How Jaguar Ruined The F-Type By Fitting A Manual, But Redeemed Itself With The Epic V8 AWD

You'd think fitting a manual shifter to one of the coolest sports cars around would result in automotive nirvana, but I experienced the complete opposite in the manual F-Type. Fortunately, a stint in an auto-shifting V8 R with all-wheel drive reminded me why this car is so damn epic
How Jaguar Ruined The F-Type By Fitting A Manual, But Redeemed Itself With The Epic V8 AWD

The Jaguar F-Type coupe is one of the best looking cars on the market today. In fact, if you exclude the kind of exotic hypercars only oil-rich princes can afford, I’d go so far as to say that the Jaguar F-Type is the prettiest new car money can buy. Especially in coupe form; even though it’s been out for years, it still turns my head every time I see one.

How Jaguar Ruined The F-Type By Fitting A Manual, But Redeemed Itself With The Epic V8 AWD

So when Jaguar revealed it would be putting a manual into its stylish sports car, the world rejoiced. Finally, a manufacturer was building a cool car, and actually letting us change gear ourselves! Naturally, I gave Jaguar a call, and politely asked to borrow one of these manuals to see if it was the revelation we all hoped it would be. I also booked a V8 R coupe for the following week to sample the new all-wheel drive system, but more on that further down the page…

Since you can’t get a V8 F-Type with a manual shifter, my car was a V6 S. That means that under the gorgeously sculpted bonnet sits a supercharged 3.0-litre V6 engine pumping 375bhp through the rear wheels. It was also a convertible, just because I’d not driven one before and like to try a bit of everything. However I think the drop top loses a little of the coupe’s visual drama; having the roof up in the convertible gives it rather ungainly proportions, but why you’d ever put the roof up when you’ve got the V6 equivalent of a tightly-knit orchestra gushing from the exhaust (see below for our mildly pointless rev-battle with a Maserati GT) is anyone’s guess.

I mean, I know it’s wholly synthetic, but who cares when it sounds this good? Jaguar has worked wonders with the deeply aggressive yet metallic tone wailing from this car’s backside; it’s the soundtrack such a visually arresting car deserves.

Looks great, sounds great, and can spin the tyres up so quickly your girlfriend will not only swear at you, but will also physically harm you. (Yes, I found this out the hard way.) But it’s not all good news. My biggest issue with the manual Jaguar F-Type stems from the positioning of the pedals.

When I get in a car, I put my left foot down on the clutch, then move the seat so I have a slight bend at the knee. I then pull the steering wheel as far towards me as I can, then get annoyed that it doesn’t come far enough. It’s the same in all cars, and is the curse of being all arms and legs.

How Jaguar Ruined The F-Type By Fitting A Manual, But Redeemed Itself With The Epic V8 AWD

I did this in the F-Type, and was actually pleasantly surprised at just how far the wheel can be adjusted for reach. I then attempted to pull away… and confusion struck - the accelerator pedal felt like it was an inch from the seat. I drove a short distance before trying to readjust, moving the seat back further to make the throttle comfortable, but then changing gear required stretching my left leg too far, which was even less comfortable.

Over the next week, I constantly fiddled and tweaked the seating position, and at no point did it feel right. I eventually settled for the throttle being too close. The minor negative consequences included the fact that it took me a lot longer than usual to nail smooth shifts, and even on my final day with the car I would occasionally kangaroo a little from stationary. The bigger consequence was a dull ache in my ankle, as I was having to hold it in such a bizarre position all the time. It also made long journeys far more tiring as my thigh wasn’t resting on the seat.

How Jaguar Ruined The F-Type By Fitting A Manual, But Redeemed Itself With The Epic V8 AWD

The pedal position made me so uncomfortable it completely ruined the car for me, which is a shame because when I drove an automatic F-Type V6 S last year I was smitten. If we’re being polite, you might well get used to the pedal positioning, so what of the actual shift? Again, it’s not good news, I’m afraid. We’ve been enjoying some absolutely stonking shifts recently, so I was hugely disappointed to find this shifter had all the precision of a sawn-off shotgun.

Shifting from first to second took discernible effort, as it felt like there was a notch to overcome to slot the gear in, which is something I’ve only experienced in older cars . Every other gear offered no such obstructions, but was about as satisfying as finally sitting down to watch Lost and having your other half reveal they’re all going to die on the island. The hallmark of a great shift is a precision slotting action, but here it feels like you’re pushing the shaft through thick syrup (sorry for the cliche, but it’s apt here), vaguely aiming for where the next gear should be.

