The small narrow by-lanes of old Bandra are some of the quaintest haunts of Mumbai. Lovely sleepy houses line both sides of the roads that are also lush with bright green vegetation thanks to the monsoon. My new Bering indicates it's 5:59 in the morning, the sun is about to poke its head out of the horizon. So, I decide it's time to wake up the neighbours.
This dull overcast morning, shattering their peace would be what is probably the most gorgeous-looking alarm clock in the world. And so at precisely 6am, I thumb down the bronze starter on the Jaguar F-Type and let the 8 cylinders explode to life. A quick jab of the throttle pushes the rev needle up to 6000rpm and lets the quad exhausts pipes crackle.
By now, I am expecting some of the aunties in their nightgowns to come barking out of the door, rolling pins in hand. So rather than wait to see a rolling pin flying through my windscreen I decide to hightail it out of that particular lane and wake up the adjacent neighborhoods.
The F-Type is the first all-new sportscar from Jaguar in 40 years
The only reason I am driving this car around Bandra is because Jaguar hasn't registered it as yet. It's got trade plates on and that means I cannot exit Mumbai city limits. It's one of the grim sides of the job we are in but it also gives me the unique opportunity to explore just what it means to drive a sports car inside an overcrowded metropolis; a city where people don't have the time to stop and stare, or couldn't care less even if you were the president of the world. In a couple of hours more, the city will be awake fully and rushing about like ants under the sun. So to make the most of it, I buy me a daily pass and then make a dozen trips across the sea-link connecting Bandra to Worli.
The F-Type's gorgeous design attracted a lot of attention
This is fun for a while, to see the Jaguar F-Type just going nuts opening up all 8 of her cylinders and letting the 495 horses scream and shout. The rain in spurts has left a thin film of water on the road and I can see a massive plume building up behind me as the speedo needle rapidly hikes north. It almost looks like a storm cloud has permanently settled behind the F-Type.
The acceleration is fierce and the F-Type screams past 100kmph in just 4.3 seconds and goes all the way to 300kmph. But those are claimed figures and I am not trying to see just how fast is fast in a Jaguar F-Type V8 in the wet, on a bridge, over the sea. So I force my brain to be less stupid this morning and after the driving and shooting and filming is done I crawl back into Bandra.
The Jaguar F-Type is a typical sports car in the sense that its engine is placed at the front over the front axles with power delivered straight to the rear wheels. The V8 is serviced by an 8-speed transmission and at best I saw only three of those eight gears function, the rest of the five didn't even bother waking up that early in the morning.
There is no wood and chrome in the interiors, it's all solid aluminum and leather
By now traffic has increased significantly, from a thin trickling stream there is now a massive deluge. So getting back inside Bandra is no longer a piece of cake. The F-Type is attracting all sorts of attention, there are grown men staring lustfully, autorickshaw drivers shooting pictures on their camera phones with one hand and riding their vehicles with the other, even school children as young as 5 shouting out to their mums to turn and look at the F-Type. This car is causing the sort of frenzy usually reserved for a film star. It is all understandable, the F-Type is just that good looking. It has a very strong visual presence, and in white the small details like the headlamps, the badges and the mirror finished honeycomb grille get a canvas to stand out against brilliantly.
I haven't taken the top down on this car, not yet, and I don't think I will either. It makes the car look even nicer and that would bring traffic to a stop - and I don't want to be the cause of any traffic jams or attract the traffic police. No sense getting their attention to a car that is not registered. Ironically, I did pass quite a few cops who turned to stare at the car, but more to admire its silhouette, some even opened their mouth in amazement and one, I distinctly heard, mouth something you'd only hear in a Sunny Leone film.
The 8-speed ZF automatic gearbox offers quick shifts
Nevertheless, traffic is pouring into Bandra from all sides, people going to work, mothers or maids dropping off kids to school, teens on their way to the nearby colleges and everyone is crowding around the car to get a closer look. It makes driving the car tough, more so since this is one of the last of the breed of sports cars to offer a hydraulic steering system. That means steering this car with its massively sticky 255/35 profile tyres at the front is a task I haven't felt in a long time. And that is one of the perplexing situations this car will find itself in. If and when those who buy this car will ever drive it, it will be in the city where steering this car will be tedious, and not at a racetrack or a gorgeous piece of road somewhere in India.
The 495PS supercharged engine is one of the best sounding V8s around
Yet as a scribe, I cannot tell you how much nicer it feels to be using a car with a hydraulic system because there is just so much more feedback and the precision feels so natural and not forced. There is nothing quite like an old song to get you humming and the hydraulic steering can get you to do just that!
