SENIOR MOTORSPORTS EDITOR MAC MORRISON: Everyone who drives the Jaguar F-Type speaks immediately about the exhaust, and for good reason. No, it isn't a full-on, cat-less, muffler-less aftermarket race piece, and it's too legal to be offered for sale in the automotive category on the Silk Road website … but drive this car, and you'll swear that it's not far from being outlawed, especially relative to almost any other OEM offering. Its sharp cracks on the overrun never get old, but the more subtle driver can switch those off via an exhaust button on the center console for those moments spent on country club grounds.
Carrying that theme forward, Jaguar did well to engineer the F-Type with a good dose of split personality. Not in the schizophrenic sense where the car doesn't know what it wants to be, but rather in a positive dual-mode character. Turn off traction and stability babysitters, turn up the exhaust, select manual gearbox actuation, and bang, what a blast to drive. There's hard and fast power delivery, smoking rear tires, big sideways action if you want it, strong and direct brakes, precise and quick steering through the optional chunky, flat-bottomed wheel. This is one delectable, throttle-steerable experience, and one that I welcome very much at a time where many performance cars have been refined to the point where one leaves the same taste in your mouth as the next, give or take a few minor spices. However, in some instances lately, the difference in flavor is about as noticeable as that between standard and honey-infused rice cakes: bland, regardless of which you prefer.
No problem for me with the seats, which offer a snug and upright driving position. The interior is sharp, though the gold-colored plastic shift paddles feel cheap and out of place. Minor ergonomic issues, such as the aforementioned trigger-pull action on the shift lever, annoy, but less so once you become accustomed to them.
Much like the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, a true dual-clutch gearbox and corresponding shift speeds would make a great improvement -- and since I'm wishing my way down this highway at 155 mph, there are few cars that beg for a Formula One-style shift-light array embedded in the top of the steering wheel's rim. The F-Type's throttle response and that drag race-instigating exhaust are begging for it. Talk about a perfect fit. On the other hand, I'm pleased Jaguar chose to go with analog gauges rather than the all-digital package on some of its other recent creations, as it's simply a classier, more mature appearance.
What else? Hmmm … cross-drilled or slotted brake rotors would improve an already imposing exterior. And I was a bit surprised to discover that the fuel door never locks, even when you lock the doors. Ah, the doors, or actually the electronically extending and retracting door handles. These might look cool, but they are pain to grab and use to, gasp, actually open the doors.
Minor gripes though, at least so far in my limited F-Type V8 S seat time. But at this early stage, I already place it alongside the C7 Chevrolet Corvette as this year's most fun to drive new cars. Hell, it's plenty fun just to listen to it.
Yet for all that, somewhat like the C7, dial the exhaust to normal and it will offend no one, just as the reasonably compliant ride allows you to enjoy a cruise, well, more like a Jaguar driver might be used to cruising. That's the split personality I mentioned, and it does nothing but up the F-Type's appeal.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: This Jaguar F-Type V8 S could be my surprise breakout hit of the 2014 model year. And that's saying something because there are a lot of nice cars that have sprung up for 2014.
First off, this Jag is gorgeous. I dig the orange paint. It's shaped like a classic roadster, and the wheel package is perfect in size and style. From the front and front three-quarters view it looks like a smaller XK, which is great, but the rear is really sexy. I like the long, narrow taillights, curves and pop-up spoiler, which has a Jaguar logo that you can see in the rearview. I'm guessing it's a subliminal advertising thing.
Jag brought the orange into the cabin with the start button, paddle shifters and stitching over the black base color. It all looks very expensive, as a Jag should. All the interior panel gaps are tight and I love how the vents pop up when you turn on the heat. And the door handles and mirrors pop out when you unlock the car, too, which is trick.
I really planned to turn the exhaust to quiet/normal mode sometime during my recent drive, but it sounded so great that I couldn't bring myself to do it. The first time I hit the gas, the high-pitched sound surprised me. Not what I expected from the V8. But, boy, this thing snaps, crackles and pops like a race car. I'm sure it would annoy the neighbors, but who cares?
