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Tuesday, November 05, 2013

2014 Jaguar F-Type

PRICE : For 2014 Jaguar F-Type. V6   Engine , 340hp : $69,000
PRICE : For 2014 Jaguar F-Type. V6S Engine , 380hp : $81,000
PRICE : For 2014 Jaguar F-Type. V8   Engine , 495hp : $92,000  

The 2014 Jaguar F-Type brings the leaping cat brand back into the true sports car market for the first time in decades--but does it live up to its legendary lineage
Slotting in just below the XK Roadster and Coupe in the Jaguar range in size and performance, the F-Type nevertheless overlaps the larger XK range slightly in price at its upper end. 

Drawing its design and ethos from Jaguar's legendary D-Type and E-Type, the F-Type manages to spurn any purely retro nods, favoring instead a modern take on the proportions, balance, and essential Jaguar-ness of those classics. As chief designer Ian Callum put it, "this car is for now." 
Available only as a roadster for the time being (though a hardtop coupe is in the works), the F-Type presents a uniquely British balance of performance, style, luxury, and comfort--and, in V8 S form, one of the best exhaust notes on offer. 

The link to the XK is clear, but the F-Type clearly progresses beyond that smoother shape. The F-Type has a relatively tall front end with a large grille opening flanked by dual air intakes and capped by upsized, upswept headlamps, underlined in LED lighting.


First off, I want to say I really liked talking to Wayne Burgess, lead designer of the F-Type. He was very engaging and willing to discuss all manner of ridiculous cars. But what may have impressed me most was that this was the man who designed the modernized London cab, the TX-1. That's some range right there.
The F-Type is a lovely car, with classic front-engine sports car proportions (long hood, short deck) and a nice selection of updated references and callbacks to earlier Jaguar design without ever becoming derivative or cloyingly retro. From the side, there's two main lines that define the car, the long graceful arc of the front hood and then the shorter, pert curve that defines the rear haunches. It's clean, sleek, and has a lot of the elegance we expect from a Jag.

There's minimal surface detailing or jewelry, with even the door handles modestly hiding themselves away when not in use. There's a single side vent (fake) and aside from the wraparound taillights, that's about it. It's pretty understated.
The rear has those great huge exhausts (2 central on the V6, a pair on each side for the V8) and the taillights are really nicely done, hinting at the off-the-shelf Lucas units of the original E-Type. The distinctive lower shape of them illuminates in a little red outline, which is fun.

Up front we have the already discussed hidden TIE-fighter lights, and Jag's new family grille. They made a big point of explaining why they didn't go for a more traditional oval, feeling that brand identity was more important, because apparently people don't recognize Jaguars on the road as much as they'd like. 

There's also a set of brake-cooling intakes that they said referenced sharks, which isn't really surprising. All sports car designers secretly want to drive a shark.


Thanks to the long drive, I got to spend a lot of time in the F-Type. It was closer to a road trip than a press drive at points, so I had a good mix of being a driver, passenger, and even a sleeping passenger at times. Perhaps a sleeping driver, too at one point? I hope not.

Jag says they like to think of the F-Type as a "1+1" instead of a two seater, referencing the very driver-focused nature of the cockpit and the inspiration of the single-cockpit racing Jags of the past. To that end, they've really separated the driver and passenger with a swooping grab handle thing that divides the cabin just to the passenger's side of the shifter.

While this does give the driver a nice cocoon to work in and the passenger a cozy little pod to be installed in, it will limit the amount of getting in on in this car to some furtive, awkward grabbings and open up the danger of gearshifts in sensitive crannies.

The quality of the interior materials is absolutely top-notch. It's like being inside an expensive purse, with pretty much every surface stitched up in leather. There's hardly any bare plastics to complain about at all, and the plastics that are there are high quality. 

