Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
New model worthy successor to E-Type.
The Jaguar F-Type is a sensational new car, the first true sports car Jaguar has built in 40 years. We think they nailed it. It's difficult to build something in 2013 that's true to a heritage from so far back without making a car that's crude and retro. Jaguar has done as good a job as possible, although the interior could be less 2013, less swoopy, and still be comfortable and functional.
The F-Type is only available for now as a convertible, although a coupe is inevitable and it will be drop-dead gorgeous. The aluminum shapes are created masterfully. A black egg crate grille complements the design while clearly saying it's a Jaguar, including the shark-like gills on each side. From the top corners of the headlamps, shaped like smooth bending trapezoids, a sharp character line travels over the front fender, past the door and onto the rear deck. Door handles are flush with the body.
The interior has two personalities, from the passenger seat and driver seat. On the right side, it feels remote and not much like a sports car. A big dashboard feels so far away. Everything is leather-clad. The passenger is further separated from the driving experience by a wide vertical grab handle to the right of the gear lever.
But for the driver, this cabin that Jaguar calls asymmetric comes to life, with controls and instruments canted toward him or her. The panel is clean and sporty. The speedo and tach are large and clear, but the numbers seem processed compared to simple white-on-black gauges like we wish the F-Type had for the sake of its heritage.
The bucket seats are excellent, no complaints there. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is nice and fat (flat-bottomed is optional), and the paddles are well designed.
The aluminum architecture and chassis structure is the most advanced and best ever. Riveted and bonded, it's the lightest and most rigid ever designed, at no small expense. The aluminum development includes the body panels, with sensational special contours that took scores of tries to get right, and seams tighter than ever. The F-Type weighs in at a slim 3521 pounds.
There are three models, with the supercharged V6 S making 380 horsepower and supercharged V8 S making 495. We got both F-Type S cars on the track, where the V6 worked better because it's better balanced. The rigid aluminum double-wishbone suspension front and rear does an amazing job of keeping the car precise. In fact, the V6 works better everywhere, except maybe in spurting to pass on two-lanes, and on the European motorways traveling at super high speeds.
Ironically, there are more German than British parts in the F-Type, by 54 to 40 percent.
All 2014 Jaguar F-Type models are convertibles and come in three models: F-Type ($69,000), F-Type S ($81,000), and F-Type V8 S ($92,000).
Jaguar F-type uses a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine making 340 horsepower. Jaguar F-Type S uses the same engine making 380 horsepower. The Jaguar F-Type V8 S uses a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 making 495 horsepower. They all use an 8-speed automatic transmission with console or paddle shifting.
The F-Type uses 18-inch wheels, the V6 S uses 19-inch wheels, and the V8 S uses 20-inch wheels. Many of the other differences in the S models are aerodynamic, and some are in equipment. Mechanically, the S adds an active suspension, limited slip differential, and bigger brakes.
Standard equipment includes power everything, 380-watt sound system, Bluetooth, touch screen with navigation, adaptive dynamics suspension and active exhaust system.
Safety equipment includes front and side airbags, stability control, emergency brake assist, and tire pressure monitor.
It's safe to say Jaguar didn't blow it with the styling of the F-Type, because few will say it's anything less than beautiful. With a shorter wheelbase and wider track than the XK, it brings a new look. There was a great deal of special aluminum work done to create the shape and crease in the hood, many expensive tries to get it right. Jaguar takes its heritage of shapely cars seriously.
Jaguar Director of Design Ian Callum (who drives his hot-rod '32 Ford Roadster on the Motorway) won't compare the F-Type to the legendary E-Type, which ranks as one of the most classically beautiful sports cars of all time. It'd be like comparing Joe Namath to Colin Kaepernick. So he rightly weighs the F-Type against other 21st century sports cars, built to today's standards of safety. Shapes make more compromises today.
The front splitter and rear valance are aerodynamically driven, as are the rocker lines. The V8 gets vanes under nose and flat side sill extensions, to manage airflow. There are a number of faux intakes and vents in the front fascia, hood and fenders. Sigh. If only they were real.
The big black egg crate grille is all Jaguar, with shark-like gills on each side. The longitudinal headlamps are smooth bending trapezoids, with cool LED outlines on two sides; from their top corners begins a sharp crease that runs over the front fender, past the door and onto the uplifting rear deck. Door handles are flush with the body, and extend with a touch or key fob.
We've seen four of the available sets of wheels, in the three sizes of 18, 19 and 20 inches. There are split five-spoke alloys that don't seem special enough; painted gray five-spokes split at the rim like crab claws; bladed 10-spokes that are a lot more like it; and a third style with carbon-fiber trim that we're not sold on.
