The Jaguar F-Type was introduced in 2014, save the XK220 the first two-seater from the brand in decades and Jaguar’s first sports car since the E-Type of 40 years prior. F Convertible oozes style and sensuality, comes well equipped and offers performance that backed up the look.
For 2015, Jaguar has added a Coupe to the model lineup, with V6 and V6 S matching the Convertible, the 495-hp V8 S of the soft-top upgraded to the 550-hp V8 R Coupe. We won’t dare debate which is the more attractive, only note the Coupe is even more solid, less expensive and has considerably more trunk space if you don’t travel light: James Bond style at a third his Aston’s price. There is also a very limited-edition Project 7 Convertible, the most highly-strung, least-practical F-Type.
F-Type is not a traditional Jaguar with a supple ride or burled walnut woodwork. By Jaguar standards it’s a sports car with generous power, superb firm suspension and a driver-centric, thoroughly modern cabin. By sports car standards it is a modern luxury sports-GT car: relatively big, heavy, swathed in leather and fitted with near-endless amenities.
With shapely bodywork mistaken only occasionally for an Aston Martin this is one of the prettiest news cars extant. There’s just enough heritage in the styling to evoke the E-Type without any hint of retro; compared to an F-Type, Porsche’s 911 Carrera reminds of a Vivaldi concerto…the same thing 50 different ways (and years). Jaguar designer Ian Callum hasn’t yet been knighted, but expect it any day.
The low-slung cabin features very supportive if none-too-cushy seats, clear gauges, logically grouped controls and a big buttress that both separates the driver and passenger zones and gives the latter a hand-hold. Convertibles offer enough trunk space for a pair of overnight bags, while the Coupe swallowed a 24-inch roller and some smaller gear.
Others may offer more advanced gadgets or driver assistants but the F-Type includes as standard things like navigation, leather/suede upholstery and a name-brand 10-speaker sound system that many alternatives charge extra for.
Perhaps bets of all, the F-Type has an engaging soundtrack, plenty of power and crisp dynamics to deliver performance expected from a sporty Jag. It will put up some impressive numbers, and if you have good car control bring a smile to your face as it destroys rear tires drifting.
In late 2014 Jaguar announced the 2016 F-Type, which has some noteworthy additions. These include the option of all-wheel drive on a V6 S automatic, a six-speed manual gearbox for rear-drive V6 models, a 550-hp R Convertible replacing the V8 S, and all-wheel drive standard on V8 F-Types. We’re most excited about the manual gearbox, noting all-wheel drive will help initial acceleration but also add weight and cost.
The F-Types primary target is the Porsche 911, which costs about $6,000 more than a V6 S Coupe and $15,000 more in Convertible form. Although you could argue the F looks better than any challengers, V6 shoppers might consider the Audi S5, BMW M4, Chevrolet Corvette, Mercedes-Benz SLK and Porsche Cayman as alternatives. F-Type V8 competition might include the Audi R8, BMW M6, Maserati Gran Turismo, Mercedes-Benz AMG GT, Porsche 911S, and it makes a good substitute for an Aston Martin Vantage for tens of thousands less.
At its debut the F-Type Convertible gathered accolades for its appearance, and the only thing that some consider better looking is the Coupe version. We like the Convertible, especially top down, but the stubby yet sleek rear end, generous hips and singular arc of the Coupe’s roofline we like better. 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 Enzo Ferrari (yes, that Ferrari) is said to have called the most beautiful sports car. So he rightly weighs the F-Type against other 21st century sports cars, built around today’s standards for safety, lighting and economy. 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 intakes and vents in the front fascia, hood and fenders, some functional, others aesthetic.
Convertibles have 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 moderate-size 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.
Coupes have a long narrow hatchback, with better integrated center brake lamp and pop-up rear spoiler; we occasionally wished a rear wiper was available though it blows clean at speed. Side windows behind the doors improve quarter visibility and visually pull the haunches even higher. Beneath the cargo cover is 65% more trunk space than the Convertible, with the same bin underfloor, and nearly twice as much room if you remove the cargo cover. The hatch can be powered but it’s hardly necessary.
The rear diffuser is cut to enhance the body line around the rear wheel, and serve the requisitye aerodynamic functions. 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.
The rear spoiler is invisibly flat, until the Convertible reaches 60 mph or the Coupe 70. It cants up and rearward for stability and takes about a third off the Coupe rear window view, a bit less on the Convertible.
F-Types cabin smacks of sports-luxury GT, with a driver-centric layout, plenty of features and attractive materials. Sports cars tend to be minimalist, efficient places but Jaguar has a thing for stylish interiors; you’ll find no classic wood here but there is leather.
Leather-and-suede is the default upholstery, which goes to full leather as price increases. An extended leather pack further covers the cabin in leather, including nearly everything from the armrests up all the way to the glass roof. The finish has a silky hand but it’s not squeezably plush, rather it feels solid and durable like a hand-made messenger or carry-on bag. You can search out some plastics and a few center-console faux finishes weren’t universally admired, but you’ll also find substantial carpet out to the door pillars (no shoes scuffs to look at) and all the way up the bulkhead behind the seats.
The passenger will have to reach around their big console grab handle adjust their climate or seat heat, but most will be amused with touch-to-operate glovebox and reading lights or memorizing their fully-adjusted seat until they need the bar for its intended function. The standard 380-watt Meridian sound system is good, the twice-that-power surround sound really good.
Both performance seats offer three-person memory and plenty of adjustment and support, though those more than 6’4 or so might prefer the less bolstered standard sport seats. You sit low in the F-Type, hips often near the door sill, and these performance seats are quite firm, not stiff like fixed racing shells but never mistaken for plush.
