Review: 2014 Jaguar F-Type Convertible

By Mark Elias
Wednesday, Feb 12th, 2014 @ 11:53 am
 

Sleek, sexy and charmingly British, the F-Type convertible was a seriously hot item when it launched six months ago as the successor to Jaguar's legendary E-Type.

But celebrity can be fleeting, especially in the sports car segment, where buyers are quick to shift their attention to the trendy new debut.

Curious to see if the F-Type has staying power now that the initial hype has died down, we donned our tweed driving cap and hit the road to sample Coventry's finest.

What is it?

The first Jaguar sports car since 1974, the F-Type is part of the new vision brought forth under Tata ownership. A two-place convertible that is also offered in shapely coupe form, it's four inches wider and one inch shorter than that yardstick of sporting machines, the Porsche 911. It employs the classic front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout, and is constructed of an all-aluminum structure with 141 pressings that are riveted and bonded using the latest in aircraft-spec techniques.

Our tester was the top-shelf V8 S model, which is powered by a supercharged 5.0-liter V8 that churns out 495 horsepower along with a stump-pulling 460 lb-ft of torque. Yes, stump pulling; although that term is most commonly used in conjunction with especially potent pickups, it also suits the convertible quite well. For those not needing such power, this cat can also be had in F-Type and F-Type S models with supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engines that produce 340 and 380 horsepower, respectively.

The V8 engine is mated to a ZF-sourced eight-speed "QuickShift" automatic transmission with sport and manual modes, as well as steering wheel-mounted paddle shift levers that could conceivably prevent a driver from ever lifting their hands from the wheel. It is equipped with a torque converter as a launch device, as well as an electronic limited slip differential that varies traction as needed. While the anything-but-standard V8 S model comes with goodies like an adaptive dynamic suspension, ours also included the V8 S Performance Pack with special seats, red brake calipers, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, selectable active exhaust system and a configurable Dynamic Mode, which allows the driver to store preferred settings in a recallable form as needed. It is also equipped with timers and G-force meters for the occasional track day escapades.

Speaking of the aforementioned active exhaust and its band of demons, it is as close as most ears will ever come to sitting astride a Formula 1 engine. Positively demonic, we tell you.

What's it up against?

The Jaguar is a car whose driver will get the most visceral satisfaction out of its appearance. Love at first sight, in other words. But if it can't throw down with power as potent as its looks, then all is lost. The same can be said of the F-Type's competitors. They include the Porsche 911 Carrera Convertible, the Aston-Martin V8 Vantage Roadster, the Mercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG, the new Corvette Stingray, and even the Audi R8 Spyder.

How does it look?

Beauty is more than skin deep, but when a car looks as good as this, we should take a few minutes to consider its fine form.

When comparing the F-Type to its E-Type predecessor, one of the first cues that this car is different is seen in the width of the tires. The F-Type rides on licorice that is nearly twice as wide as what the older model used for traction everywhere from barnstorming backroads to race circuits of legend

The shape of the F-Type's all-aluminum shell features curvy fenders that pay tribute to its long-passed brother and a bottle of Coca-Cola at the same time. A gaping grille with smaller intake "dimples" leads off the design, flanked by a pair of rather expressive anime-inspired Xenon headlamps with LED accents. Complex bodywork leads to a sculpted clamshell hood reminiscent of Jaguars of old, while at the rear, an integrated and active rear decklid spoiler lifts at 60 mph or above and provides 265 pounds of downforce over the rear wheels.

The F-Type convertible is capped by a canvas roof that can be operated at speeds up to 30 miles per hour. Deploying in just 12 seconds, it stows behind the rear seats and, unlike in some other drop-tops, doesn't impinge on what little trunk space there is. Even so, occupants will be limited to a couple of soft-sided duffel bags for a weekend excursion. Those requiring more best bring a trailer.

And on the inside?

Our F-Type (don't we wish?) was equipped with very supportive RS-style sport seats that offered adjustments in almost every possible contour, including side bolstering, lumbar and seat bottom support, as well as a couple of pass-through ports for competition-approved seatbelts. Soft touch material was located all around and provided the expected level of luxury from a vehicle that hovers around or above the six-figure price mark.

The interior layout was a tight fit, and it did its part to let the occupants know who was in charge in this sled. A sissy grip acted as a sort of barrier to let the passenger know that any controls on the other side of the bar are off-limits to curious mitts. A combination of analog and digital controls allowed the driver to access nearly all items within an easy arm's stretch away, while a pistol grip-styled shift lever offered standard, sport and manual controls depending on the driver's needs or desires.

The flat-bottomed steering wheel offered a degree of redundancy that in some cases was more convenient than utilizing the actual buttons located around the cockpit. Paddle shift levers made quick access to all eight gears while the optional upgraded Meridian audio system made additional hay of the aural content of this F-Type. A curiously placed (and rather puny) volume button resided on the right side of the shift lever and was the only drawback to this boombox on wheels.

But does it go?

With its perfect 50:50 weight balance, a very stiff chassis and thunderous power from the 5.0-liter supercharged V8, the F-Type offered a very tossable package with the fluidity of a Cirque de Soleil performer.

Handling characteristics were very well composed thanks in part to the adjustable Dynamic Driving Mode system, which remapped the throttle and shift points, stiffened the suspension and at a certain point, opened the exhaust baffles that really get this party started. The setup is accessed through a toggle switch that looks like a weapon-arming trigger in a fighter jet and affords extra-quick changes.

Sticking to the pavement like a go-kart with no suspension, the F-Type cornered flatly and kept us firmly in place throughout our drives. It was the same feeling as rapid starts pinned us to the seats through G-forces with the pressure of a TV Wrestling flying drop kick. Acceleration was linear in nature, and just kept on coming with no plateaus or soft spots within the power band.

Jaguar says that zero-to-60 mph is achieved in 4.2 seconds, while the top speed is 186 mph. On the other end of the spectrum, fuel economy is rated at 16 city/ 23 highway/18 mpg combined.

We found the F-Type's steering to be one of the better setups on the market, offering good feedback that allowed us to become one with the car. Overall, the F-Type rewards smooth inputs, with little in the way of manhandling needed to urge it through the turns.

During our test, the temperatures at LLN's southern outpost were unseasonably chilled to the point that al-fresco excursions were rarely possible. This in turn revealed the shortcomings of the canvas top, which possessed, as expected, a blind spot that required a contortionist's skills and movement to see what might be approaching from the outside.

Leftlane's bottom line:

Although it most likely wouldn't be the only animal in your stable, the 2014 Jaguar F-Type V8 S offers quite a respite from the mundane four-door world of includes sedans, minivans and SUVs. Sure, it's challenged as a grocery getter or a conveyance for a weekend getaway, but we can't think of any better way to suffer than from behind the wheel of this cat.

2014 Jaguar F-Type V8 S Convertible base price, $92,000. As tested, $101,270.

Climate pack with heated seats and wheels, $600; Premium Pack V8 S, $200; Italian racing red metallic paint, $1,500; Extended leather pack, $1,925; Meridian Premium Audio System, $1,200; Performance Pack V8 S, $2,950; Destination fee, $895.

Photos by Mark Elias.

  • Aesthetics

    A

  • Technology

    B+

  • Green

    C+

  • Drive

    A

  • Value

    B

  • Score

    A-