Days after I drove the beautiful 2014 Jaguar F-Type S V8 on winding desert highways under a brilliantly blue sky, my old-school version of Motor Trend magazine arrived in the mail. You know, the one that is printed on paper, and can be carried into the bathroom without fear of dropping it into the sink, the tub, or worse.
On the cover, a red Jaguar F-Type S V8 took center stage, underlined by a headline reading “2013 Best Driver’s Car.” Uh-oh, I thought. The Jag sure didn’t strike me as a best driver’s car. I mean, it was terrific, the best Jaguar I’ve ever driven, but the F-Type’s light, spooky steering caused me to characterize it as more of a cruiser than an outright sports car.
It is true that the Motor Trend team thoroughly thrashed their F-Type under conditions few, if any, F-Type owners might actually experience, while I merely drove the car on nearly deserted public roads in the middle of nowhere, and at speeds that would get me a ticket instead of a chauffeured ride to the Kern County lockup. It is also true that a sports car behaves differently when driven to the limit on a closed road course than when driven on indifferently maintained stretches of unfamiliar highway. Furthermore, when you live with a car for days or even weeks, you draw different conclusions than when you live with a car for an hour.
I won’t give away the results of Motor Trend’s “wildest performance test of the year!” But I will say that I disagree to some degree, at the same time that I think the new F-Type is an outstanding alternative to what all the other two-percenters are driving.
Jaguar offers the new F-Type in three levels of specification, each differentiated primarily by performance improvements rather than typical creature comfort upgrades. At the bottom of the lineup, the F-Type ($69,895) is equipped with a supercharged, 340-horsepower 3.0-liter V-6 engine. An 8-speed QuickShift automatic transmission with paddle shifters is standard with this engine, and for all F-Type models. Jaguar says the standard 340-horse model accelerates to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds and gets the F-Type up to 161 mph.
If that’s not quick enough for you, try the F-Type S ($81,895), which makes 40 extra horsepower, a smidge more torque, and shaves 3/10ths off the acceleration time while adding an extra 10 mph on the top end. The extra coin also pays for 19-inch wheels and stickier tires, a mechanical limited-slip rear differential, high-performance braking components, an Adaptive Dynamics sport suspension, and an active sport exhaust system. Subtle cosmetic upgrades are also included, inside and out.
I drove the F-Type S V-8 ($92,895), which is stuffed full of yummy supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 goodness. Speed is not a problem, thanks to 495 horsepower peaking at 6,500 rpm and 460 lb.-ft. of torque available from 2,500 to 5,500 rpm. This version of the new F-Type tops out at 186 mph. More useful to almost everybody is a zero-to-60 time of 4.2 seconds.
In addition to greater velocity, the F-Type S V8 delivers greater overall performance thanks to 20-inch wheels wrapped in serious performance tires, an electronic active rear differential, a “super-performance” braking system, and outboard exhaust outlets. This model also includes 14-way power adjustable sport seats for the driver and passenger, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear parking assist sensors, and more.
All three versions of the F-Type can be optioned with heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, while the F-Type and F-Type S can be fitted with the seats and climate system that comes standard on F-Type S V8 models. Additionally, Jaguar offers a Vision Package that adds a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, automatic high-beam headlights, adaptive headlights, a reversing traffic detection system, and a blind-spot information system.
Beyond these features, the F-Type is available with several interior and exterior cosmetic enhancements. A Performance Package for the S and S V8 models includes performance-bolstered seats, a flat-bottom steering wheel, and a Dynamic driving mode, and a switch to quiet the active exhaust system when desirable.
Spiritually, the new F-Type is a long-overdue successor to the fabled E-Type. In terms of design, however, Jaguar’s new sports car looks to the future rather than the past, signaling what the next-generation crop of Jaguars might look like.
When the F-Type debuted to Americans at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show, Ian Callum, Jaguar’s Director of Design, explained that the company pursued “beauty of line, spontaneity of line, purity of line, and purity of surface” in penning the roadster. The result, to my eyes, is gorgeous. Undoubtedly, people will buy the Jaguar F-Type simply because it is beautiful. The good news is that the car’s beauty isn’t skin deep.
Inside, the F-Type’s cabin is clearly focused on the driver, underscored in my test car by the black-and-red 2-tone treatment. From the leather-wrapped performance seats and extended leather treatment to the thick-rimmed steering wheel and metallic switchgear, the F-Type’s interior looked classy and upscale, and felt like quality.
