First Drive Review: 2014 Jaguar F-Type

 

The 2014 Jaguar F-Type is one of the most anticipated cars in recent memory, especially in Jag’s long history. Snap’s got the low down for you.

mattd_021

Yes, it’s a real sports car that will steal away some 911, Boxster, and V8 Vantage shoppers. That’s what the first absolute and proper Jag in 52 years needs to do

If a sports car could sell exclusively on the emotional tune of its exhaust note, the 2014 Jaguar F-Type would no doubt burst out of the gates right off and outsell all other sports cars combined and potentially put both the ever holy Porsche and the gasping Aston Martin out of business. But it’s not all song; there must also be dance in the F-Type. Jaguar knew this when development started four years back and, with Tata’s massive amounts of help, they have stuck purely to the correct plan.

I just left my absolutely gorgeous 335-horsepower Jaguar F-Type, 375-hp F-Type S, and 488-hp F-Type V8S in absolutely gorgeous northern Spain, and I wish I were still there with them acting like I was absolutely gorgeous, too. This triumvirate have nicely blown me away, helped no doubt by the stunningly perfect weather and roads for the days I was there to partake. Not to mention the confusing yet happy utter lack of traffic on the weekend along every road. I never closed the Z-fold cloth top, so this was essentially a type of barchetta test. At the least a roadster or speedster test. And the sun never stopped shining across my contented mug. Did I dream this?

The F-Type, to answer Jaguar’s overbearing and correct question unto itself during F-Type development, is indeed a real goddamned bloody sports car. It is not perfect, no, but there is no such thing as a perfect sports car. I do not like the sound of the aluminum-paneled doors as they shut when flicked to and if your optional leather-coated performance seat is adjusted back to the leather-covered rear wall of the cabin, the two leathers constantly pop and squeak as they try clinging to one another and then are forcibly separated by the enthusiastics of the car storming down the road. Solutions: leap into and climb out of the car like it had the doors welded shut for Le Mans, and don’t adjust your seat all the way back because few of us are actually that tall anyway. You deal with a great sports car’s few imperfections (barring their being at all mechanical and catastrophic, of course) and you enjoy it.

So, a small while back I found myself in dramatic Wales for a ride in both the S and V8S cars with the just as dramatically named Vehicle Engineering Manager for F-Type, Erol Mustafa, at the wheel. This was not a silly exercise as so many assume in their knee-jerkness. Riding in a hard-driven pre-production sports car tells me a lot about what the overall experience of living with the car will be. Besides, what in hell is so bad about riding in a damned sports car with a guy who engineered it and knows it better than anyone?

img_4834

img_4710italian-racing-red_v6s_060

Between that Welsh frolic and this Spanish hands-on out-and-out romp of hilarity that reminded me just how eff-ing fortunate I am to do this work, I discovered a car that really should sell like gangbusters so long as lifestyle conscious and sports car buyers are wanting a spectacular experience with the car in their garage. But this is a sports car and these rides account for only 0.7 percent of total global car sales each year, or about 80,000 units. Yet these models for any company are crucial because they say so damned much about how in touch the current company bosses are with the soul of the company itself. Many companies are gradually rediscovering themselves as we speak – Jaguar, Cadillac, and I’d throw in Audi there, too. Alfa? Lancia? I’d also personally ask: Aston Martin? Losing a bit the plot mainly due to having no money to pour into it all to force and speed up changes.

Almost in the style of a Shakespearean drama, I started right off at the 335-hp F-Type, then progressed to track and road time in the supercharged S V6, and closed the show with the mondo F-Type V8S. With perfect weather all along for each, I had them at their level best. At each step, the speed, the features list, and the brake set grow. My base drivetrain test car did not have its standard exhaust system but the sport tuned pipes that come standard on the V6S, so I regret only not having been allowed to listen to the basic exhaust sound. But I imagine I would have appreciated it just fine, as the engineered sounds of the V6S – on which this review will focus most as it will be the top seller – and the V8S were distinct and both were to be adored in their own right.

The first leg of the drive occasion in an Ultimate Black base $69,000 F-Type – Act I, let us say – was designed to simply warm me up and not too excessively stimulate my juices. The goal was to reach the fairly new and serviceable 2.4-mile Circuito de Navarra in the middle of possibly the most scenic nowhere I’ve ever noticed on the Iberian Peninsula. That 335 hp maxxing at 6,500 rpm and 332 pound-feet peaking between 3,500 and 5,000 can help get the basic 3,521-pound F-Type to 60 mph in just an estimated 5.1 seconds. Everything is pleasantly in sync on this base edition of the F-Type. In a particularly remote area free of fellow motorists, I managed a stable and safe 150 mph and the cabin was still a cherry place to be with the roof open. This sport exhaust created especially for the 3.0-liter V6 motor is a direct ancestor to the best Jags of the 1960s. My juices were excessively stimulated already.

