Jaguar still carries some mystique from its racing days of the 1950s and ‘60s, but it has been devoid of a two-seat sports car for ages.
While many of its newer sedans have been sexy beasts, they have not satisfied that hot rod Jaguar need for a Porsche 911 fighter … until now. The F-Type convertible’s debut delivers the most enticing roadster design since Jaguar’s E-Type wowed auto enthusiasts in the 1960s.
This model has a long nose, big engine and svelte tail too, along with a price tag to match your expectations once you’ve spied an F-Type. This week’s test car was the ultimate S V8 version with a starting price at a simple $92,000. Add an $895 delivery fee and that should about do it, well, almost.
The gorgeous Italian Racing Red (medium metallic red and $1,500 extra) test racer, er car, added a bevy of goodies packages to push this rear-drive beauty to $103,820. Pricey, but easily not the priciest sports car around.
Beyond its stellar looks, and they are stellar, the Jag delivers first-rate performance delivered with the best exhaust tone of any car I’ve driven in at least five years. Plus the Performance Pack that adds $2,950 to the bottom line includes Selective Active Exhaust that allows you to improve its sound with the touch of a console button.
The Jag’s deep throaty V8 bellow coupled with its crackling exhaust note when you gun the engine and then let off suddenly is a thing of audible beauty. People look. People are envious. People wish they were you.
OK, so maybe that’s childish of me, or any buyer, to enjoy. But it IS enjoyable, as is virtually every other bit of the F-Type’s performance.
The test car’s 5.0-liter supercharged V8 puts out an amazing 495 horses yet delivers it smoothly, but with authority via a fancy ZF 8-speed automatic transmission, with Sport mode. That means you can shift it manually via the gearshift on the console or via “Ignis” orange paddle shifters behind the wheel. The start button for the car also is “Ignis” orange, which appears copper to me, but is the color used on many divers’ watches, or so I’m told. Think of it as just a wee bit of extra style to justify the price.
Reportedly the V8 will move the Jag on its aluminum alloy chassis to 60 mph in just 4.2 seconds and has a top speed of 186 mph. The speedometer reaches to 200. That’s quick and a punch of the gas pedal confirms the F-Type is a supersonic transport on wheels. It leaps (sorry, a Jaguar you know) to highway speeds and well beyond on the shortest of highway entry ramps.
I had the F-Type out on Road America at a spring auto writers’ event and hit 120 mph easily, all the while grinning ear to ear due to its dulcet exhaust note.
Handling is nearly as perfect as the power. The steering effort is moderate, but responsive, quick and fluid. You can click off corners by nipping at their apexes with mild effort. You won’t feel you’re working hard and while the ride is stiff and sporty, it won’t punish you as much as some performance cars. Plus this one included Configurable Dynamics Mode, which allows the driver to adjust certain factors, such as shock damping, steering rate and throttle response. CDM is part of the performance package.
Yet if you push the F-Type a little too hard, there are giant disc brakes at each wheel to clamp you down to a stop in no time. These appear monstrous behind the fancy brake dust-covered allow wheels, but you’ll be happy you have them. You’ll also like the superb grip provided by the Pirelli PZero 20-inch R-rated tires. Even at Road America, at high speeds, the back-end never felt loose in corners. This Jag is a point and shoot racer.
While a hardtop coupe is en route to dealerships, the convertible top is a dandy. It powers up or down in less than 10 seconds. Plus it’s thick and well insulated. The noise level is only moderate in city driving, but picks up a bit on the highway. Then again, if you’re paying this much you likely want to hear that V8 thrumming away.
A note on the engine thrumming. The F-Type comes with Stop-Start technology that turns the engine off when the car stops. It refires as soon as you let off the brake pedal.
The good news, this saves gas. The bad news, it can be disconcerting and inconvenient if you just stop for an instance, such as when you’re about to turn right on red. The car also assumes you’re ready to turn off the engine once you put the gear shift into Park. Within seconds the engine is off and the radio and other accessories with it. That needs work, or at least a 5- to 10-second delay once you come to a halt.
Speaking of the gear shift, that’s a bit different too. You must depress a button at the shifter’s front edge and slide the shifter Forward to put the transmission into reverse, and Backward to go into drive. That seems counter intuitive. Additionally, atop the shifter is a button that places the car into Park. You get the hang of it, but I foresee some inattentive driver sliding the car into drive and accelerating when they mean to be in reverse.