There's some little attentions to detail I really appreciate as well, like in the climate control knobs. There's a single adjustment knob for each passenger to set the temperature (push to set seat temp) and the display on it is a very nice multi-segmented VFD thing. They could have just used the 7-segment numbers that most cars would use for this, digital watch or calculator-style. Those work fine. But instead they chose a much more refined system that looks like it came off a Eurorail schedule board, and the result is really satisfying numbers that fit well with the look of the car. A detail, sure, but those add up.

They did a lot to get across the concept of the car as "alive" as well, which is a big Jaguar theme right now: the vents that raise up out of the dash (they say it's to keep the sightline over the dash low, but it's really just for added drama), or how the controls don't display labels until you turn the car on and they all flash into place.

The seat controls are great as well, if in a somewhat unexpected location. You have the buttons-in-seat-schematic form like many cars, but it's high on the door here, and there's even a little rotary knob to adjust how much side bolstering you get. You can make it grip you pretty tight, and in that way it's sort of like an integrated Temple Grandin Hug Machine.

You sit really, really low in the car, and that was intentional, but to Jag's credit, even a short, stubby guy like me could still adjust the seat enough to be comfortable to drive, ride, or sleep.
I'm taking off points because of the timidity of the color palette. Sure, the British Racing Green car has nice tan panels, and there's orange stitching on the orange car, but there's still too much sea-of-black going on, and I'm just sick of all that black and grey in car interiors. This car can certainly pull off some more interesting color options.

Also on the downside is the trunk. Looking at the trunk is like looking at the aftermath of the Battle Of Getting Some Space In Here. It's an oddly irregular volume of narrow passages, tight corners, and a deep well. This is because to get to the ideal 50/50 weight distribution of the car (with a "European driver" — read "not a fatass American") lots had to go into the trunk: the windshield washer resovoir, the battery and yet another battery for the start/stop system.P

They claim there's as much room in there as a 911's trunk, though a 911 also has the otherwise-unused back seat area. You'll be traveling light.


The F-Type is quick. The V8 S version will go from loitering to 60 in 4.2 seconds, and the best of the two V6s does it in 4.8, with the base V6 coming in at a respectable 5.1. On the highway, passing cars on a two-lane road was a satisfying treat instead of the slightly dangerous chore it usually is. Acceleration in the 495 HP V8 from, say, 70 to 110 is terrific, with a strong, unrelenting feeling of building force.

The V6 is no slouch, either, though it just doesn't have the animalistic grunt of the 8. Still, overall, I think I prefer the supercharged V6 because those 380 (for the S, 340 for the base) horses really are plenty to have fun with, and that fun does come at speeds less likely to limit your wardrobe choices to orange jumpsuits


The F-Type has the biggest brakes ever put on a production Jaguar, I’m told, at 15 inches up front and 14.8 in rear, for the V8 version. On the track in the V6, my cunning lack of skill and track-sloppiness allowed me ample opportunity to work the brakes nice and hard, and I found them to be potent and highly controllable. Coming off the straight at 110-120 MPH and braking at 90% force before the upcoming turn gave a firm, predictable, steady feeling of speed being magically turned into heat. 


 I was impressed with how comfortable they managed to make the F-Type when it wasn't being pushed hard. The suspension adjusts dynamically, and when driving along leisurely, the ride's not punishing at all. Bumps are well-damped, there's minimal body roll, your passenger can have a nap, even with the top down. You can drive it for hours and not feel like you've spent time miniaturized and crawling through a running sewing machine.

Over bumpy, undulating pavement, I did find the car could get a bit pitchy, which is likely the effect of the short wheelbase. On some stretches of particularly wrinkly road the car did feel a bit like a canoe in a storm, but I think those situations are pretty uncommon.


 The big news here is that the steering assist for the F-Type is hydraulic, not electric, which makes it an increasing rarity in this modern-crazy-go-nuts age. The engineers pretty much admitted this would likely be the last Jaguar made with such a system as well, but they felt that the feel of electric assists just wasn't quite there yet.

