Exciting things happen the moment you press the Engine Start button on the dash of the 2017 Jaguar F-Type S Convertible. The supercharged V-6 lights off with a bona-fide vroom, punting the tach needle quickly up the dial before just as quickly settling down into a rumbling idle. Air vents in the center dashboard gracefully rotate up and into position from their flush hiding places. You press a switch and the soft top folds down and away in 12 seconds, disappearing behind twin satin-chrome roll hoops, one for each seat.
For added drama, you press the exhaust button on the center console (of course you do), opening up the tailpipe bypass valves and filling the cockpit with even more supercharged stir. Then, because you can, you press another button to raise the rear spoiler (even if you didn’t, above 62 mph it would deploy on its own). You slot the 8-speed automatic into Sport mode; you’re going to shift yourself using the paddles behind the wheel. Finally, you click a central switch into Dynamic Mode, quickening throttle and transmission response, boosting steering heft, and stiffening the chassis. Now you’re ready to attack. Choose a mountain road worthy of this feral cat.
Excitement is the F-Type S Convertible’s calling card. You might look at its $92,920 as-tested price and be inclined to choke, but know that such similarly outfitted premium roadster rivals as the Mercedes SL450 and Porsche 911 Cabriolet go for considerably more. And neither has anywhere near the Jag’s sex appeal. The F-Type is one of designer Ian Callum’s most luscious forms — lean, elegant, athletic, and beautiful from any angle. The coupe is arguably the best-looking F-Type thanks to the rakish swoop of its rear glass. But the convertible — especially with its top down — has a fighter-jet purposefulness all its own, a single-minded sportiness enhanced by those race car-like twin roll hoops and the driving drama only an open-air automobile can deliver.
If you’re looking for a luxury touring machine, the F-Type S probably isn’t your bag. My initial reaction as I began prowling the streets of LA: “Man, this thing is stiff.” Even in standard mode, the chassis beats over road imperfections and really pounds over bigger gouges in the asphalt. There’s good news: thanks to the rigid, aluminum-intensive structure, the Jag itself doesn’t shudder over such rough stuff (indeed, the F-Type is so inflexible out of the box, almost no additional bracing was needed for the topless version). But there’s a downside: it’s the two passengers who get their heads tossed over bumps. Buyers in search of cushy motoring should look elsewhere.
Yet that same chassis sternness delivers big in the Excitement column. Here’s a convertible that simply loves to hustle — the harder, the better. On my favorite Malibu canyon roads, the Jag was nothing short of fabulous: gobs of grip (almost no understeer at all, in fact), stable and predictable moves, electric power-assisted steering (introduced for the 2016 model year) that’s alive and full of cornering feedback. Some of the credit owes to the S upgrades, including a limited slip, an Adaptive Dynamics suspension (which continuously and automatically adjusts damping force to match driving conditions), high-performance brakes, and beefy tires on 19-inch “propeller” alloy wheels.
The supercharged 3.0-liter six and ZF 8-speed automatic (a six-speed manual is available) are equally sport-prioritized. Around town, at low rpm, the powertrain’s mind seems to be elsewhere. For one thing, simply putting the gear selector into Drive can be trying. You have to pull the park-release switch and move the lever at precisely the same time, or the transmission won’t engage properly. (I also experienced this fussiness when sampling the same transmission in the Range Rover Sport HSE Td6. Really, there’s no excuse for such recalcitrant behavior in such a long-ago-perfected maneuver.) And at low revs, the engine doesn’t sound or feel particularly exciting. You could drive a Ferrari around a parking lot and your neck hairs would be standing on end; not so this Jaguar.
Stand on the gas, though, and the car’s personality changes as if you’d stung it with a whip. Suddenly it’s alive, angry, the V-6 screaming with an electrifying yowl, gearshifts snapping off right now, the acceleration blurring the passing scenery as it fills the cockpit with wind and speed. This is why you buy the Jaguar F-Type S Convertible: not to putter around the country club, but to have your senses torched by a thrill ride that dazzles the eyes and stirs the soul with DNA drawn straight from the illustrious E-Type. You can literally feel where the bias of Jaguar’s engineers lies; it’s only when driven with brio that the F-Type’s true personality—its raison d’ȇtre—reveals itself.
Mind you, this convertible is by no means a bare-bones race car. Standard features include touchscreen navigation, a 770-watt Meridian sound system, keyless entry and start, and more. My test car, finished in gorgeous Dark Sapphire Metallic paint ($600), also included performance seats ($1600), extra-sumptuous leather ($2325), and a Premium + Vision package ($3700) boasting everything from a blind-spot monitor to front and rear parking sensors, a rear camera, heated seats and steering wheel, and dual-zone climate control. It’s also worth noting that Jaguar covers the car with a generous 5-year/60,000-mile warranty — including free scheduled maintenance and roadside assistance for the entire term.
This spicy Jaguar isn’t for everyone; it’s simply too strong-flavored. But for those bored by the bland and the commonplace, this sexy, distinctive, bred-to-run two-seater is begging to be uncaged.
2017 Jaguar F-Type S Convertible Specifications
|Engine:||3.0L supercharged DOHC 24-valve V-6/380 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 339 lb-ft @ 3,500|
|Layout:||2-door, 2-passenger, front-engine, RWD convertible|
|EPA Mileage:||19/27 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H:||176.0 x 74.2 x 51.6 in|
|0-60 MPH:||4.8 sec|
|Top Speed:||171 mph|