Then came Act II and the model this launch’s Day One was primarily used to tell: the $81,000 F-Type S, referred to more frequently as the V6S. Superchargers are made to increase response times especially in the wide band of mid-range revs, and this is the difference I felt here clearly. Jaguar by now does possess some expertise on the subject of supercharging and they work their magic here, too, with the Roots style Eaton unit as it is attached to the smooth V6. In this case we get 375 hp and 339 lb-ft of torque, but standard kit at this price includes the sport exhaust, a mechanical self-locking differential, and larger sport brakes to handle it all deftly. Only 37 pounds are added to the curb weight and acceleration to 60 mph from a standstill is conservatively set at 4.7 seconds.

img_4776italian-racing-red_v6s_019

mattd_076italian-racing-red_v6s_022

Out on the track with a fetching version of this engine calibration painted Fire Sand and sporting the full Black Pack exterior trim with blackened 20-inch wheels, I was suitably pleased withal. It may have been good to get the much hotter V8S out here on the warm tarmac as well, but after a couple laps I actually started to appreciate more the subtleties of shoving around this V6S moreso. I enjoy having to more frequently duck down a gear in the ZF 8-speed Quickshift transmission to grab revs and torque and the balance between having to do this and not having to do it felt just about right in this middle trim. Though there is some slight push through tighter curves taken heatedly, leaving the stability program in Sport mode helps bring the rear end around prettily when this is needed, and it never gets out of control thanks to the mechanical differential. The Pirelli P Zeros that were on all cars for this test – 255/35 ZR20 97Y front, 295/30 ZR20 101Y rear – did, as they so frequently do on sports cars, extremely well all day.

Then I was off on the road again, this time in an Italian Racing Red V6S with quite the particular flash alloys, and the roads were not to be believed – again. With the frequent canyon-like rock walls around many hilly curves, the wide-open exhaust just sang to me all afternoon, reverberating massively off the stone faces. This was British sports car motoring (under the Spanish sun albeit) par excellence. After a while of Nirvana at the wheel, I had to admit that I was desiring a well-engineered – all together now – manual six-speed gear lever and clutch pedal precisely located for satisfying heel-and-toe adventures. Asking Jag engineering head Mark White what the chances were for a version of the V6S ever getting blessed with the beefy short-throw Getrag six, he simply stated that it was under discussion. I hope so, because offering such a thing would be another important Jag-ism, if you will.

The second day, also crystalline blue with ideal temps, was dedicated to the grand statement-maker, the $92,000 F-Type V8S weighing 113 more lbs than the V6S. And let the big sweeping debates begin. While I am not one to deny the benefits of having a whopping 495 hp on call again at 6,500 rpm, together with 460 lb-ft of torque all the way from 2,500 on up to 5,500 rpm, I am on the damned fence. This is, for me, because a pumped V8 will always be a pumped V8 and will rarely do anything to make you work much. One thing I have always remembered about elder Jags that were, in their day, considered balls-out sports cars, was just how hard you had to work at collaborating with the car to get the best out of it. Body English is of great value in my sports car driving conscience. What you might again call the dancing part of urging a proper Jag around. With the V6S all dressed up, I get this satisfaction moreso, while the V8S is mostly from the right ankle down although the smile on my face could seem to refute that sentiment.

Get me not wrong! At 4.0 seconds or less to 60 mph, the V8S is a roaring, mountain roads master, supercharger absolutely gasping out of every single hot curve like I have never heard before but perhaps on a Koenigsegg or from the always panting loudly turbos on the new Pagani Huayra. The drama and, yes, the dance are there for the F-Type V8S. I had the stability nanny all the way off now and was ready to feel the e-diff do its good work at saving me from myself every now and again. And it all worked according to the white paper written up four years ago in Coventry and Castle Bromwich. I wanted carbon ceramic brake discs here, must say. This V8S is a hollering pitbull at all times while in Dynamic drivetrain mode with the particular four-tip exhaust of the 5.0-liter V8 just booms in an almost ‘screw you’ manner. People always turn and look. This system is so much finer than anything an Aston V8 Vantage can muster. This music is a constant companion willing you along, not just a showy blast from 4,000 rpm.

I had three very nice Spanish beers that evening with my tapas. The conversation was thick at table and debates went on long into the night. Can the F-Type Jag lineup really and honestly be so brash as to take it to the hallowed Porsche 911s? Or to the now equally special latest generation Boxster and Cayman?

Yes, it can. And nearly 50 percent of all F-Type production is coming to the States starting in mid-May of this year just to prove it.

2014 Jaguar F-Type V6S

2014 Jaguar F-Type V8S

VITAL STATS

Engine: 3.0L supercharged V6

Power: 375 HP / 339 LB-FT

Transmission: 8-Speed ZF automated w/paddles

0-60 mph Time: 4.7 Seconds (est.)

Top Speed: 171 mph

Drivetrain: Rear-Wheel Drive

Curb Weight: 3,558 LBS (est. unladen)

Seating: 2 up

Cargo: 7.1 cu ft.

Fuel use: 27/22 City/HWY

Base Price: $81,000

Price as tested: $86,000 (est.)
________________________

Engine: 5.0L supercharged V8

Power: 495 HP / 460 LB-FT

Transmission: 8-Speed ZF automated w/paddles

0-60 mph Time: 4.2 Seconds (est.)

Top Speed: 186 mph

Drivetrain: Rear-Wheel Drive

Curb Weight: 3,671LBS (est. unladen)

Seating: 2 up

Cargo: 7.1 cu ft.

Fuel use: 23/18 City/HWY

Base Price: $92,000

[Snap – text, pics, vid clips; David Shepherd – photo help for dynamics; vid help from Jag hired hands]

Tags:

 
  • James McDonnel

    Well, it would definitely be nice to try it out in Germany, which is where it was tested as far as I can see due to the license plate. Too bad we don’t get things as free-for-all here these days.