2022 Jaguar F-type P450 AWD First Edition
Flat out First Drive. We take a new 2022 F-TYPE P450 AWD for a drive around the flat, empty, but relatively Covid-19-safe roads of The Fens in Cambridgeshire. Words & photography Paul Walton.
NEW 2022 F-TYPE 450PS DRIVEN AWD
We take a facelifted F-TYPE Coupé with the new 450PS version of Jaguar’s supercharged 5.0 V8 through the flat, empty (but safe) Fenlands
It’s obvious by the flat, featureless and empty landscape that goes on forever like a calm ocean that this isn’t Plan A, the South of France. Neither is it Plan B, the Scottish Highlands, nor Plans C, D or E (anywhere warm, beautiful or both). No, this is Plan Z. The Fens. It is a long way both physically and metaphorically from the Côte d’Azur, but as this part of East Anglia has one of the lowest Covid-19 infection rates anywhere in the UK (and also happens to be a stone’s throw from my home outside Peterborough), it’s only right I should head there to test the facelifted F-TYPE with its new 450PS 5.0-litre V8.
Yet, the notoriously long, empty and flat roads here are as good as anywhere to give the car a proper test; it may not be warm and it may not be glamorous, but a long, straight road is still a long, straight road whether or not the sun is out.
So, let’s forget about driving to Monaco; this trip is all about going flat out to March.
I head out of Peterborough on the A47, busy with slow, smoky trucks rumbling their way eastwards towards the ports of North Norfolk, and am glad to leave the noise behind me as I join the B1167, an arrow-straight strip of tarmac that delves deep into the Fenlands.
This car has the new 450PS (444bhp) version of Jaguar’s 5.0-litre V8, which replaces the 3.0-litre V6 that is now out of production following the closure of Ford’s Bridgend plant earlier this year. I always liked the 3.0 V6 – the 380PS (375bhp) version especially – preferring its mix of instant power, but predictability, over the ludicrous and occasionally scary 550PS F-TYPE R.
Although I miss the hard-revving character of the V6, this new mid-range V8 fills its shoes perfectly. Reaching 60mph half-a-second before the 3.0-litre, it feels a little more eager while retaining the kind of blue-collar grunt that only a V8 can provide. On an empty road, squeezing the throttle immediately rewards me with a sudden, hard (but creamy smooth) wave of torque that’s so powerful the fillings in my teeth tremble. It also creates a deep but melodious note from the rear that could lead me to believe Louis Armstrong is in the boot. And that’s before I put the car into Dynamic mode, when it becomes a proper, undiluted, ASBO-seeking hooligan. The F-TYPE’s updates consist of more than just an engine. The most striking difference over the original is that the nowslimmer LED headlights framing that larger and bolder radiator grille result in a more muscular and aggressive presence. If I have a criticism, it’s that the new lights make the nose appear lower, which spoils the perfectly balanced proportions of the original. At the rear, the previous light clusters with the clichéd circular graphic, which ape that of the E-type Series 1, have been replaced by the same angular ‘chicane’ design as on the I-PACE and the recently facelifted XE and XF.
This First Edition Coupé in Eiger Grey (a £370 option) with the standard black pack is a particularly pretty specification, the 20in five-spoke diamond-turned alloys giving it the purposeful stance of a car Batman would drive on his day off. But, at £85,000 (an £81k list price, plus £4k worth of extras), only multimillionaire vigilantes can afford it. The F-TYPE has never been particularly good value for money, and considering the Porsche Cayenne Coupe 3.0 V6 with 460bhp is almost £10k cheaper and the Alpine A110 is over £40,000 less, the refresh hasn’t changed that.
One area that didn’t need updating was the car’s handling, the all-wheel-drive examples like this especially. Following another short straight, I’m met by a long, delicious left-hand bend; it’s the sort of corner the F-TYPE can carve through with the same effortless efficiency as Gordon Ramsey attending to a perfectly cooked joint of beef. Using the aluminium steering wheel-mounted paddles, I change the eight-speed automatic gearbox (there’s no manual option) down to fourth and balance the throttle before starting to thread the car through the bend. Despite the slippery conditions of this autumnal day, when I exit the corner and give the throttle the beans there’s not the slightest hint that the rear wheels could lose grip, the car feeling confident and assured. I’m sure it could be provoked if I turned off the traction control, but, like poking a bear in the eye, why would I want to do that?
