The thing about Jaguars is that they are more than just cars, they’re objects of passion. There’s a worldwide cult of Jaguar fanatics who have stayed true to the marque through all its travails. These fanatics drove Jaguars in the dark days when they were so poorly engineered that nothing worked, joking all the while that they really needed two Jaguars…one to drive while the other was being serviced. They drove them when Ford bought the company and dumbed down the cars (although Ford’s introduction of the mid-size S-Type proved enduringly popular. Production ended in 2008 but there are still a lot of S-Typed tooling around.) Then Tata Motors bought Jaguar and after pouring in a bloody fortune, brought out the XF, XK and XJ…all greeted with great enthusiasm by Jaguar’s devoted coterie.
Even the market for classic vintage Jaguars is remarkably strong, most particularly for the E-Type or XKE, as the 60% of production that got shipped to the U.S. were badged. Since its debut in 1961, many car aficionados consider the E-Type the ultimate triumph of automotive design. No less a personage than Enzo Ferrari pronounced it “the most beautiful car ever built”. It was the machine that defined Jaguars image and catapulted the company to the top level of luxury auto makers. It probably came as close as anything could to the philosophy of William Lyons, Jaguars founder, to make his cars “the closest thing we can create to something that is alive.”All of which makes Jaguar’s introduction of its successor, the long-awaited F-Type an event of no small significance. One can only imagine Jaguar’s design director Ian Collum’s trepidation when faced with the task of designing the vehicle that would update and replace this icon. Jaguar has not offered a true 2-seater drop-top sports car in decades and Callum admits that the biggest response to the project came from Jaguar fans questioning the relationship the new model would have to the E-Type. What Callum and his team accomplished is the creation of a car that succeeds on its own terms. The F-Type is not retro and even though there is some homage to the E-Type in the body lines, it looks both new and classic at the same time.
Three models will be offered: the F-Type at $69K with a 3-liter supercharged 340 HP V6 engine that reaches a top speed of 161 MPH and sprints from 0-60 MPH in 5.1 seconds.The next level up is the F-Type S at $81K with a 380 HP Vg engine that cranks out a top speed of 171 MPH and makes 0-60 MPH in 4.8 seconds. Top cat is the F-Type V8S at $92K with a big 5-liter supercharged 495 HP V8 engine that gives you a top track speed of 186 MPH and gets off the 0-60 MPH mark in 4.2 seconds. The supercharged engines also allow the F-Type superb merging and passing capability. Even the 340 HP V6 model will get from 50-75 MPH in a mere 3.3 seconds and it’s comforting to know that if you need to really move it, the power to do so is there and ready. All three models use Jaguar’s new eight-speed “Quickshift” automatic transmission but manual control is available via steering wheel-mounted paddles or a console selector.
The interior fittings of a Jaguar are always plush but in the F-Type, the asymmetric cabin layout is a new concept. The asymmetry creates a “driver environment” in which essentially, the driver and the drive controls are cocooned in a cockpit separated from the passenger side by a center console grab handle. Further delineation is created by using different finishes in the driver and passenger areas, including completely different grains on top of the instrument panel and center console. In a switch from the usual mode of watchmakers stealing design cues from cars, in the top two F-Type models the main controls are highlighted in orange, like the hands in a diver’s watch. The driver’s seat position is also a full 20mm lower in the F-Type than that of the XKR-S, Jaguar’s other speedster. The lowered seating posture allows the driver more “feel” of both the car and the road and confirms that the F-Type is meant for serious driving.
Although Jaguar has always offered the widest and most interesting range of exterior colors on the market (making it a favorite car for women who seem to be more tuned into that than most men) the F-Type colors are sadly the basics. It’s all ho-hum black, white, gray or red however, for an extra $1,500, you may order British Racing Green Metallic and it’s probably worth it. There are four roof colors and the console may be ordered in one of three shades of aluminum. You may opt for sport or performance seats and for 20” blade wheels at a tidy $4,500 to replace the boring 18” Vega wheels that are standard. The options tend to mount up so quickly that the MSRP becomes a distant memory. See for yourself on the Jaguar website, www.jaguarusa.com where an interactive program will allow you to design your own F-Type. Or just maybe, consider a restored XKE?