With 495 hp, this car feels light on its feet, even carrying 3,600 pounds. When the traction control is completely off, it'll light up the tires off the line, and continue the spinning into second gear. Most cars hook up when you grab that first paddle, this car doubles down on the wheelspin, and that's badass. Flooring it and coming off the gas in tunnels brings an ear-piercing wail before gunshot sounds from the pipes that'll scare surrounding traffic. It reminded me a bit of the Fiat Abarth 500 in its brashness.
Controlling the V8 is easy with a lighter steering feel than you might expect. This is a Jag, so most buyers won't really want to muscle it around, just lazily cruise up the boulevard. I didn't get to push it into corners too hard, so I can't comment on how it feels at the limit. I'd like to know if it's a real track terror or more of a two-lane highway car.
The Porsche Carerra Cabriolet S starts at $110,000, which would be a close competitor to this car, though it's down 95 hp from the British bruiser. The Mercedes SLK AMG costs roughly $30K less, but is also down 70 hp. I would say this car needs a standard transmission to be perfect, but this eight-speed is so darn smooth, it's hard to complain. This is a great car and the most fun I've had in a while.
WEST COAST EDITOR MARK VAUGHN: The 2014 Jaguar F-Type V8 S convertible is the most spectacular of the F-Type roadsters on the road at the moment. It will take a genuine Jaguar R to surpass this thing, and what a car that'll be. Powerful as it is, Jag is not going to put the entry-level V6 in the press fleet, after all, when it can dazzle us all with this 495-hp howler. That's a lot of power.
My problem when I first drove this car on the press intro in Spain was that I was comparing it to the Porsche Boxster the whole time. Then to the Porsche 911. This may have been an interesting internal discussion for the voices inside my head, but ultimately it may not matter much. First of all, I don't think there are very many cross-shoppers looking seriously at both Porsches and Jags. The two have separate and distinct buyers. Secondly, while it's true the Porsches are sportier and the Jag is more GT-luxurious, so what? They're different beasts. You can enjoy them each in their own ways. And you certainly will enjoy them.
There hasn't been a Jaguar like this in 50 years or so, since the E-Type ended production in 1974. OK, so that's 40 years. But the E-Type first came out 50 years ago.
The point is, I enjoyed (and you will almost certainly enjoy) driving the F-Type. It's like a British muscle car, but one that can turn corners and brake. Yes, it feels heavy, but its weight doesn't cause it to lean, thrash and wobble. All that mass is connected together tightly so there's no room for wallow. Stomp on the throttle and it'll light 'em up real good, as they say in Coventry. Wind your way through twisty roads and it'll hold on splendidly, with minimal body roll. It is the most fun you've had in a non-R Jaguar in perhaps… 40 or 50 years.
Could it be better than this? It would be hard to imagine how and from where they could extract any more weight from this, considering that the whole frame and all the body work is already aluminum. Maybe throw out the seats, air conditioning and the passenger?
The $100,000 as-tested price will knock you out pretty cold. For that coin you could get… oh, there I go comparing this to other cars. Don't do that. Just buy it and enjoy it. The kids can go to state schools.
2014 Jaguar F-Type V8 S
Base Price: $92,895
As-Tested Price: $100,375
Drivetrain: 5.0-liter supercharged V8; RWD, eight-speed automatic
Output: 495 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 460 lb-ft @ 2,500-5,500 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,671 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 16/23/18 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 14.1 mpg
Options: Performance V8 package including performance seats, configurable dynamic mode, red brake calipers, flat-bottomed steering wheel, selectable active exhaust, interior black pack ($2,950); extended leather package ($1,925); Meridian premium audio sound system ($1,200); orange metallic exterior paint ($600); climate package including heated seats and steering wheel ($600); Premium V8 S package including garage door opener, wind deflector, lockable interior storage ($200)
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