At a T-junction, I turn right onto the B1166, the countryside becoming emptier and ever more desolate, the kind of place where a phone box is rare, never mind 4G. After passing through the wonderfully named Throckenholt, I take a left onto the even more exotic-sounding Guanockgate Road (unsurprisingly, the only one in the UK), a thin ribbon of tarmac so flat and straight that Malcolm Campbell could have come here for his speed record attempts in the Thirties. For three miles I barely need to move the wheel – and I’m okay with that; the steering in AWD models constantly tries to self-centre, so has never been as quick as the rear-wheel-drive versions, feeling instead heavy, numb and wooden. It transforms the F-TYPE into more of a grand tourer than a sports car, so B roads such as this are more enjoyable in that Porsche Cayman or Alpine A110.
With no particular route in mind, at the end of Guanockgate Road I mindlessly take a left and then an immediate right onto the wonderfully sounding Goochgate, another unique road name. Despite living in Cambridgeshire on and off for more than 25 years, I actually have no idea where I am right now – might I spend the rest of my days trying to find home (or at least a decent coffee)?
I’m joking, of course; the car’s standard navigation system – which, amazingly, even out here can still find a satellite – can easily direct me to the nearest Starbucks. But, disappointingly, unlike the recently updated XE, XF and F-PACE, the facelifted F-TYPE arrived too early to have Jaguar Land Rover’s new and apparently user-friendly Pivi Pro system, instead still using the old and clunky Touch Pro system. I’m sure it’ll come, but I’m disappointed for early owners. There has been one significant update to the interior, though, and that’s the multifunctional 12.3in digital screen in front of the driver that replaces the original’s twin-cowled analogue dials. The display can be switched from two dials to a single rev counter, or to a full-sized navigation screen. All very clever, but I remember Jaguar’s former design director, Ian Callum, telling me at the F-TYPE’s 2012 debut that analogue dials were more appropriate for a two-seater sports car than a digital readout. Eight years later, I still think he’s right.
Thanks to the responsiveness and controllability of the V8, plus the all-wheel-drive system that’s stopping me becoming a permanent resident of the nearest dyke, I quickly and safely navigate the area’s lush and fertile countryside, reaching civilisation in the form of the larger and faster A17. A few miles later, I traverse the Cross Keys Bridge, a Victorian swing bridge that spans the River Nene. Still in operation, it opens several times a week to allow ships to pass through on their way to the nearby port of Wisbech. I pray it doesn’t start to swing open when I cross, otherwise I will be too. The A17 is straight and wide, enabling me to put my foot down a little harder, the smooth tarmac suiting the F-TYPE’s firm suspension more than the rough, cracked and loose-surfaced roads I’ve just travelled across. I’ve often complained about the F-TYPE’s hard ride, and the facelift has done nothing to change that.
I rejoin the A47 outside Wisbech, heading straight over at the next roundabout towards March. At Ring’s End, I pass the eerie remains of a 19th century 12-arch viaduct that was once part of the March-to- Spalding railway, which closed in 1982. It fell into disrepair after the metal bridge section crossing the road was dismantled, not long after the railway closed, and the scene could now make an excellent setting for a film about the apocalypse. Not that 2020 needs a film set to feel like that.
A few miles later I cruise into March, famed in the local area for the town centre’s elaborate metal fountain-like structure that was erected in 1911 to commemorate the coronation of King George V. I’m sure he was over the moon when he heard.
It also marks the end of today’s journey. Although there is no denying the flat Fens aren’t as glamorous (or as warm) as the South of France, the area’s quiet and empty roads are still exciting enough to put this formidable machine through its paces. Plus, I saw about five cars onmy travels and even fewer people, making it more Covid-19 secure than a monastery on the Shetland Islands. As for the car, the aesthetical changes – although small – and the addition of the 450PS V8 are just enough to keep the F-TYPE relevant for a few more years.
2022 Jaguar F-type P450 AWD First Edition
- Engine 5,000cc V8 SC
- Max Power 450PS (444bhp)
- Max Torque 428lb ft
- Top speed 177mph
- 0-60mph 4.4secs
- Transmission 8-spd auto
- Economy 26.8mpg
- List price £80,890
- Price as tested £85,385
BELOW: The remains of the 12-arch viaduct at Ring’s End. LEFT: The Cross Keys Bridge near Sutton Bridge RIGHT: New interior is similar to old but features digital dashboard
It’s the sort of corner the F-TYPE can carve through with the same effortless efficiency as Gordon Ramsey attending to a perfectly cooked joint of beef