Seattle ? When I was a small boy I would often sit in my dad?s recliner when he was at work and pretend I was driving a fast sports car on a winding mountain road?shifting, steering, braking ? and of course, there were sound effects. As I grew older, my imagination advanced and I envisioned myself building the perfect car. I could see its graceful lines, comfortable interior with all the latest gadgets and with performance better than anything else on the road.
The 2014 Jaguar F-Type is that fantasy car, only better than I ever could have imagined. I recently spent several hours actually driving it on that winding mountain road ? no more need for a recliner and a vivid imagination.
Born from a 75-year heritage of performance sports cars the 2014 Jaguar F-Type is an instant legend eliciting, for me, many of the same emotions as the first Jaguar XKE sports car I ever saw.
From its Jaguar family grill and classic long nose to smooth muscular sides and the wide, sophisticated rear end treatment, the F-Type is a modern interpretation of what a sports car should look like. Door handles are smooth to the surface and automatically deploy when the car unlocks or by touching the handle. Functional air vents and scoops are strategically placed to cool and suck in more air.
Design director, Ian Callum capsulizes the F-Type saying, ?Every aspect of a sports car, dimensionally, allows us to create something that is visually exciting; visceral as well as physical. To me the definition of sports car design is being fit for purpose, wrapping up the occupants and mechanicals in the most exciting, beautiful and sensual package possible with no unnecessary surfaces or adornment. A piece of design should tell a story and this is why every line in the F-TYPE has a start, a direction and a conclusion. If you approach every line individually and get it as aesthetically correct as possible, get the dimensions right, it will stand the test of time.?
The interior is like a finely tailored suit, elegant because of its simplicity, fit and luxurious materials. The driver?s tools are precisely placed for my 5-foot 8-inch frame but easily adjusted to my 8-inch taller driving partner. Driver tools include a simple business-like steering wheel with copper colored shift paddles peeking from behind, easily accessible center console and center stack controls topped by an easy-to-use touch screen. The seats envelope and hold the two occupants in comfort. One fun little feature is the center HVAC vent which rises out of the top of the center stack when in use. When the ?in your face? air stops, the vents silently disappear into the top of the dash. The shifter is a conventional-style stick with manual shift gate. The right seat passenger is equipped with much needed handgrips on the center console and door.
The excitement starts when you put your foot on the brake pedal and push the round copper colored ?start? button on the left side of the center console.
When the top is up, the traditional roadster cockpit is covered by a lightweight multilayer cloth top, which includes a layer of Thinsulate? lining for optimal temperature and sound control. The top can be raised or lowered at speeds of up to 30 mph in just 12 seconds. When lowered it creates an attractive tonneau cover so no cover is required.
The engines mounted under the clamshell hood define the three models. A 340-hp supercharged V-6 starts the F-Type lineup and produces a 0 to 60 mph time of 5.1 seconds. The F-Type S has a 380-hp version of the same engine producing a 4.8-second 0 to 60 mph time. At 495-hp, the supercharged V8 S makes the 60 mph run in just 4.2 seconds. Top speeds are electronically governed at 161-, 171- and 186-mph and fuel economies are 20/28-, 19/27- and 16/23-mpg respectively.
Pricing starts at $69,895 for the F-Type. The F-Type S, which is my favorite, has a base price of $81,895 ? fully equipped it can run into the mid $90,000s. And the awesome V8 S starts at $92,895. Everyone agreed the V-8 is the F-Type to buy, but I still had a strong like of the 380-hp V-6 engine.
The most celebrated feature of the 2014 Jaguar F-Type is the exhaust sound. Two center mounted exhaust outlets spewing crisp melodically tones mean it?s a supercharged V-6. A deep rich philharmonic-quality sound from four large exhaust outlets (two on either side) means supercharged V-8.
An active exhaust system, standard on both S models and optional on the V-6, orchestrates the great sound. The electronically controlled bypass valves open under hard acceleration to provide a free-flowing straight-through arrangement. At cruising speeds, the valves close to a more comfortable but still powerful sounding level. Open or closed, the exhaust note is exceptional.
The engine employs fuel saving technologies like an engine Stop/Start system that activates when the car stops for traffic controls. The system is unique, however, in that it will re-fire the engine instantly, even in the middle of a shut down. Should the driver order, ?go.? The process reverses itself and the engine starts. The entire process is smooth and unobtrusive, but can be shut off, too.
All three rear-wheel drive two-seaters are equipped with a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. This transmission is one of the best in the business, and can be tuned by the manufacturer to match the needs of the car. The F-Type transmission tuning is worthy of a Nobel Prize for quick intuitive shifts. On down-shifts, the transmission automatically blips the engine speed to match the cars speed for more precise smooth shifts. The transmission also has a Corner Recognition system that senses when the F-Type is cornering and it holds the correct gear for maximum acceleration out of the corner.
About a foot shorter and 250 pounds lighter than the Jaguar XK convertible, the F-Type uses an innovative aluminum body structure on lightweight aluminum architecture. The key components of the suspension are aluminum as are the engine block and cylinder heads. Many other F-Type parts are made from composite materials like high-strength polymers to save additional weight.
At about 3,600 pounds, the 2014 Jaguar F-Type is no skin and bones model. The frame and body are rock solid with no hint of twist or shake. This translates into the spot on handling which I experienced on rough mountain roads, on a technically challenging high-speed racetrack and through autocross maneuvers.
During the introduction I had the opportunity to drive both the 2014 Jaguar F-Type S and V8 S on a variety of mountain roads while circling Mt. Rainer and then on to the new Ridge Motorsports Park near Shelton, Wash. The Park, which is centered on the 2.5-mile 16-turn road course is one of the most technical tracks I have driven on. The Jaguar F-Type handled the track with its extreme\me elevation changes beautifully and quickly delivering a high level of driver confidence. On the track?s long straight stretch, I saw the speedometer peak at about 140 mph before having to shut down for turn 1.
I also made several laps of a tight autocross course in the parking lot. The car is intuitive and remarkably well balanced.