Zooming north across the floor of the Mojave Desert, the Jaguar F-Type’s top open to the sky, the autumn sun dropping to the southwest, all was 100% right with the world. If not for the fact that Jaguar wanted the keys back by 4 p.m., I could have continued on to Las Vegas without qualm.
Though I’m a big guy, the firmly padded and beautifully upholstered performance seats delivered plenty of comfort. I’ll note, though, that it takes some practice to gracefully exit an F-Type. Either that, or abdominal muscles. The car’s interior door panels and center console are softly padded where the driver and front passenger might rest or brace their legs, and the flat-bottom performance steering wheel is a genuine pleasure to grip.
With my favorite satellite radio station adding an alternative music soundtrack to the drive, the F-Type’s Meridian audio system sounded terrific. Given that many F-type owners will frequently drive the car with the top down, it’s good to see that the infotainment display screen resists wash out and remains visible while wearing polarized sunglasses. The climate system displays remain visible, too, but definitely faded nearly to black with the sun at my back.
Generally speaking, it is easy to locate and use the F-Type’s controls. The exception is the transmission selector, but I’ll get into detail about that in the next section.
Though I spent just an hour behind the F-Type S V8’s wheel, and drove exclusively on 2-lane desert highways, the car proved itself impressive in nearly every dynamic respect. The supercharged V-8 delivers astounding performance, passing slower traffic like it is standing still, and with the active exhaust system the engine sounds absolutely fantastic. Raucous. Brutal. Like a banshee wailing down the road.
Ever heard of a Jaguar described in that fashion?
At the same time, the F-Type’s powertrain is equipped with an Intelligent Stop/Start system that automatically shuts the engine off whenever the car is idling in traffic or an intersection. The EPA says the S V8 model should get 16 mpg in the city, 23 mpg on the highway, and 18 mpg in combined driving. During my 40-mile test drive, I averaged 19.6 mpg, despite taking great delight in exploring the upper reaches of the engine’s rev range.
Getting the car into gear takes some getting used to. Whilst (hey, this is a Jag review) maneuvering the F-Type for photography, I sometimes put the car into Neutral gear instead of Drive, or in Neutral gear instead of Reverse. There is a manual SportShift gate, but it uses a counterintuitive pattern requiring the driver to shift up in order to execute a downshift, and vice versa. Better to use the paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
Using Mojave Tropico Road to bend the F-Type into a few twists and turns, the car’s suspension proved firm without destroying ride quality. The Jaguar corners with a flat attitude, grip is excellent, and the brakes are easy to modulate with fine adjustments to pedal pressure.
Dynamically, on this particular road, and in this particular car, the only element needing greater attention to detail was the F-Type’s steering. This new sports car contains the quickest steering of any modern Jaguar, and I believe it. The F-Type changes direction almost before your brain commands your hands to turn the wheel. However, what I found was that when rounding a curve that crested over a hill, while traveling on a road I’d never driven before, the system felt way too light and disconnected to inspire confidence.
Of course, that could happen in almost any car. After all, driving fast on a road you don’t know well is ill advised. Perhaps I would feel differently driving the F-Type on my regular test route. Then again, maybe not.
For the record, the Motor Trend crew noted the F-Type’s “light steering,” their pro driver called it a “loose car,” and the publication said that one of the Jag’s few dynamic flaws was “the careful balance needed to corner on the limit.”
Having lived in Los Angeles for 15 years, I know well that the new F-Type is going to be a huge hit in areas where wealth is concentrated, if for no other reason than it is something new, something fresh, something different. The people most likely to buy the F-Type don’t want to drive the same tired black, gray, silver, or white Porsche everyone else owns, and it doesn’t matter at all if the Porsche might be the dynamically superior automobile.
I can’t say whether or not the F-Type is just as good as a Boxster or a 911 Cabriolet, the Porsche models that bracket the Jaguar in terms of price. But I can say that it is gorgeous, it is comfortable, it is fast, and it is very different not only from the Jaguars that came before it, but from any Por-sha. And that counts for plenty.
The author attended an event held by the Motor Press Guild in order to facilitate this review
2014 Jaguar F-Type S V8 photos by Christian Wardlaw