not the torque that spins the wheel as you leave the corner, but rather the chassis that's been tuned to start oversteering in mid-corner as you balance the car. Feed more gas for a drift or just correct the steering and smoothen it out for quicker exit.
The Thailand Circuit track is a little rough on cars and takes its toll on tyres, so the fresh and shiny Pirelli P Zero tyres worn on 20-inch alloys took a heavy beating that day. Well, for starters they were shiny no more after the track session and looked as if they had survived a war - my deepest condolences to the tyres and its owners. But yes, the Jaguar F-Type is a pure joy to drive, whether at the limit, or just strolling around in daily life. It was the most enjoyable car I had driven this year, beating the M2, which now seems crude.
But in terms of pricing, it's also hard to justify the Bt9-million pricetag when there are much cheaper options available. With the Jaguar, you really have to forget reason and follow your true desires, and you'll be happy.
Jaguar F-Type 3.0 V6 S specs
Engine: 24-valve V6 supercharged with intercooler
Bore and stroke: 84.5x89.0mm
Compression ratio: 10.5
Max power: 380ps/6,500rpm
Max torque: 460Nm/3,500-5,000rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
0-100kmh: 4.9 secs
Top speed: 275km/h
Average fuel economy: 11.6km/litre
Average CO2: 203g/km
Suspension (f/r): double wishbone/double wishbone
Steering: powered rack-and-pinion
Turning circle: 10.7 metres
Brakes (f/r): vented disc/vented disc
Track (f/r): 1,585/1,597
Ground clearance: 112mm
Weight: approx. 1,594kgs
Wheels: 20-in alloy
Tires: 255/35 R20 (front), 295/30 R20 (rear)
Fuel tank capacity: 70 litres
Price: Bt8.999 million
Distributor: Jaguar Land Rover Thailand Co Lt