Meanwhile, the interior is stylish and well laid out. The test car came with soft black leather seats and interior, the seat and door trim coming with red stitching. There’s carbon fiber-look trim on the console and lower part of the center stack’s face. Some gloss black trim accents the doors along with a stylish angular brushed metal door release lever.
Gauges are easy to see and the heated flat-bottomed steering wheel also is a power tilt/telescope model with radio, cruise and a few other functions on the hub.
There’s a grab handle on the console’s passenger side for security or to help the passenger pull themselves into the seat. While these are well sculpted power seats, 14-way for both driver and passenger, the low-slung car can be a tad tough to enter and exit. Actually it’s not too bad dropping into the low seats, it can require some effort to turn and raise yourself out though. Easier for younger drivers, but I suspect the average buyer will be 50+.
The seats are heated ($600 extra, including the heated wheel) and come with three memory settings for both seats, a rarity. Oddly, the seats were not cooled in the test car and you must push the dual climate temperature setting gauges to activate the heated seats. But there is a primo feature on the door panel, a knob to twist to tighten or loosen the side bolsters. Overall these seats are extremely comfortable and their adjustability just aids that.
While I like the dash layout with everything easy to see and reach, and no confusing levers or buttons on its face, there is no standard radio volume knob by the touchscreen that controls the radio and navigation systems. Instead, there’s a volume wheel on the steering wheel’s hub and a full knob oddly placed on the console. Took me a day to find it.
Other electronics included a $2,100 vision pack with adaptive front lighting, front parking sensors and rear parking camera and a blind-spot warning system, probably a good idea when driving a low rider like this in a high-rider world of SUVs and trucks. There’s also an HD radio with satellite radio in the test car, a $450 add-on, and 770-watt Meridian premium sound system that costs $1,200, but features a Trifield system that puts the passenger and driver each in the center of a surround sound system.
In back, behind that fast dropping convertible top, which was black cloth on the test car, is a tiny trunk. It’s just 7 cubic feet and oddly shaped with one small deep well in the middle. A couple slim soft-sided bags might fit.
Visors overhead also are miniscule and do not flip to the side. Naturally if the roof is down, visors won’t help much anyway. Top down the wind noise is pretty loud, but buffeting in the cockpit is moderate as the test car added a wind deflector ($200 pack) behind, and between, the seats.
Gas mileage? Well, it’s a V8-equipped sports car, so you expect modesty here and you won’t be disappointed. The EPA rating is 16 mpg city and 23 highway, enough to avoid a gas guzzler tax. I got 18.8 mpg in about a 50/50 mix and 91 octane fuel is preferred.
Certainly not everyone who loves the F-Type’s slinky styling will want to pop for the V8 S version, nor will everyone need that much power. Good news again, a base model starting at $69,895 including delivery features a 340-horse supercharged V6 that gets 20 mpg city and 28 highway. Or you can move to the mid-level 380-horse supercharged V6 S model for $81,895. It loses 1 mpg and moves up to 19-inch tires from the base 18-inchers.
Overall the F-Type enhances Jaguar’s image, its mystique and puts it back in the two-seater sports car market that it helped make famous, finally!
FAST Stats: 2014 Jaguar F-Type V8 S Convertible
Hits: Looks, power, exhaust note, looks, handling, super brakes, looks, flat-bottom heated steering wheel, easy power drop-top, looks, 8-speed tranny, twin power seats with power side bolsters and looks.
Misses: Cost, low height makes for tough egress, no cooled seats, cost, confusing reverse gear location, radio volume knob on console, cost, tiny trunk, miniscule visors and cost.
Made in: Castle Bromwich, England
Engine: 5.0-liter supercharged V8, 495 hp
Transmission: 8-speed Quick Shift automatic
Weight: 3,671 lbs.
Wheelbase: 103.2 in.
Length: 176.0 in.
Cargo: 7.0 cu.ft.
MPG: 16/23 (EPA)
MPG: 18.8 (tested)
Base Price: $92,000
Dealer’s Price: $85,995 (includes delivery)
Climate pack (heated seats & wheel), $600
Premium pack (garage door opener, wind deflector, lockable interior storage), $200
Vision pack (adaptive/intelligent front lighting, front sensors/rear parking camera, blind spot monitor), $2,100
Italian racing red metallic paint, $1,500
HD radio/satellite radio, $450
Extended leather pack, $1,925
Meridian premium audio sound system, $1,200
Performance pack (performance seats, configurable dynamic mode, red brake calipers, flat-bottomed steering wheel, selectable active exhaust, interior black pearl), $2,950
Test vehicle: $103,820
Sources: Jaguar, http://www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage