11 Apr 2013

Has the Jaguar F-Type got a market to itself?

James Parker wonders where the Jaguar F-Type fits in to the sports car market

F-Type vs 911 threads across motoring forums have been raging for weeks now.  Pistonheads now boasts numerous threads on the subject with basically every point of view being thrown out there. If it is not in defence of the F Type, it is lambasting it as a dynamically inferior machine to the 911 with 2 less seats that simply cannot compete with the might of Stuttgart.

To be honest, until those first production ready models are ready to be test driven by the mass media, judgements on how it will drive and how it will feel is all speculation.  It will only be then will we get to find out if the £58,500 V6 base model is worth the (some would say) extortionate price tag. But one thing I would say - many have tried to take on the might of Porsche in the sports car sector and all have failed to some extent.

With a range that spans the Boxster, Cayman and 911, Porsche appear to have the sports car market sewn up from the £40,000 sector all the way up to the range topping £90,000 market where the 911 Carrera S prowls. We all know how poorly the Lotus Evora has fared in trying to pry sales away from the Cayman. Whilst dynamically it may be a match for the Porsche, (and with the supercharged V6 quite a runner) for £50,000, there is simply no comparison. King of refinement it certainly isn’t, and with seats in the back which a 3 year old would struggle to get in to the Cayman has simply swamped the plucky Brit.

So what about the F Type then, at £58,500 it is not going to be cheap by any stretch of the imagination and, when you consider the Boxster starts at £37,589, it leaves a sizeable gap in which the new Jag needs to prove itself as a worthy competitor. The new generation Boxster has only pushed the goalposts forward. With the new PDK box, the base spec Boxster can accelerate to 60 in 5.5 seconds (in sport+) and go on to a respectable 162 mph. This is all for £38k, and when you consider the F Type V6 base spec model only eclipses the 0-60 time by 0.4 of a second and actually has a lower top speed at 161 mph, it does pose the question – what are you spending the extra 21-odd grand on? Especially when you consider the Porsche also returns the greater MPG figures too, thanks to the new Direct Injection Flat-6 unit.

On the road, dynamically there isn’t much better than the Boxster and the Cayman. The more neutral, mid engined layout offers a more engaging driving experience than their big brother – the 911 and, for the price you pay, there is not really a better all round package.

In reality, whilst the range topping 495hp V8 S model is an appealing prospect, at £79,950 the majority of Jaguar’s sales are going to come from the lower spec V6 models due to real world constraints and practicality issues. This is precisely the niggle I have with the new F Type and therefore causing me concern for the new cat. The V6 models cannot be compared at all with a 911.  They are less efficient, less practical, slower and obviously in a different pricing bracket (where the V8 S model comes in).

But then on the flipside of the coin, will the entry level V6 models be substantially a lot better than the brothers from Stuttgart? It is going to take something incredibly special to challenge their mantle, and with a 21k price hike when comparing the base Boxster and F Type, you would have to think Jaguar are facing an impossible task.

One thing the F Type does have on its side however is achingly gorgeous good looks, and a sense of purpose when sat there looking at you. It is shorter than a 911 and wider than a Boxster which gives it a certain presence on the road. The front is chiselled, almost menacing, and with a delicate rear end its proportions are typical of a front engined rear wheel drive sports car. Of course looks are always subjective, but I fully expect that the F Type will look a lot better in the flesh when it is released to test (It does.  I've seen dozens and sat in several - Matt), when that presence can be felt when standing next to it.

Whilst the 911, Cayman and Boxster follow function over form, the rather restrained looks are more than made up for with a stunning dynamic ability on the road (after all you purchase a Porsche to drive it, not to look at it) the F type definitely steals the show in that respect.

But is it enough to get over the current problem it faces?

Perhaps another way to look at the F Type is to step away from the obvious Porsche rivalry and potentially see it in its own niche. The Aston Martin Vantage roadster is getting on a bit now, and when you look at the comparable performance, could it be potentially touted as a bargain Vantage Roadster in that regard? When you start going down that road, however, you start to question the existing motive behind the F Type – Jaguar fully believe it is a Porsche rival, and therefore the inevitable comparisons start to unravel.

Just what Jaguar had in mind I do not know as in every possible way (other than aesthetically) Stuttgart appears to be have this one sewn up already. Is it a case of missed opportunities when it comes to the F Type? 

What are you views?