Test Drive: 2014 Jaguar F-Type

Hopefully it won’t take this long to get to G.

As improbable as it sounds, the 2014 Jaguar F-Type is the first two-seat roadster to grace the automaker’s lineup in four decades. The last was, well, duh, the E-Type, considered by many to be the most beautiful car ever made.

That automotive icon was born way back in 1961 and so indelibly linked with the swinging sixties that “Mad Men” couldn’t avoid building an entire story arc around it.

Austin Powers? Yea, he had one, and when the fourth of his films finally gets made he’d bloody well be driving one of these. Bond has his Astons. Powers his Shaguars. Anything else is a poor substitute, and the F-Type is everything but that.

In fact, it is just about exactly what you hoped it would be, if you’re the type that’s been sitting around hoping for Jaguar to get around to making a car like this again. I am.

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    It’s got looks in abundance. Not the delicate, sinewy lines and impossibly low stance of the E-Type – increasing safety regulations having pretty much put an end to that sort of thing -- but in the context of today’s bulked-up cars its pretty face, tight waist, and crisp fenders are a standout.

    The cabin is well-tailored and roomy in all dimensions, but decidedly sporty in appearance. A grab handle for the passenger that extends from the center stack to the console indicates the performance on tap and also acts as a demarcation line for the driver’s domain.

    There sits a simple set of gauges behind a super-chunky steering wheel that’s a far cry from the wood-rimed circles of old, and is all the better for it. Knobs, buttons and toggle switches that you want are found on the center console surrounding the 7-inch touch screen display that you need, which is equipped with navigation as standard equipment. A trunk is, as well, but it’s tiny, and with the car’s battery and other mysteries stuffed underneath it looks like the incarnation of Kramer’s “levels” school of interior design. You'll want to bone up on Tetris before packing for vacation.

    Since heat and air conditioning are less than priorities in a convertible, the vents on the top of the dash stay chicly hidden until needed, rising only when activated in a theatrical affectation. Nevertheless, the F-Type has dual-zone climate controls and the roof itself is hardly an afterthought, opening or closing in just 12 seconds and stuffed with Thinsulate for sound and temperature insulation.

    I thankfully didn’t need to test it against sub-zero temperatures, but for the brief time I did have the roof up, the F-Type was quiet enough to pass as a coupe. Oh yea, there’s one of those on the way for next year, but topless is what Jaguar does best.

    The F-Type currently comes in three flavors: There’s the entry-level $69,895 model powered by a very adequate 340 hp 3.0-liter V6; the $81,895 F-Type S that adds, among other things, a supercharger, 40 hp and a silky active suspension system; and the $92,895 F-Type V8 S featured here that has a 495 hp eight-cylinder engine under the hood that goes and sounds like it was tuned by Robert Oppenheimer. You can even get a button to activate it just like the President has for just $220. A similar set-up is available on the V6s that’s nearly, but not nearly as good.

    It doesn’t make the car any faster, which isn’t a problem as it can already get to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds and has a restricted top speed of 186 mph, but call ahead if you’re planning to visit a military installation, unless you want your Sunday drive to end in Gitmo. The cracks, the booms, the flat-out explosions…I’m still shocked that there wasn’t a law enforcement response while I was out testing the car. Perhaps there was and I just didn’t hear it, I’ll have to go back and check the local crime blotters.

    The V8 F-Type has an EPA fuel economy rating of just 23 mpg highway, which appears to be accurate, but I’ve got to think it would be higher if all that unburned fuel wasn’t getting dumped into the exhaust for effect, but I’m oh so glad that it is. It’s not that a car this attractive needs anything extra to make a scene, but that kind of swagger is what sets it apart.

    Dialing things back from 11 is as easy as hitting that button again. It still sounds fantastic, just slightly subdued, allowing you to soak in the rest of the F-Type’s goodness.

    Even with suspension dialed up to full dynamic mode, the F-Type delivers Jaguar’s stereotypically smooth ride without skimping on the handling. Its platform is based on the larger XK’s, but is much stiffer and lighter, giving it quicker responses.

    One very appreciated hand me down from big sis is the now old-fashioned hydraulic assist steering, which feels oh so nice in your hands and makes it easier to test the F-Type’s limits. An 8-speed automatic transmission is the only one available, but it’s smart, always finds the right gear on its own, and has a pistol-grip shifter complete with trigger and paddles behind the wheel for moments when you’re in the mood for a little DIY.

    Despite its near two-ton weight, the F-Type loves to turn. It’s very well-balanced, with plenty of grip and hardly any understeer dialed in. Any that you encounter is easily erased by pressing the throttle. The V8 comes with an active electronic limited slip differential that always sends the power where it will do the most good. And by “good” I mean powersliding it like a Formula D champ.

    The F-Type isn’t about clinical precision like many of its competitors, it’s about joie de vroom. Driven fast, slow, or parked, it’s all good. The complete package.

    Granted, it’s an expensive one that would be soundly trounced on most tracks by a Corvette or Porsche Boxster, but short of one of Bond’s Astons few cars are as universally adored in the real world as a Jaaaag, and in my experience with it the F-Type upholds that tradition.

    So many people stopped to tell me as much, that I started giving in and thanking them as if it were mine. I figure I’ve waited long enough to experience that feeling. Maybe by the time the G-Type comes out I’ll actually be able to afford one of my own.

    Nonagenarians enjoy this stuff too, you know. Just ask Jaguar. It’s one of them.


    2014 Jaguar F-Type V8 S

    Base Price: $92,895

    As Tested: $100,370

    Type: 2-door, 2-seat convertible

    Engine: 5.0-liter supercharged V8

    Power: 495 hp, 460 lb-ft torque

    Transmission: 8-speed automatic

    MPG: 16 city, 23 hwy