Reverse is to the left of first, and when you push it into gear it’s so close to the passenger’s grab handle that your knuckles push against the leather. It’s an automatic car with a manual shoehorned in as an afterthought, and it doesn’t fit properly.

How Jaguar Ruined The F-Type By Fitting A Manual, But Redeemed Itself With The Epic V8 AWD

So when the buzzer to my apartment alerted me to the fact a nice chap from Jaguar was here to take the car away one Monday morning, I wasn’t all that disappointed. That might have had something to do with the fact he would be handing me the keys to another F-Type, this time in coupe form with a burly V8 engine. But mostly, I wasn’t disappointed because like a personality-deficient model, once I’d acclimatised to its beauty, the lack of substance of ‘my’ outgoing F-Type had left me cold.

So, despite the fact I had a car with a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 making a whopping 542bhp and styling to make even the most ardent anti-car nut go weak at the knees, I actually couldn’t be bothered to drive it on that first day. I got in from work late, at which point I’d normally take a new car for a spin on the dark, deserted roads nearby, but just didn’t have the motivation. I now regret that decision.

How Jaguar Ruined The F-Type By Fitting A Manual, But Redeemed Itself With The Epic V8 AWD

In fact, with hindsight, I actually regret the fact that I ever slept while I had that car. I regret not calling in sick to work (sorry Adnan) and driving to the ends of the earth and back instead. But to make the most of my all too brief time with the car, I decided to burn through as much petrol as I possibly could by driving everywhere in Dynamic mode with my foot to the floor. This car is pure, unadulterated automotive pornography. In coupe form it has the curves of a true beauty, but in R guise it gets enough angry addendum to transform it into an absolute beast.

How Jaguar Ruined The F-Type By Fitting A Manual, But Redeemed Itself With The Epic V8 AWD

And the noise. Oh my, the noise. The V6’s glorious wail is replaced with a bowel-loosening, angry growl that cocoons you in its guttural racket all the way to the red line; mild flatulence briefly breaks the cacophony on the upshift as you relentlessly charge towards triple figure speeds and almost certain jail time. Lift off with Dynamic mode switched on, and you’re greeted to gunshots from the tailpipe; after a bit of practice, you learn the technique required to snap, crackle and pop your way down the street for a comical amount of time.

Acceleration is so ferocious that having a manual shifter would be pointless. It’d make you feel inadequate. You change up so quickly, especially in lower gears, that in the time it took you to manually shift from first to second, an automatic would likely be well on its way to third. And where the manual’s shifts are spongey, the auto’s changes are whipcrack fast, with an imperceptible loss of momentum between cogs.

How Jaguar Ruined The F-Type By Fitting A Manual, But Redeemed Itself With The Epic V8 AWD

Without the third pedal forcing an unwanted compromise, the driving position is much more enjoyable here. Sure, with my six-foot frame and lanky legs the seat is pushed back as far as it will go, but at least my right leg could rest on the seat cushion, and my ankle wasn’t constantly rotated unnaturally.

And the all-wheel drive system is flawless. Seriously, flawless. When you’re driving hard on the road - which, as an aside, isn’t the F-Type’s forte due to its overly light, feedback-deficient steering - you forget that it’s not rear-wheel drive anymore. And when you’re pulling away with a middle finger to subtlety, power is shifted rearwards to allow cheeky slide before gathering everything up and catapulting you towards whatever was over there and is suddenly here.

How Jaguar Ruined The F-Type By Fitting A Manual, But Redeemed Itself With The Epic V8 AWD

So my fortnight with two very different Jaguar F-Types was a rather mixed bag. The V6 is a great engine and makes a fantastic noise, but paired with the manual and its dodgy pedals it left me wanting. It’s definitive proof that just because it’s manual doesn’t mean it’s better.

But fortunately I saved the best for last, and my love for the F-Type was reignited. I never thought I’d love a car that wasn’t that great to throw around in corners, but wearing V8 R clothes this is an absolutely incredible machine. Take it fairly easy through the corners then mash the throttle and you’re just gone. From a hard start, it’s quick enough to give you that tingly feeling in your legs as gravity halts the flow of blood through your extremities.

As much as it’ll pain the internet to hear it, avoid the manual and go straight for the auto. The V6 is a great cruiser, and letting the car shift itself actually adds to the experience. If you can afford the V8 R coupe - it’ll set you back £91,660 - its performance will blow your mind, and you won’t give a second thought to the fact your left foot is redundant.


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