Are cars still 'cheap and cheerful' in 2019? We crunch the numbers. And gears...
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Yikes. What’s that? It’s the Lister LFT-C, a car that feels somewhat prosaically named given the company’s tuned F-Type was originally known as ‘Thunder’. Still, it at least sounds like thunder, with the Jag’s 5.0-litre V8 even more boisterous and muscular than normal. Which you’d blooming hope so, given the LFT-C costs £139,000. What does that buy me? A brand-new F-Type R (£100,000 before options) with a fair few tweaks. Most obvious is its body kit, shared with the LFT coupe, and much of it in carbon. There’s the front splitter, side skirts and monstrous rear diffuser, which also houses larger (louder) exhaust pipes. Lister’s done an impressive job of masking all the Jaguar leapers, too, with even the inside edge of the retractable door handles wearing new badges. It’s all optional to retro-fit to existing Fs for around ten grand, by the way. Inside, it’s pure F-Type, but this is an interior that was hugely dramatic upon launch in 2013 and still appeals now. Even if the electronic displays do date it. You can smother an interior in as much plush, stitched leather as you like, but nowadays its older, cheaper base car will always be outed by the screen layouts that are too tricky to chisel out and replace. Even if companies like Lister wanted to, good luck to them developing something better without the multiple billions available to big carmakers.
Enough of the screens. Talk performance. Lister has taken the R’s supercharged V8 – with a reasonably healthy 542bhp and 502lb ft in stock tune – and upped its peaks to 666bhp and 531lb ft. That endows the LFT-C with a 3.2sec 0-60mph time – considerably faster than an F-Type R’s 3.9sec – and a 205mph top speed, a near-20mph climb. (Incidentally, the LFT coupe manages 208mph.) I don’t doubt any of it. This is a heroically – and shockingly – fast car. You’ll be inventing new, elongated expletives upon any application of throttle. Being supercharged, the surge feels linear and just relentless. And so, so loud. It’s the sheer racket you’re making (and the whole counties you’re alerting to your behaviour) that’ll slow you down before any self-preservation. Sure, there are plenty of pops and bangs when you lift off the throttle or gratuitously shift down a gear under a railway bridge. But it’s the violent roar during sustained acceleration that astonishes most, and it’s ear-slappingly loud regardless of whether or not you’ve pushed the little binocular button that activates the sports exhaust. Sounds wild. This is a car of excess, be it in speed, power or bodywork. So while you can fully indulge those by selecting its most dynamic modes, the LFT-C is still pretty strong in its normal modes. The ride remains firm, the noise potent, the speed outrageous. It’s all kept well in control, though, the F-Type R‘s all-wheel-drive system present and correct. So that devilish power is handled with far more composure than you might dare imagine. But while the equally composed F-Type SVR – Jaguar’s own, almost £30k cheaper super F – incites proper levels of commitment on your favourite piece of road, the Lister’s brittle carbon extras might just temper it. That carbon splitter hangs low enough to have you fearing bumps and compressions in a way you don’t normally. Not to mention crawling through town slow enough to almost lull distrait ride-hail drivers straight into that fancy new diffuser. You know the conga-line of cars that ends up drawn out behind caravanners in the countryside? You’ll achieve something similar if you opt to drive the Lister through speed bump-laden areas of town. Eek. To be fair, that does lend it an air of exotica and exclusivity. Early expectations of Jag’s own F-Type SVR were that it’d feel madly unhinged, and the comfy, usable, composed end product almost felt a little conservative as a result. Not so here; by creating a car with a veneer of fragility to it, Lister has – perhaps inadvertently – made something that’s much more of a ‘get out when the roads are quiet’ kind of car. You’d happily use an SVR every day, but this is something you’ll reserve for special occasions. Even at £139,000? Well, you get a bit of exclusivity too. There’ll be 99 LFT coupes made, but just 10 LFT-C drop-tops. And with much bespokery on the options list, it doesn’t need to wear a colour scheme like this one. But given it nods neatly to Lister’s motorsport history you should probably indulge in excess here, too. We’re still a little disheartened it’s not called Thunder, mind. Never has a name felt for appropriate for a car’s noise – or attitude. This is an already hench Jaguar given an uncompromising, diva-ish edge. We can only assume such a punchy name is being reserved for Lister’s proposed 1,000bhp hypercar. Just imagine how fast that will feel… 7/10