The Jaguar F-Type, now in its third year, is the first true sports car Jaguar has built in 40 years, since the demise of the E-Type. It’s true to the heritage without being retro.
The F-Type runs in the league with the Porsche Caymans and Boxster and the Chevrolet Corvette. Its aluminum architecture and chassis structure is riveted and bonded, light and rigid, although at 3500 pounds, the F-type is bigger and heavier than both Porsches. Even so, we think it’s more entertaining to drive than any car in its class, except the Cayman S, and maybe the Stingray Z51.
For 2016, Jaguar F-Type offers all-wheel drive and a 6-speed manual transmission (although not together in the same car). Long live the manual gearbox! Finally a traditional Jaguar you can actually play with, like days of old. Although the 8-speed automatic with manual mode is satisfying.
There are a number of powertrains for the F-Type. There are two 3.0-liter supercharged V6 engines; one makes 340 horsepower, accelerates from 0 to 60 in 5.1 seconds, and hits 161 mph, while the other, called the F-Type S, makes 380 hp, goes to 60 in 4.8 seconds, and hits 171 mph. It gets an active exhaust system, flat-bottom steering wheel, and driving modes.
Getting top billing for 2016 is a new F-Type Convertible R, which uses a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 making 550 horsepower, storming from a standing start to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds, and zooming all the way to 186 mph. It comes with a paddle-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission.
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.
For 2016 some service features are added, namely a five year or 60,000 mile warranty that includes maintenance, roadside assistance, and connected services.
The F-Type is drop-dead gorgeous, with languid lines, muscular shoulders and powerful haunches. The flowing character lines along the sides are emphasized in the coupe because of the streamlined roofline. The coupe is the best-looking, purist version. Keeping it smooth, the door handles are inset, extended by the remote key fob.
A black eggcrate grille looks Jaguar all the way, including the shark gills on each side with LED lighting nearby. The headlamps are bending trapezoids. The hood has a sharp power bulge straight up the center. Regrettably, imitation intakes and vents are added to that hood, as well as the fenders and fascia.
Twin rollbar hoops have fairings so they don’t look like steel bars. On the convertible, the multi-layered and insulated top lowers in 12 seconds at up to 30 miles per hour, and serves as its own tonneau cover.
There’s a graceful ridge on top of the rear fenders that flows down to the center of the LED taillamps, thin elegant trapezoids that wrap forward all the way to the back of the rear wheels. The diving rear on the coupe is reminiscent of the E-Type. There’s a black diffuser with twin exhaust pipes coming out the center with the V6, a nod to the E-Type of 1961; double outboard twin pipes are used with the heavy-breathing V8. The rear spoiler is invisibly flat, until the car reaches 60 mph.
If you overlook the luxurious leather, available in red, and the big LCD, the interior says sports car, although we could do with a little less swoop. There is no wood. Carbon fiber is what’s happening today.
Jaguar calls the cabin asymmetric, as the controls and instruments are canted toward the driver. On the passenger side, it feels remote and not much like a sports car, as a big dashboard is so far away. However the passenger gets a grab handle; what’s missing is a sign saying: Hang on, you’re gonna need this.
But for the driver, the cockpit comes to life, as he or she is the center of attention. The panel is clean and sporty, with gauges recessed in binnacles. The speedo and tach are big. The bucket seats are excellent. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is nice and fat (flat-bottomed is optional), and the shifting paddles are tidy. The start button is the same orange that deep-sea divers use.
The knobs are functional, not fancy. They’re easy to recognize and they work. The climate controls on the center stack don’t require abstract thinking to use. Headroom is snug for tall people, and legroom tight for regular people, but the power seats are adjustable, supportive and comfortable even with their aggressive bolstering. The standard audio system is a 770-watt Meridian, with satellite radio.
The 11.7 cubic feet of cargo area behind the seats on the couple might hold two golf bags, but the 7 cubic feet or trunk space in the convertible is tiny, less than a Mazda MX-5. It’s the price you pay for the wind in your hair, a small price we think.
The V8 might be humongously powerful with its 550 horsepower, and its exhaust note will rouse the neighbors and your own lost youth, but the V6 feels more nimble and alive, more like a sports car and less like a hot rod. Even so, its weight can be felt. Not surprisingly, the coupe handles better than the convertible, given its stiffer structure. However with available adaptive dampers, the convertible’s handling comes closer to the coupe’s.
The F-Type is a car that can be driven casually, but it’s also a car that loves to be driven aggressively. We like the feel of the S model, the V6 with 380 horsepower, the most. We got both S cars on the track, where the V6 worked better because it’s better balanced. The rigid aluminum double-wishbone suspension keeps the car precise, although not like the Porsche Boxster or Cayman.
The Coupe R is the highest performing of the F-Types, ready for the track, with full grip and response, but frankly it was too powerful to be as much fun as the V6. In fact, the V6 works better everywhere except to pass on two-lanes. Still, the V6 gets to redline 7000 real fast.
Both engines use a close-ratio 8-speed automatic transmission that loves to play, using the paddles. Jaguar calls it Quickshift, and it is. In manual mode. the shifts are sharp and obedient at all times, with no over-rides. It’s fun and easy to do 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.
The brakes on the F-Type S are quite sensitive around town; on the track, they’re fantastic.
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.
But the first button you will play with is the one that changes the exhaust note, standard on the S models. BMW, Porsche and Mustang used the trick before Jaguar, but the Jaguar system is best because it’s pure; 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, while meanwhile you fly beneath the decibel meter when cruising.
The Jaguar F-Type is a worthy successor to the legendary E-Type. The 380-hp supercharged V6 is sweeter and better balanced than the 550-hp supercharged V8. Both use superb 8-speed automatic transmissions with paddles. The aluminum structure is state of the art.
Driving impressions by Marty Padgett, The Car Connection. Sam Moses contributed to this Jaguar F-Type review.