2014 Jaguar F-Type S V6
– Strong powertrain
– Cabin space and features
– Tight handling and brakes
– More expensive than you think
– Lacking steering feel
– Barely useful boot space
Jaguar is on a drive to “youth-anise” their brand nowadays, increasingly ditching their traditional designs in favour of futuristic ones that would appeal to the new generation. Remember the X-Type, their first attempt at targeting younger buyers? It was designed to look like a shrunken XJ, which itself looked roughly the same for about two decades. Now it’s all about pointy headlights and plunging rooflines with the latest XJ, XF and XK models. However, Jaguar felt the need to enter a new niche, this time aiming squarely at Porsche, possibly for the first time in their half-a-century existence, with the all-new F-Type.
Truth be told, we haven’t been following the development of the F-Type at all, and like the general public, assumed it is some sort of entry-level roadster in the vein of the BMW Z4, the Mercedes-Benz SLK and, heck, the Porsche Boxster. But while it’s a lot smaller than the Jaguar XK, the sleek F-Type is larger than those German roadsters, and actually sits cleanly between the Boxster and the new 911 Carrera in terms of size and price.
The head-turning F-Type looks like nothing else on the road, at least in its price bracket, and is all the better for it. There is absolutely nothing to complain about on its styling, with its blacked-out vents and 19-inch alloys, as specced out for our tester. The look can be mildly customised in terms of wheels, trim and paint, but if you go for a V6 model, like ours, you get the twin exhaust tips in the middle of the rear bumper, as opposed to four outlets in the V8 model, with twin tips on either end of the bumper.
The cabin is a departure from other Jaguars as well, with a driver-centric dashboard that has a built-in handle for the passenger to hold onto during spirited cornering. The entire dash is a combination of soft-touch materials, aluminium and stitched leatherette, both extending down the centre-console as well as along the doors, with not a bit of wood in sight. None of the surfaces are padded under the leather though, just like in any Porsche, and there are slivers of hard plastic here and there, so it’s a bit of a step down in terms of ambience if you’re used to an XK’s almost Bentley-grade cabin.
The F-Type convertible only seats two, but there’s no shortage of space. Our tester was fitted with optional heavily-bolstered sports seats. They’re leather-upholstered, somewhat firm, and offer limited power-adjustability, with the horizontal-sliding adjustment still done manually. The flat-bottomed steering wheel is thick-rimmed and power-adjustable. There are various storage spaces, such as small cubbies, two proper covered cup-holders, and a good-sized glove-box. But the boot is surprisingly shallow, even without the optional spare wheel, to the point where you cannot be sure if your small weekend suitcase will fit. They do claim it can fit a golf-bag at least, assuming you swing that way.
The touchscreen system has very pretty graphics, with shortcut buttons along the sides, and get the job done quicker than the annoying rotary-dials that others use. The strong CD/MP3 stereo has Bluetooth streaming and audio support. The dual-zone a/c is fairly good in August weather, and comes with nice big knobs instead of stupid little buttons. Further features include navigation, Bluetooth phone, cruise control, smart keyless entry and start, bi-xenon headlights, LED marker-lights front and back, several airbags and more.
As is typical of Jaguar nowadays, there’s a fair number of gimmicks as well, such as the central a/c vents that electrically pop up from the dash on start-up, the heartbeat-like pulsating light on the starter button, and the motorised door handles that pop out of the doors on unlocking. Oddly enough, the F-Type forgoes the pop-up dial gear-selector found in other new Jags in favour of a traditional shift-knob.
There are two versions of the supercharged 3.0-litre V6, ours being the higher-tuned one, as denoted by the “S” badge on the grille. Making 375 hp at 6500 rpm and 460 Nm of torque at 3500 rpm, it’s mated to a paddle-shiftable 8-speed automatic that’s fairly quick in its responses and even holds gears in cornering. The most remarkable bit is the grunty noise it makes. The exhaust note is raucous, made even louder once it opens up at the press of a button, and then it sounds absolutely like an angry supercar.
The aluminium-intensive F-Type weighs in at 1614 kg. With a mildly tyre-spinning launch, we managed a 0-100 kph time of 5.8 seconds, almost a second off the claimed figure, but still plenty quick nonetheless.
Burbling along while burning fuel at an average of 14.6 litres/100 km, the F-Type is easy to live with, but not the most comfortable of cars. It has adaptive suspension, but it still rides a fair bit on the firm side. All-round visibility is pretty good, thanks in part to the rear camera. Engine hum is always present at any speed. Wind noise becomes prominent at 120 kph with the roof still up, and it’s an absolute tornado around your head with the roof down, even with the windows up and the wind deflector propped up between the seats. We couldn’t leave the F-Type’s top down for too long due to dry eyes and possible hair loss. Amazingly, a Boxster’s cabin is much more civilised with the top down, although Porsche seems to be the only roadster-maker who’s figured out how to do so.
But heck, the point of the F-Type is that it isn’t a rival to the comfier XK. Whereas our XK comes off as a leather-lined muscle-car, the F-Type is a true sports car. The fat quick-ratio steering wheel is well-weighted, and so sharp that you can take certain corners by just twitching your wrist. The swift-shifting transmission is one of the better automatics out there, once it’s switched to “dynamic” mode. In fact, the sportier mode improves throttle response as well, reducing the stupid rubbery delay when taking off from idle in “normal” mode. A small rear spoiler pops up at speeds above 95 kph.
The “dynamic” mode also firms up the steering further, but it doesn’t help improve its very limited feedback. So while the 245/40 front and 275/35 rear rubbers offer immense grip, you have to go by instinct to make full use of that grip on curves, or to bring the rear back in line when it finally steps out under power. There is so much grip though, that the car moderately understeers if thrown too fast into a corner, but heavy use of the throttle is needed to break out the rear tyres with the stability-control off. It’s a handful, but catching the slide isn’t too hard, especially since the driver sits so close to the rear tyres and feels everything underneath. There’s an electric parking-brake button instead of a proper handbrake, so if you like sideways shenanigans, putting the pedal to the metal is the easiest way to do it.
If things get too hairy, there’s the superbly strong brakes. The huge discs showing through the alloys are easily modulated with the nicely-weighted pedal. Frankly, it stops better than any Porsche in recent memory, so that’s score one for Jaguar, in what is largely a draw match.
So is the Jaguar F-Type as sporting as the best out there? It certainly is, especially considering Porsche’s new-found love for electric steering and parking brakes puts them on a level playing field with the Brits in terms of driver involvement. A Boxster S is slower but a bit easier to manoeuvre at the limit due to its mid-engined platform and smaller size, but the F-Type should easily hang with a 911 Carrera. Granted, the F-Type isn’t as practical or comfortable as a 911, but hey, it looks and sounds a lot cooler.
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