A flat-bottom wheel that accompanies the sport seats allows plenty of knee clearance and a good gauges view, the latter simple analog tach and speedometer framing bar-graph fuel and temperature gauges or the various menus to toggle through. You need hands at 9 and 3 to use the paddles, but the steering’s quick enough that pretzeled arms only come into play on hairpin bends. On S models the start, dynamic/snow switch and shift paddles appear anodized orange.
Top center vents open only as needed or you wish, some ooohh-aahh stuff to go along with the beating light in the starter button. Climate control is effective…it isn’t a big room, and the driving controls are all grouped around the shifter. Aft of that are cupholders, center armrest storage and a head-high bin up back, complemented with moderate door pockets and useful glovebox.
Configurable ambient lighting is available where not standard and lets you choose from six colors, but like the gauges lights it automatically reverts to red when dynamic mode is selected.
The F-Type is all about performance, exhaust noise and grip on the road, and this applies regardless of body style or engine. In the unlikely event they don’t see you coming, the exhaust report certainly announces the cat has arrived.
With 340 horses and a quick-shifting automatic (one observer asked who made the twin-clutch, a type of transmission known for its speed and used by Porsche and other sports car builders) the F-Type is no slouch, and the pipe’s trumpet crescendos with revs. F-Types are the rare supercharged cars where you seldom hear the supercharger over the exhaust note.
However, our money would go to the V6 S. Although the 380 hp is just 40 more than the base V6, it uses a shorter axle ratio for better performance at the cost of one EPA mile-per-gallon. Since we nudged 30 on some highway cruises in a V6 S coupe, above even base model ratings, we think the real-world difference will be neglible, completely dependent on driving style rather than car.
Forty horses for $13,000 is a lot to ask, but the S also gets larger brakes, 19-inch wheels, active sport exhaust, adaptive dynamic suspension and added features. Those all add choice and make the F a better sports car.
V8 models include all that equipment, plus an electronically controlled differential to help translate power to forward propulsion. The V8 S Convertible’s 495 hp can readily smoke the rear tires with minimal provocation, unless you leave traction control engaged (with launch control) to moderate wheelspin at low speeds. The V8 R Coupe has 550 hp and weighs a bit less, so everything happens even faster. Switch any dynamic-mode F-Type to snow-mode and gas pedal and transmission response are both dulled so it doesn’t become the best-looking Zamboni ever.
The automatic Jaguar dubs Quickshift is, and it works better around town than automated manuals. The marriage with the engine is well sorted, and you can shift for yourself using steering wheel paddles or the stubby lever when your mind and eyes see more than the programmers did.
F-Types also come with auto start-stop that shuts the engine off under certain conditions (in D not S, sufficient engine temperature and voltage, low AC load, etc.) and automatically restart it when the brake pedal releases. It’s neither the best nor worst we’ve encountered and can be switched off should you wish.
An elegant ride, subtle sounds and poised control are common in Jaguar sedans; here you’ll get a sports-car ride and enough exhaust noise to rival a race car or Corvette ZO6, but it is still poised. The ride is firm and there’s no comfort setting on the adaptive suspension, only dynamic mode that tightens things up some more. That is best reserved for nice roads and decent racetracks.
Part of that is because the default normal adaptive dynamic suspension is very good. It gets body motion signals 100 times a second and steering wheel data 500 times a second, constantly setting the shocks for ideal control. It’s a big reason the F-Type stays nearly flat with very little body roll in transitions, braking nosedive or acceleration squat while it posts competitive performance metrics. It also means at low speeds and cornering loads the suspension is allowed to move freely so speed humps taken at 25 mph result in a bah-dum sound rather than crash and bang.
Finding an F-Type’s limits requires some awareness, first of the car’s maximum width (which is behind you) and tall, regulation inspired hood. Second, while the steering is quick and precise, and turn-in immediate the F doesn’t feed the driver tactile information as well as a genuine lightweight sports car like a Mazda MX-5 (Miata) or Subaru BRZ, or the primary competitor Porsche 911 (or Cayman). You can comfortably cruise around in an F-Type and the average owner will likely never approach its limits nor squeal a tire, but if you ever get the chance to find out on a closed course and/or with professional instruction, you’ll enjoy how easy it is to re-live juvenile delinquency.
The Coupe is stiffer and lighter than the Convertible, the more precise of the two in discussions about handling or driving fun. Moreso though is the difference between a V6 S and a V8, the former better balanced, more than adequately fast for public winding roads, and easier to drive quickly and extract maximum performance.
The V8 is faster (providing there’s adequate traction) has more bellow and bluster, and is better on a $/hp basis. Like many sports cars it’s also more than needed (and electronically limited to 186 mph so tires don’t get stressed), and not as easy to drive quickly; switch off traction control and it’s ready to loop anyone not giving the gas pedal due respect.
With all this power and near-enough two tons of weight brakes are important, and those on the V6 S and V8 S we sampled were more than capable: Quick bite, progressive retarding and good pedal feel. There are three braking systems and our samples were the middle version; the optional carbon-ceramics are likely beneficial only for track-day encounters or never changing them.
The Jaguar F-Type is a worthy successor to the legendary E-Type. It combines sports-car performance with a luxurious cabin and seductive bodywork no competitor can match. All are F-Types are quick and can dispatch a winding highway with aplomb, but most of us prefer the 380-hp V6 S Coupe’s balance to the V8’s firepower.
Sam Moses reported from Washington state, with G.R. Whale reporting from Los Angeles.