The Jaguar F-Type's chassis is all aluminum and that not just makes it light, agile and strong, it's what makes this car very expensive. But technology, even expensive technology, is unavoidable in a sports car. What you get in the F-Type V8 S in addition to space age materials is an active rear differential, active aerodynamics with a spoiler that rises at strategic moments, super performance brakes and adaptive dynamics. All of these make the car faster, more nimble, agile and better in handling. Not that I used any of it because I wasn't out delivering milk or newspapers. However, what I used was the active exhaust which provides a deeper and more dramatic exhaust note as the revs increase, after all I did want to wake up the neighborhood!
The adaptive suspension system tries to balance ride with dynamics, safety and stability
And that gets me around to the ride quality of this sports car. When you drive through Mumbai city, the one aspect of any car at the top of mind is not how quick or fuel efficient or well built or well spec-ed, it's how comfortable! Especially in this environment where 30 per cent of all roads look like the ones in the war torn central Africa, ride quality is paramount. And don't expect me to say 'oh such fantastic, incredible ride quality that felt like a large luxury sedan and completely blew my socks off. No this is a sports car and the ride is firm and even hard, but what I will admit to is that at no point did the stiffness of the suspension inconvenience me. The adaptive suspension system tries to balance ride with dynamics, safety and stability and though it will always lean towards dynamics more, the F-Type still feels like a good car to drive regularly. But the one aspect that impressed me no end was that even with the mom and pop built speed-breakers in and around Bandra, the F-Type did not scrape her underbelly on any of them. Yes, I had to drive slowly over them and I did this looking over my shoulder to be mindful of idiots getting too close but after the first two breakers I never ever had to worry about the car scraping anything.
The top-speed is rated at the magical 300kmph mark
The other area enhancing comfort is the interior of this car. Ok ingress and egress is a challenge in a car slung this low. I had everyone from my producer to the cameraman to his assistant complaining, but once you get past that this is a very modern and highly functional cabin to be in, and significantly different to what you have seen in any other Jaguar. No wood and chrome in here, it's all solid aluminum and leather. But what it is not is timeless: I find this cabin aesthetically pleasing but am I going to remember this cabin over that of a Porsche Cayman or an Aston Martin Vantage or Gallardo Spyder? No. To me, this cabin lacks the elegance and timeless to match the exteriors. What I did like inside this cabin though are the seats and the instant relationship it helps build between the driver, the pedals and the steering wheel. The sports seats also offer a side bolster control, which either tightens or loosens up the seat grip around my hips, and that is something rarely seen on a sports car. There is some drama in the F-Type cabin but the gimmicky bits such as the air-con vents emerging out of the dashboard is now growing a bit too old.
So the one morning I spent in Bandra was well worth the loss of not being able to take the car to the outskirts of Mumbai where the enthusiasts go to drive freely and fast. The F-Type was an unforgettable experience, it does something like driving in a urban area very interesting indeed. I know most of the owners will be just posers and I'd like to disagree with Rohit Suri, Head of JLR, who was quoted as saying that the F-Type is a game changer for the Indian market. At the price it is positioned at there is no changing anything. In my opinion the Jaguar F-Type moves the goal posts ahead for Jaguar who have not had a contemporary sports car option to other sports cars in the market such as the Cayman S or the Vantage. Is it the spiritual successor to the E-Type? Probably yes, but I am not entirely convinced this car will go on to make the Italians go wow, like the E-Type impressed Enzo Ferrari, who very simply stated that the E-Type was the most beautiful looking car in the world.
Sleek tail lamps makes the rear one of the nicest angles on the F-Type
Anyway while I did drive this car there is still a lot more to explore, not least of all how it feels on a track and a twisty piece of tarmac preferably somewhere that is scenic and traffic free. Driving it within Mumbai was a hoot because in the wet and with the roads a bit slick you can easily get the tail to step out in almost every corner. I probably wouldn't recommend this to anyone unless you know what you are doing. But with close to 500PS at your disposal, rear wheel drive and a throttle that works almost as fast as the human brain, things can go horribly wrong in an instant. Not to mention it would have got the Bandra aunties association up in arms if I had to go through every by-lane tail swinging out. So sorry Bandra folks, my intentions were honourable, I only wanted to give you what is probably one of the best wake-up calls in the world. Now would you like me to repeat that!
The F-Type was an unforgettable experience, it does something like driving in a urban area very interesting indeed