When I first learned of the Jaguar F-Type, I admit I wasn’t all that jazzed. I then saw the concept versions up close and perused the image gallery from last year’s Paris Auto Show where the car debuted in production form. The two-seater convertible seemed nice, but that was about the extent of it – more of a supporting actor than a true star.
Then, at last year’s Los Angeles International Auto Show, I spied the F-Type firsthand; first things first, photos do not do this car justice because it’s stunning in real life. Some four months later, I find myself behind the wheel of the all-new F-Type, scorching around some of very fine roads in northern Spain.
Let’s cut to the chase here: The Jaguar F-Type is a sensational car, full stop. It’s also a major surprise because, to be blunt, while the current Jaguar line-up comprises some very nice cars indeed, none of them could objectively be considered a class leader. Yet, the manufacturer now has a proper sports car on its hands – one that will give every other entry in the class(es) in which it competes a serious case of the night sweats.
There are three versions of the F-Type to choose from: the V6, the V6 S and the V8 S. The main difference among these three models resides under the hood; these cars are powered by, respectively, a supercharged three-litre V6 that develops 340 horsepower, that same engine tweaked to produce 380 markers and a five-litre supercharged V8 that generates a whopping 495 horsepower.
The global launch event for the F-Type was brilliantly conceived in that we’re testing the models in ascending order from the most tame to the downright outrageous. The middle version is earmarked for track time at the Circuito de Navarra in Los Arcos, a technically challenging facility that opened just a few years ago.
First up: the “entry-level” F-Type and an inspired drive route that meanders from our hotel in Pamplona to the circuit. While I regularly advocate for more power in pretty much all possible circumstances, the V6 makes an immediate impact – in fact, if I’d known nothing of the existence of the other two versions, I would’ve been more than content with this redoubtable sports car.
The true nature of the F-Type reveals itself in an instant. The braking system is very powerful and the feel of the brake pedal is, I think, possibly the very best I’ve ever experienced outside of a racing situation. Same goes for the steering, which is very direct for a road car. (The very first thing to strike me is the quality of the brakes, but I think if I had turned the wheel before using said brakes, I would be raving about the steering feel first.)
The V6 is, of course, also a darn quick car. The run from zero-to-100 km/h is estimated to take just 5.3 seconds, which is a very credible time. Combine that acceleration with a downright swift eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, near-perfect weight distribution and a supremely well-designed driving environment and you have all the elements required of a world-class sports car.
This makes sense because the F-Type is, most definitely, a world-class sports car.
Stepping up to the more powerful V6 S brings the extra 40 horses, a slight boost in torque (from 332 lb-ft to 339), larger front brake discs (380 mm numbers, up from 354 mm), a larger standard wheel package (19 inches versus 18) and an active exhaust system that produces the sweetest notes this side of Sade.
My first taste of the middle model is around the track and the thing is even more impressive than the base version. The extra power helps, of course, but so too do the larger anchors, which prove capable of some truly late-braking. As the Circuito de Navarra has a number of tight turns, more torque coming out of the corners would definitely add to the fun, but that goes without saying... Doesn’t it?
The V6 S is dead easy to pilot around the track, even through the very tricky double-apex right-hander immediately after the start/finish straight. This corner is entered at high speed (200 km/h+) and requires both precision and brass ones as you need to steer and trail brake through the turn. The chassis is very robust, particularly for a convertible, as the F-Type negotiates the high-speed bend without any undue panic or cowl shake. Good fun!
While the Jag reps claim the reason we are driving only the V6 S on the track is because it is the most balanced of the three versions, I suspect other reasons behind the decision. Namely: The V8 S represents a big step up from the V6-powered models in terms of outright performance.
With 495 horsepower and 460 lb-ft under foot, the top-of-the-line F-Type can accelerate from a standing start to 100 km/h in a scant 4.4 seconds and roll on to a top speed of 300 km/h. Long story short, the thing is very fast – it leaps out of corners like the jungle cat for which it’s named and sounds incredibly fierce along the way.
There are other differences with the V8 version: An electronic limited-slip differential replaces the mechanical one on the V6 models, the rear brake discs grow in size to 376 mm, there are quad tailpipes rather than just two and the standard wheel package size increases to 20 inches. I would have loved to have the chance to thrash the V8 S around the track – but the truth be told, this Jaguar requires an even higher-speed playground than Los Arcos had to offer.
The F-Type is visually arresting as well. A number of very slick touches identify this car as a premium product: the hidden door handles, deployable rear spoiler, soft-top that operates at speeds up to 50 km/h and a muscular silhouette that calls to mind one of my all-time favourites, the BMW Z8.
Inside, the theme continues: The F-Type offers a very comfortable, high-end driving environment with well-designed controls, a racy TFT LCD instrument panel and supportive sport seats. The S models also has a configurable dynamic mode display that shows the adjustment levels for various parameters, including the adaptive suspension system. (All versions have a sport mode and an engine start/stop system.)
Back in 1961, Jaguar introduced a convertible sports car that shook up the establishment before going on to become an all-time classic. In the 2014 Jaguar F-Type, the manufacturer has another winner on its hands and only time will tell if it becomes a fully worthy successor to the E-Type.
2014 Jaguar F-Type
Base Price: $76,900
Engine: Supercharged 3.0L V6; Supercharged 5.0L V8
Horsepower / Torque: 340 hp / 332 lb-ft; 380 hp / 339 lb-ft; 490 hp / 465 lb-ft
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Fuel Economy Ratings (city / hwy. / comb.): 12.6 / 6.9 / 9.0 L/100 km; 12.8 / 7.0 / 9.1 L/100 km; 15.9 / 8.3 / 11.1 L/100 km
Story by Mark Hacking | Photography by Sims Image Management