We drove the 2014 Jaguar F-Type last Thursday and Friday in the Navarra region of northeastern Spain. By Friday evening, we were sitting at a dinner table in Normandy at the home of a couple of friends who split their time between Paris and France's northern coast. They know that media previews of new cars often bring us to Europe but don't have the details of this particular trip.
"So, what were you driving in Spain?"
"The new Jaguar F-Type."
"Hmmm. Haven't heard of it. What is it?"
We scroll through the camera roll on our iPhone and hand it over. In the picture, we're standing next to a salsa red F-Type against a backdrop of a rolling green pasture and a field of bright yellow rapeseed.
"Oh!" they say in unison. "They made a sporty car!"
Any doubts we might have had about the claim that the 2014 Jaguar F-Type is "Jaguar's first sports car in 50 years" are thus dispelled, and the company's expectation that some 90% of F-Type buyers will be new to the Jaguar brand is also confirmed. This particular couple, one of whom is an American, has owned all manner of BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes, and Porsches over the past two decades, although the only British car they've had is a 1962 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud. We'd driven their Mercedes CLS diesel up from Paris, and it was sitting in the crunchy French gravel of their drive as we spoke. (They embrace all aspects of French culture except French cars.) In other words, they are exactly the type of customers that Jaguar is hoping to lure away from German brands with the 2014 Jaguar F-Type. As they further examine my iPhone photo, they declare that the new roadster reminds them of the E-Type, which they describe as "the most beautiful car ever made."
Back in the courtyard of the Muga de Beloso Alma Hotel in Pamplona, the city in northeastern Spain that you might recall as the place where Ernest Hemingway fully indulged his passion for bull-fighting, Jaguar had displayed the new F-Type alongside its three single-letter forebears, the C-Type, the D-Type, and the E-Type. A brave move, you might conclude, to put one's 2014 automobile up against three of the most sensuous automotive shapes not just from Jaguar but also of the entire postwar era. We say, if you've got heritage, flaunt it. After all, of the vintage trio, only the E-Type was a true roadgoing car, and there's no denying that the F-Type oozes its own flavor of 21st century sex appeal. We first saw the F-Type's design direction in the C-X16 concept from the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show.
Only through design will Jaguar even get Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, and Porsche buyers to glance at a Jaguar showroom. Porsche, you ask? Indeed, Jaguar has a bit of a carmaker-crush on Porsche and, like every sports car manufacturer in the world, will be highly flattered by any comparisons made to the products from Zuffenhausen. To drive home the point, Jaguar representatives continually remind us that every version of the F-Type will cost about 25% less than comparable Porsche 911 models.
If you're inviting comparisons with Porsche, you'd better have the hardware to back up your claims, and Jaguar has the right kind of numbers on the F-Type spec sheet. The $69,895 F-Type gets a 340-hp version of Jaguar's own supercharged, 3.0-liter V-6 engine, while the $81,895 F-Type S bumps the V-6 to 380 hp. The $92,895 F-Type V8 S boasts 495 hp. Jaguar cites 0-to-60-mph times of 5.1 seconds, 4.8 seconds, and 4.2 seconds, respectively, for the three models. There's a similar progression in the electronically limited top speeds: even the base model is good for 161 mph, the S for 171 mph, and the top dog for 186 mph.
All models are mated to ZF's eight-speed automatic transmission, which Jaguar calls Quickshift. You might be tempted to dis Jaguar for the lack of a manual gearbox but, then again, the upcoming Porsche 911 GT3 won't have one, either. And if Jaguar were to offer one, virtually no one would buy it. Still, it's always sad to see a sports car model line with no clutch pedal in sight.
Aside from the obvious powertrain development, the F-Type program "required a fundamental shift in Jaguar DNA," says Ian Hoban, who's been with the automaker for 23 years and now serves as vehicle line director for all its products. The catchphrase he and his team use, "Connected Feel," describes their attempts to imbue the F-Type with "immediate, precise, and proportional response to all driver inputs." To that end, the F-Type has 10% faster steering than any other Jaguar, the lightest and stiffest body structure of any Jaguar, and an aggressively tuned version of Jaguar's Adaptive Dynamics damping system. The V6 S is fitted with a mechanical limited-slip differential, while the V8 S gets an electronically controlled version that uses a multi-plate clutch to send torque to the rear wheel with the most grip.
Like the XJ and XK, the F-Type has a bonded-and-riveted aluminum body structure cloaked in aluminum body panels. (The trunk lid is composite.) The structure, which consists of 141 aluminum pressings, 18 high-pressure die castings, and 24 extrusions, is some 77 lb lighter than a comparable steel structure. Jaguar engineers are particularly proud of the single stamping of the clamshell hood because of the crisp folds they were able to create, which made the design team happy.