I hereby nominate the Jaguar F-Type for best sounding engine of the year!
|1. Three engines are offered, a supercharged V6 with 340 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque, an uprated supercharged V6 S model with 380 hp and 339 lb-ft of torque as well as a supercharged V8 S model with 495 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque.
2. 0-60 times are listed at 5.1, 4.8 and 4.2 seconds respectively with a top speed of 186 mph for V8 S models.
3. Both V6 S and V8 S models come standard with a sport exhaust system and Configurable Dynamics which allows for customization of the steering, throttle and transmission response.
4. Starting at $69,000 pricing rises to $81,000 for the V6 S and $92,000 for the V8 S.
Somewhere amid sharp elevation changes on the circuitous roads around Mount Rainier in Washington State I approach a tunnel entrance that appears almost like a natural part of the landscape. Cutting through the mountainside, large stones frame the black abyss inside, the fresh asphalt leading to the inevitable.
I drop into 3rd and lay on the throttle.
The sport exhaust, equipped as standard on the mid-level 380 hp supercharged V6 engine, revs up freely with instantaneous reaction from the paddle-shifted 8-speed automatic while simultaneously delivering a flatulent bruuump similar to what you’ll hear in an AMG.
Top down, the glorious and sophisticated exhaust note penetrates my inner ear and goose bumps quickly run up my forearms.
Perhaps it’s the sudden chill from inside the mountain. My body tells me it’s something more.
Driving the F-Type is an emotional experience.
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Like a bullet out of a barrel the brilliant orange (Firesand Metallic) F-Type launches back out onto the open road, the exhaust note chasing closely behind, dramatically multiplied by this sound canon. Shattering the natural silence of the forest it’s so shockingly loud I’d feel embarrassed for disturbing the peace were there anyone around to judge my moment of hedonism. I half expect to see the branches of the sky-high Douglas Firs blowing in the F-Type’s wake as I let off the throttle delivering yet another aural treat of gurgles and a cacophony of successive pops.
And that is just the V6!
The supercharged V8 trades some smoothness of tone for added grunt with an even more raspy sound. And it’s louder! Laying hard on the throttle the 5.0-liter engine is so raucous it had me wondering how this could be legal.
PURITY OF DESIGN
And the F-Type looks just about as good as it sounds. A true victory for Jaguar design chief Ian Callum, the first Jaguar sports car in half a century is an original masterpiece overlaid with small details inspired by its predecessor, the E-Type; a car Enzo Ferrari once referred to as the most beautiful car ever made.
Of note, the LED taillights have a unique design inspired by the E-Type’s units, though with a decidedly modern twist.
Up front, J-shaped LED daytime running lights, soon to be incorporated into the rest of the brand’s products, signify this is a Jag, while the front end shifts design strategy from past two doors; instead deciding to opt for an elongated version of the grille used on the brand’s sedans.
Speaking at the car’s launch event in Seattle, Wayne Burgess, Jaguar’s Studio Director and Callum’s right hand man, says that with Jag being such a low volume automaker, the decision was made to offer consistency among the design of its cars to help grow brand recognition.
When an automaker lands a world-class designer they listen to him. Even the engineers have to. Bowing to his will to make this car as visually clean as possible there are no door handles sticking out. They’re hidden. There’s also no dramatic spoiler sticking off the back. In a case of function following form, this car’s wing rises from the tail automatically at 60 mph, leaving a clean profile when parked.
With the top open it blends seamlessly into the rear bodywork in just 12 seconds. Designed to look good with the soft top up and down, like all beautiful things, it’s best viewed topless.
An interesting way to distinguish V6 from V8 models is to look at the exhaust. Unique dual center-exit pipes highlight the rear of the standard 340 hp supercharged V6 model and 380 hp V6 S, while the 495 hp supercharged V8 S boasts two pipes on each outboard side.
INTERIOR ABOUNDS WITH VISUAL TREATS
Callum believes that any great design can be penned in two or three strokes and that theory is evident in the F-Type’s simple lines. The car’s interior, however, is a different case and features a long list of design cues to be appreciated.
