Having finally driven Jaguar’s roofless rally car, which was basically a present to itself on the 70th birthday of the XK120, the model that was both a game-changing sports car and a competitive rally machine, I now know the F-Type Convertible is unsuited to rallying for two main reasons.
The first is weight, because while a conventional rally car weighs around 1200kg, this one is more like 1500kg. The second is that even with a 40mm increase in ride height, it still doesn’t have quite enough ground clearance to breeze over really rutted gravel tracks nor sufficient suspension travel to absorb the biggest divots and bumps.
But those things only make the F-Type less rapid along a rally special stage. In this instance, that’s entirely immaterial, because this car hasn’t actually been developed for competition. We’ll never see it go up against a stopwatch. Instead, its only objective is to be fun to drive on mud. It’s a gravel-kicking plaything, which explains why it has only two driveshafts, rather than the four that would invariably make it faster. And does too much weight or too little suspension travel mean it isn’t fun to drive? Not a bit of it.
The loose surface underneath, the extra ride height and the knobbly rally tyres make the car’s steering less responsive than the roadgoing model’s. So you work the wheel a little harder and learn to be patient with the front axle on the way into a bend. The trick Exe-TC dampers marry astonishing body control with impressive bump compliance within what travel they do have, while the fluid and progressive oversteer that meets you at every corner exit is so easily controlled, and with it so entertaining, that you soon find yourself sliding the car at every opportunity.