Road test: 2014 Jaguar F-Type S

David Booth and I generally see eye-to-eye when it comes to rating a car, although Sir Motor Mouth is given to a little hyperbole when it comes to describing the driving experience. As such, I have learned to take what he has to say at face value and turn a blind eye to the excess. So it was heading into the road test of the Jaguar F-Type S.

Much to my surprise, and less than a handful of kilometres down the road, I discovered that the flowery prose he had penned, well, was true. It is every bit as good as described and then some. It has stunning style, it has plentiful power and it grips the road as though it has access to its namesake’s claws.

The style is found in every detail, right down to the manner in which the door handles pop out when the car is unlocked. From the obligatory LEDs to the rear spoiler, the curves are sensual and sexy. Squinting at its brilliant orange glow in the bright sunlight, it had the look and proportions of its forebear, the E-Type.

Where things change is the manner in which it drives. While many fawn over the E-Type, the truth was you did not steer it, you kind of guided it in much the same way one coaxes a boat in a general direction. The F-Type is very different — it is lithe, alive and as sharp as a razor in all it does, and this is in the mid-level V6 model.

The all-aluminum body equates to a low curb weight and a very strong structure overall. The strength of the buck shows up in the total lack of cowl shake — an unnerving sensation that makes it feel as though the steering wheel is moving laterally when negotiating a rough road. The lack of body flex and the advanced nature of the suspension bring a car that, as mentioned, feels as though it has claws gripping the tarmac. Dial in some steering and the F-Type darts in that direction without feeling skittish. When pushed, the stability control system does step to the fore to keep things gathered up, but its action is far from intrusive. The adaptive dampers then banish body roll, even at breakneck speeds midway through a corner. There’s also a dynamic mode. It allows the driver to tailor the various parameters according to taste — engine, transmission, steering, suspension and exhaust.

The other place lightweight design comes into play is the power-to-weight ratio. In this case the F-Type S features a 3.0-litre, supercharged V6 that puts forth 380 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque. This means that each horsepower is only motivating 4.2 kilograms of F-Type (the supercharged V8 drops that to an astonishing 3.4 kg/hp), which equates to blistering performance. The zero to 100 kilometres an hour dash comes in at 4.9 seconds, while the more important passing move takes a scant 3.3 seconds. Both are very quick and rewarding. The six also sounds the part, which is a rarity. Sitting on the console is a button that changes the tonal quality of the exhaust. In “quiet”, it is raspy and really only hints at what’s to come. Switch it up and it has a delightfully throaty roar that backfires and burbles under a hard acceleration upshift.

The power is relayed to the rear wheels through an eight-speed manumatic, a limited-slip differential and P295/30R20 rear tires. While the box is a slick-shifting affair, it is not without its shortcomings. During the test, I did learn to loathe the shifter. While it is like a normal unit (and not the rise-up-out-of-the-console sort), it has a small button on the backside of the shifter that must be pressed when shifting between gears. The button is too small and it sits at the wrong ergonomic angle. The other problem, and this is a bigger issue for a sports car, has to do with the paddle shifters. In order to take control of the car through the steering wheel, one must take one’s hand off the wheel and move the shifter to the left to activate the paddles. They should be active all the time. Audi, BMW, Porsche and even Kia get it right. Why not Jaguar?

The cabin is all about the experience. The materials are exquisite, the leather comes from the finest cows and there are some tasteful accents. In this case, orange stitching on the seats and steering wheel along with an amber start button, an orange tip on the lever that switches the F-Type between snow, normal and dynamic modes as well as the paddle shifters. Then there are the seats. They are also superb in the manner in which they hug the riders — the flared shoulder area adds to the support enormously.

With the top up, the F-Type mirrors most convertibles in that the sightlines are very tight. Yes, there’s a camera when backing up, but care is still necessary. That aside, there is little to gripe about. Holding a button sees the soft-top power down in just 12 seconds and, when the ballet is finished, it has a finished look — there is a built-in tonneau. And as the top resides in its own well it also means the cargo capacity does not change with the top’s position. True, the space is limited, but there is enough of it (196.2 litres) to make it reasonably functional.
There are precious few cars that look as good as they drive and vice versa. The F-Type is a dynamic piece either way — fast, fun and a head-turner of the first order sums it up nicely.

The Specs

Type of vehicle Rear-wheel-drive compact convertible
Engine 3.0L supercharged V6
Power 380 hp @ 6,500 rpm; 339 lb-ft of torque @ 3,500 rpm
Transmission Eight-speed manumatic
Brakes Four-wheel disc with ABS
Tires P255/35R20 front; P295/30R20 rear
Price (base/as tested) $76,900/$95,500
Natural Resources Canada fuel economy (L/100 km) 10.8 city, 7.3 highway
Standard features Dual-zone automatic climate control with filtration, power windows, locks and heated mirrors, power tilt/telescopic steering, power driver/passenger seats, leather upholstery, cruise control, 380-watt Meridian sound system with USB/AUX inputs and steering wheel-mounted controls, eight-inch touch screen with navigation and infotainment/set-up functions, Bluetooth, smart key with push-button start, and more.
Options Performance pack ($3,750), 20-inch Turbine wheels ($1,600), Firesand paint ($600), Heated windshield ($350), Wind blocker ($300)

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