My first thought when Jaguar called to offer a test drive of the supercharged F-Type coupé was to reply “are you sure? It’s not exactly a fleet car”.
But Jaguar persisted and I can understand why: this car has an important role in paving the way for the launch of the much-anticipated XE next year which, as a rival to the BMW 3 Series, sits squarely in the corporate user-chooser heartland.
The F-Type is a halo car, showcasing what the company has to offer – the style, quality and technology which will cascade to the more fleet-focused vehicles.
So, what attributes does it showcase?
The F-Type attempts to merge two personalities. On one side is the supercharged 340hp V6 offering a glorious engine note under acceleration, boom-boom blip gear changes via steering wheel-mounted paddles and firm suspension for a composed ride under enthusiastic handling. It bites hard and is never ruffled; huge swathes of traction keep everything in line even when accelerating too hard, too soon out of corners.
On the other, it has an eco-warrior’s heart, with stop-start (including instantaneous re-start, the quickest we’ve encountered) and gearchange alert to encourage efficient driving. We averaged a little over 30mpg, pretty much bang on the official 32.1mpg figure.
Tokenism? Perhaps. But the offer’s there to drive in a more environmentally-friendly manner if you want to take it.
In reality, this achingly beautiful car makes the offer difficult to accept. It’s a driver’s car, pure and simple.
Take the excellent driving position, slung low down in the car cocooned by snug seats offering adjustable lumbar and side support to keep you glued in.
One colleague described the drive as a little sanitised, not full on naked aggression. And perhaps compared to a Porsche Cayman, that’s true.
But it makes for an easier everyday drive, where the fizzing steering wheel feedback can be put to use without the need for endless mini-corrections to keep the car heading in your preferred direction. Naked aggression should be for the track, not the road.
A fun addition is the ability to alter the exhaust note. If the standard splutter and roar, rising to a howling crescendo to meet the rev limit is not to your taste, select dynamic mode for a deeper, throatier growl.
The F-Type’s main shortcoming is its tiny 407-litre boot, although Jaguar points out that it’s sufficient to accommodate two sets of golf clubs.
This Cayman rival also has the Audi TT RS, BMW Z4 and Mercedes SLK in its sights, but for fleets it offers a glimpse towards the forthcoming XE. Our taste buds are salivating.