The hood has a sharp power bulge straight up the center. Any Jaguar, when viewed head-on, inspires oohs and aahs. Behind the occupants' heads are twin rollbar hoops with fairings that give them depth so they don't look like steel bars. Behind the rollbars is an area that stores the top, then the sensuous rear deck over a good-sized trunk. The multi-layered and insulated top lowers in 12 seconds at up to 30 miles per hour, and serves as its own tonneau cover.
The rear black diffuser is cut to enhance the body line around the rear wheel, which looks good, although the valance steals your eyes from that great rear end. One option is a valance in gloss black with body-color trimmed over the stainless pipes in the V6. The standard valance is flat black.
The long LED tail lamps are thin elegant trapezoids that wrap forward all the way to the back of the rear wheels. There's a graceful ridge on top of the rear fenders that flows down to the center of the tail lamps. We like the single twin exhaust pipes that come out the center of the valance V6, more than the double outboard twin pipes in the V8. The twin-tip center exhaust is a nod to the E-Type of 1961, when it was a sensationally sexy idea.
The rear spoiler is invisibly flat, until the car reaches 60 mph. We don't know what it looks like when it's up, we weren't looking. When we were doing 60 and more, we were looking through the windshield with a big grin.
It was a hot day at the launch in the Northwest, 270 miles driven on remote Washington two-lanes behind Mount Rainier, some track laps, and another hundred miles on Puget Sound. We forgot to put the top up. It goes up and down in 12 seconds. We've seen pictures. A lovely shape, classic sports car and beautifully retro at the same time.
Our first impression came from the passenger seat, where it just didn't feel like a sports car, those distant shapeless surroundings. A great big dashboard, so far away, so remote, and nothing for the passenger to play with or look at. Everything leather-clad, with one tint being a rich dark brown that's stunning. But the seat of our pants riding shotgun couldn't grasp the performance of the car. The passenger is further separated from the driving experience by a wide vertical grab handle to the right of the gear lever.
This passenger remoteness is nothing personal, it's an unintended consequence. Jaguar means to lock the driver into his or her experience, not the passenger out of it. When it was our turn to drive, the F-Type was totally transformed, by its asymmetric cabin.
That doesn't mean one seat is wider than the other; the center console is still in the center. Jaguar said the aim was to create an enveloping cockpit for the driver with all the controls placed naturally to hand and logically grouped, allowing maximum attention on the driving experience. Even some finishes and materials are different on the driver's side. All we know is that when we got behind the wheel, the car came to life.
“What we've done is give the F-Type the essence and spirit of doing what you want to do rather than what's expected of you,” said chief designer Callum. “The more processed this world becomes, the more important that is.” We love the quote, but despite his wishes we must compare it to the E-Type, because his quote addresses that situation. And compared to the E-Type, the cockpit doesn't feel like a sports car. We can't think of a high-performance luxury sports car that does. Luxury sports car is an oxymoron. You'd have to go back to the '95 Viper.
Overall, the instrument panel is clean and sporty. The speedo and tach are large and clear, but they don't particularly suggest performance, for sure not old-school. The numbers seem processed compared to E-Type gauges. The fit and feel of the bucket seats is just what it should be, with all its adjustment. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is nice and fat (flat-bottomed is optional), but the thumb bumps at 10 and 2 on the wheel get in the way of paddle shifting. In fact, you have to be holding the wheel at 3 and 9 to use the paddles having a functional shape like in a racing car.
In the S models, the start button, transmission paddles and dynamic mode toggle are highlighted in Ignis orange, like deep-sea divers use. It's kind of cool.
The first button you will play with is the one that changes the exhaust note, standard on the S models. We sneered at the BMW M5 system to enhance engine noise, because it was an artificial recording. Porsche and Mustang improve the idea with systems that actually change the exhaust. The Jaguar is simplest and best, as electronically controlled bypass valves in the rear of the exhaust open under hard acceleration. The four pipes in the V8 are raucous as the acceleration snaps your neck, and you fly beneath the decibel meter when you're cruising. After all it's a Jaguar not a Harley.
The F-Type is a car that can be driven casually, a quality that's necessary to be sold to wealthy gentlemen sports car drivers, but it's also a car that needs to be driven aggressively to be appreciated. It loves it, in fact.
The base F-Type uses the 3.0-liter supercharged V6 that first appeared in the 2013 XJ and XF sedans; it's tuned to make 340 horsepower and 332 foot-pounds of torque. The same engine in the F-Type S is tuned to make 380 horsepower and 339 foot-pounds. The 5.0-liter V8 S-Type makes 495 horsepower and 460 foot-pounds, produced over a low and broad range from 2500 to 5500 rpm. Acceleration from 0 to 60 is 5.1 seconds, 4.8 seconds and 4.2 seconds respectively. From 50 to 75 mph, those times are 3.3, 3.1 and 2.5.
