This was a couple of years back. I had a Jaguar F-Type for a week. It wasn’t the drunkard 500-and-few horsepower one. This was the substantially more docile and considerably less-drunk model — the one which is unimpressively called P300.
The F-Type is offered with three power outputs to choose from: 300bhp (from a 2-litre, in-line-4), 450bhp and 575bhp (both from 5-litre V8s).
Jaguar is great in many things but its car-naming division isn’t among them. The different trims of the F-Type are labelled as P300, P450 and P575. Some imagination, eh!
Based on my experience, they should’ve been: ‘It’s fine’, ’This is nuts’, and ‘I shat myself.’
The original F-Type R was wonderful. It was delightfully rapid, acceptably well-made and the 5-litre V8 sounded like an angry pre-historic dragon trying to sing Mozart. But there was a crucial issue with the R — it tried to kill me.
Motorland Aragon is a very tricky and technical circuit and it was my first time there. I’d done a bit of racing in my salad-years, so I was focused on dialling in a good, fast, fluid lap — one befitting a race car driver. I couldn’t.
I think my tearing mid-lap instruction (er, plea?) of keeping it together was interpreted by the F-Type R as going sideways everywhere at the merest of throttle inputs.
Turn one — 90-degree left-hander. Brake hard before entering it, settle the car down on its coils and drive hard on the compression through the flowing right hand curve so that there’s no unwanted drama. But one slightly excited prod and turn 2 became an unexpectedly sideways corner.
It was the same at turns 5, 9, 13, 15 and 18. This was the first lap. I had 4 more to go. And we had a drizzle. I considered a fresh pair of underpants by the end of the session.
I’d driven the S version, too — the one with the V6 — and that was nowhere as hairy. That’s got a lot to do with not just the outright power itself, but also the delivery of it. The smooth(er) power delivery really helped and all the slides were intentional.
The V6 felt like a beagle egging you into a friendly run. The V8 felt like an angry mastiff chasing you into a pit of muck.
But here’s the thing — I remember the R. I recount the moments spent behind its wheel and tell stories about it. Several things can make a car worth remembering. With the F-Type R its that engine — the rowdy, lustful V8.
The experience with the R came floating in my head when I got the P300. It was red — exactly the colour as the R that I drove several years ago. And the F-Type is an absolute stunner — it’s one of the most pleasurable automotive sights.
So it’s no surprise that a group of young kids went crazy seeing the F-Type when I parked it. Clearly smitten by its breathtaking curves, one of the boys went “Oooh” — making an attractive young girl out on her brisk evening walk get visibly concerned. Her pace definitely increased a notch.
I offered to crank it up. The kids’ excitement skyrocketed in anticipation only to come crashing down when they heard the engine come to life.
“Er.” There was an expression of dejection and rejection on their faces. Dabbing the throttle did make some crackles but it was nowhere near the explosions that those kids were expecting. And I completely understand that.
A sports car is expected to make loud, exciting noises. This — the P300 — doesn’t. The one with the growling V8 (P575) does. That would’ve made the boys very happy.
The sonic experience is a very crucial factor. It elevates or destroys the feeling of a car.
If you have a dreary crossover pretending to be the next big thing to happen to the ‘SUV’ world, you aren’t much of a car person anyway, so whether the engine sounds like a washing machine or a squeaking cat won’t make any difference. And that’s okay.
But if you’re the sort who tilts the head in the direction of the corner when watching on-boards of racing machines, then you absolutely, definitely, are the person who admires a good engine note. Enjoy while you can.
The EV onslaught is going to make things go rather quiet in the future. My soul feels sad for the generation that’ll not be able to enjoy the sound of exploding celebration of fuel being turned into power.
Till such time, though, let’s go full pops and bangs. So, hey Jaguar, let’s do something about that in-line-4 — kids say it’s ‘meh’.