Highlights include the anodized bronze metal for things like the Dynamic Mode switch and paddle shifters. Unfortunately you might confuse these bits with plastic as they’re coated in a grippy rubber surface that cheapens the experience somewhat.
There’s also the J-shaped passenger grab-handle. More than just a way for your wife or girlfriend to hang on, it’s design to be both a physical and visual barrier, separating the passenger and putting the focus on the driver.
A gimmick, but a cool one, are the air vents that sit atop the center stack. Hidden from view when off, they rise up when the car is turned on with a fighter jet feel.
Aeronautical motifs come into play elsewhere with the center stack instrumentation lighting up in sequence from top to bottom like a systems check, while that Dynamic Mode toggle switch, located to the left of the gearshift, is also fighter-jet inspired.
As for the shifter, gone is the dial knob from past models that rises from the center console. A cool feature of Jags past, its novelty has long since worn off and its operation was always sub-par, with the movement of selecting a gear as smooth as drinking oatmeal through a straw.
The new stick (similar in design to what BMW uses) is just one part of a major design update to this Jag’s interior. There’s little carryover from the rest of the range, emphasizing the uniqueness of the product and the seriousness (and investment) Jaguar put into creating it.
A criticism we do have is that base models are (somewhat expectantly) less lavish. In fact, the most affordable version comes with manual seat operation to adjust fore and aft. Fully automatic ones are available, but really should be standard.
Along with the expectantly high-grade material quality, design and craftsmanship, surfaces are coated in modern accents and there’s a refreshing absence of chrome. About the only area that’s not all-new is the telematics system, which while looking somewhat dated, is at least easy to use.
An addition to the touch screen interface is a new section for the Configurable Dynamics program (standard on S and V8 S models) that allows for customization of the steering, throttle response, transmission and adaptive suspension.
There’s even a lap timer and g-meter. A hint at the car’s overall performance, does it deliver?
PICKING UP WHERE IT LEFT OFF
Some might characterize Jag’s other two door, the XK, as a sports car; but it’s not. And linking a section of high speed corners together at the 16-turn, 2.5-mile Ridge Motorsports Park in the F-Type, it’s easy to see why this is.
Combining a light weight (starting at just around 3,500 lbs), a short wheelbase, a wide track and a rigid chassis with direct steering the F-Type responds to inputs with haste. You sit 20 mm lower than in even the XKR-S, offering a connected feel to the road.
It also delivers an excellent level of chassis balance, thanks it part to the relocation of the battery and washer fluid to the trunk. Unfortunately this means there’s precious little room there for anything else.
An oddity amongst models is that V6 versions make use of a mechanical limited slip differential to help lay down the power while V8 models use an electronic setup with dual programs: a less-intrusive version for street use and a more aggressive program for the track.
DOES THE AUTOMATIC RUIN EVERYTHING?
But Jaguar’s sports car comes with a catch: only one transmission is offered. It’s an automatic, and not one of those fancy dual clutch units either.
Using the same 8-speed box found in several BMW products this might be the best use of it yet. On the street, it responds immediately to shifts from the paddles, or drop it into Sport mode and just drive it with your foot. It’s superbly designed to react to your wishes, with 25 built-in programs designed to match your driving style and even sense the grade of the road. As much fun as a stick shift would be, few can ask or demand more than this auto-box can deliver.
On track it’s not as aggressive as, say, the Porsche 911’s PDK and fractions of a second are lost here and there. They really are fractions though.
Without a manual or dual-clutch setup, it was hard not to anticipate driving disappointment with the F-Type. When has an automatic delivered anything but? Thankfully, and surprisingly, this automatic does not dilute the F-Type’s spirit.
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We’d wager a comparison with a Porsche still might not go in the Jag’s favor, although the F-Type is designed to offer performance on par with a 911 for 25 percent less – starting at just $69,000 for the base 340 hp model. In the Jag’s corner is that intoxicating exhaust note and a look that simply puts the 911, cabriolet models in particular, to shame.
With a 50 year gap (or should we say chasm), since it last built a sports car, Jaguar has picked up just where it left off.