There were no base F-Types at the launch, as Jaguar would naturally prefer to sell the S models costing $12,000 and $23,000 more. However it could be that the base F-Type will be just fine for you, maybe better. After all, how often would a driver notice the difference between 340 and 380 horsepower? And the torque, more noticeable than horsepower during regular driving, is a very small difference, just 7 foot-pounds over the same range.
We prefer the V6 F-Type S over the V8. In fact, the consensus among the automotive journalists was solidly in favor of the V6. The V8 is so much faster than this Jaguar (or any car) needs to be. The V6 is better balanced and more responsive, sweet and suitable to the car's dynamics. In fact, the V6 engine is based on the V8; they share the same all-aluminum architecture, direct fuel injection, dual independent variable cam timing (DIVCT), and water-cooled twin vortex supercharger mounted in the V of the engine block.
We got both cars on the track for a few laps at The Ridge Motorsports Park near Olympia, Washington. The V6 remained the choice, because it's better balanced than the V8, which is just so extreme. Jaguar provided some professional drivers for guidance, and they too appreciated that the V6 was easier and more enjoyable to drive fast. It gets to redline 7000 real fast. The rigid aluminum double-wishbone suspension front and rear (should a Jaguar have anything else) does an amazing job of keeping the car precise.
Jaguar built the 5.0-liter supercharged V8 because it can, and because it's needed to compete in the horsepower game with the Corvette and Viper. Don't get us wrong, it's a superb engine. And if it's worth $23,000 to you to be able to pass quicker on two-lane roads, or to leave a V8 rumble behind, then it's the call.
Both engines use an all-new close-ratio 8-speed automatic transmission that loves to play, using the paddles. The automatic transmission was always a disappointment in the XK, which left you wanting a manual gearbox; but not so with the F-Type. Jaguar calls it Quickshift, and it is. In manual mode. the shifts are sharp and obedient at all times, with no over-rides. A quick little blap comes out the exhaust when you're accelerating briskly; it's sharper in Sport mode because the exhaust gets turned up in Sport. We think this blap might be triggered by an electronic cutout to make the shifts quicker and smoother.
It's fun and easy to use consecutive downshifts like in a Formula One car, using the paddles. The transmission does rev matching so each downshift is perfect. Manual shifting can also be done at the lever.
Manual mode was so much fun we didn't spend much time in automatic, where there are 25 programs at work, adjusting the transmission response according to what the computer sensors think the driver wants based on how he or she is driving. Often when that's going on, the electronic mind-readers get it all wrong. In the F-Type, we didn't notice it, but like we said, manual was so much fun that's where we spent our time.
The Dynamic Mode is one of the best we've come across. Jaguar calls it Configurable Dynamics, meaning you can select which elements you want to sharpen, among steering, throttle, transmission and suspension. With all of the variables, automotive journalists like us can no longer say how these things feel and perform. We can only say you can get it to feel and perform like you want it to. We can say the suspension never needed to be any firmer than normal, and the steering was never too quick at its quickest, even being the quickest steering Jaguar ever.
The brakes are quite sensitive around town, at least on the F-Type S, but it's easy to get used to. On the track, they're fantastic.
The F-Type is equipped with a start-stop system that shuts the engine off when the car is stopped. It uses a twin solenoid starter. We found it less intrusive than the BMW system, but more than the system on the new Mercedes E-Class.
The Jaguar F-Type is a worthy, beautiful successor to the legendary E-Type. The 380-hp supercharged V6 is sweeter and better balanced than the 495-hp supercharged V8. Both use superb 8-speed automatic transmissions with paddles. The F-Type's aluminum structure is state of the art.
Sam Moses filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report after his test drive of the Jaguar F-Type near Mount Rainier in Washington.
Jaguar F-Type ($69,000); V6 F-Type S ($81,000); V8 F-Type S ($92,000).
Options As Tested
Climate Pack with heated seats and steering wheel ($600); Premium Pack S including 14-way memory seats, dual zone climate control, garage door opener, wind deflector ($2000); HD radio and satellite radio ($450); illuminated door sill treadplates ($450); extended leather pack ($1925); gray metallic paint ($600); Meridian premium sound system ($1200); Performance pack S, including performance seats, configurable dynamic mode, super performance brakes with red calipers, flat-bottomed steering wheel, selectable active exhaust, interior black pack ($2400); Vision pack, including adaptive and intelligent front lighting, front and rear parking sensors, rear parking camera, blind spot monitor, 20-inch blade forged wheels with carbon fiber ($3500).
Jaguar F-Type V6 S Convertible ($81,000).
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