And, after feeling the steering of the F-Type, I see the point. Electric assist has come really far in the past few years, and generally I think it's quite good now, but old-school hydraulics do have a subtle but noticeable difference in feel. There's just the right amount of weight and this slight, almost imperceptible "give" of the resistance that's hard to describe, exactly, but you can tell when you feel it. It's that analog quality I always deride in intense audiophiles, and then become a hypocrite as I talk about essentially the same thing here.

I don't think I'm imagining it, because the steering feels very good on the car. Quick, precise, but not "digital" and with the weight increased in full performance or dynamic or whatever they call it mode, has nice feedback.
Flipping the little aircraft-inspired switch into that performance or sport or dynamic mode does a number of things: changes throttle response, ups the RPM limit for the gears, stiffens the suspension, quickens the turning ratio, and each parameter is individually adjustable, if you really want to dig through some menus. 

I took the V6 on the track and the autocross course on the advice of the pros, who felt that the lighter weight made the car more nimble and a better all-around performer, even with the sacrifice of some straightaway speed. On the very technical track at Ridge Motorsports Park, the trait that stuck with me the most about the car is how forgiving it is.

I'd never been on that track before, and my sucking at performance driving is still pretty impressive, so I made my share of mistakes as I pushed it around the track. I overcorrected at speed at least a few times and felt the back end break a little free, but the process of getting things back in control felt natural and surprisingly easy.

With a 50/50 weight balance, short wheelbase, and wheels near the corners, the F-Type has the elements lots of drivers will love. Well, maybe not "lots" because the average person who buys one of these is statistically pretty unlikely to ever take it on a track, and that's a shame. 


 I'm going to feel like the most predictable, stereotyped clich√© saying this, but I did find myself wanting a pure manual for this car. That's not to say there's anything wrong with the ZF-sourced 8-speed sequential gearbox in the car. It shifts quickly, and seems to make good decisions about when to shift. The paddles are well-located, and using them is pretty intuitive, and the gear changes are rapid manually as well.

So while I can't really complain about how the transmission does its job, I can say that the character of the car would be well-served with a nice 6-speed manual. I found my foot and hands reaching for phantom pedals and knobs, just because it felt right.

I'm pretty sure a manual would actually degrade the performance characteristics of the car, but the decision isn't really a rational one. It's just a feel sort of thing.
My main complaint about the setup is more minor, but no less annoying. Jag was clearly trying to rethink the usual gearshift, and came up with some ideas that sound great on a computer's LCD screen but just don't feel right in practice. 

To get into park, for example, you push a little button on the gearshift. As many times as I did that, I kept finding myself wanted to push the stick all the way forward, like in every other automatic in the known world. And there was a little trigger system for going into reverse, and I think releasing park that somehow always seemed to confound me for a moment — plus the indicator of what gear you're actually in isn't done by mechanical position, but by a little green LED on the stick.


► Engine :-                   - 3L Supercharged V6 / 5L Supercharged V8
►  Power  :-                   - (V6) 340 HP at 6,500 RPM/332 LB-FT at 3,500 RPM / (V6 S) 380 HP at 6,500 
                                      RPM/339 LB-FT at 3,500 RPM / (V8) 495 HP at 6,500 RPM/460 LB-FT at 3,500 RPM
►  Transmission :-         - Eight-speed 'Quickshift' automatic (ZF)
►  0-60 Time :-              - V6: 5.1 / V6 S 4.8 / V8 4.2
►  Top Speed :-             - 186 mph
►  Drivetrain :-               - Rear-Wheel Drive
►  Curb Weight :-           - (V6) 3,521 Pounds, (V6 S) 3,558 Pounds, (V8) 3,671 Pounds
►  Seating :-                   - 2 people (minimal fooling around potential)
►  MPG :-                       - (V6) 20 City/28 Highway, (V6 S) 19 City/27 Highway, (V8) 16 City/23 Highway
►  MSRP :-                     - (V6) $69,000, (V6 S) $81,000, (V8) $92,000 (V8 tested at $109,000)

By : Automotive News & Super Modified Sports Cars

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