"How much power does it have?" was usually the third or fourth question asked by those who stopped me to discuss the F-Type. Most never even got around to the questions, obviously stunned by the beauty of this big cat.
The 2014 Jaguar F-Type is a gorgeous vehicle in any color the automaker paints it, but our Salsa Red example was particularly eye-catching. The roadster sits low, its muscular front fenders and rear haunches not at all unlike the musculature of an actual jaguar growling and ready to pounce without warning. The front end is characterized by a large central grille opening and rearward-swept headlights that remind me of the front end of the largerthat we were able to test not too long ago, only reproportioned for the smaller fascia. Some criticized the front end for being more "catfish" than "cat-eyed" during my testing, but I absolutely love the look.
Though based heavily on the C-X16 coupe concept, the F-Type seems like it was designed to be a roadster, and not converted after the fact. This really shows in the purposeful design of the folding roof. Like a proper British roadster, the cabin is covered with a simple fabric top when the car isn't being driven. The ragtop is motorized and can lower or raise itself in seconds at speeds up to 30 mph.
Some may be surprised to see the automaker not going with a hardtop at this price point, but there are many fabric roof advantages that can be observed in the Jag: When you consider that the whole point of buying a dedicated roadster is to go topless as much as possible, you really just want the roof to get out of the way in the quickest, most unobtrusive way possible. The fabric roof is lighter and allowed the engineers to lower the roadster's center of mass. It's less complicated with far fewer moving parts than most hardtops that I've recently tested. The rag top is also more compact and doesn't take up space in the Jaguar's trunk.
But that doesn't mean that Jag cheaped out on the top. Raise the roof and the thick, multilayer fabric quiets the cabin considerably, blocking the wind's, road's, and even a bit of the raucous V-8's noise and allowing conversation at a civilized volume.
In addition to the roof, there are quite a few motorized bits present on the F-Type, both inside and out. Around back, the decklid gently slopes down to a neat point, hiding a motorized spoiler that raises at 60 mph to reduce high-speed lift and stabilize the car at speed. Door handles, which are sunken into the body for a smooth profile, pivot out of the body when the doors are unlocked to give the driver access to the cabin. Inside the cabin, the center vents for the HVAC system rise out of the dashboard when the vehicle is on and the fans are blowing, and sink back into the dash when not in use for a more finished look.
Settle into the Jaguar F-Type's comfortable, yet supportive sport seats and you won't be disappointed by the level of fit and finish in the dashboard or the cabin. Stitched red and black leather with bright red trim and just the right amount of chrome jewelry cover a well-thought-out, asymmetrical cockpit design that seems to wrap around the driver, putting all of the relevant controls at his or her fingertips.
Giant climate control knobs feature integrated LED displays for the temperature and, with a tap of their centers, double as controls for the two heated seats. Other Jaguar models hid these options deep in the touch-screen menu, so I was pleased to see the automaker simplifying the basic process of picking a comfortable temperature.
Front and center in the dashboard, just below the motorized HVAC vents, is the 8-inch color touch screen that serves as the command hub for the infotainment and navigation systems that come standard at this trim level. Though not disappointing, per se, the F-Type's dashboard tech still lags behind that of the average Hyundai, which is a shame at this price level.
Standard across the F-Type line is hard-drive-based navigation with traffic. The resolution of the onscreen map seems to have increased with this generation and is generally more pleasant to look at. Turn-by-turn directions are clear, easy to understand, and given in a timely enough manner that I didn't find myself panicking to make a last-minute turn. However, during my testing, I didn't hear any text-to-speech spoken street names -- "Turn left onto Broad Street," for example -- and there was no voice command button to be found to initiate spoken address search or hands-free calling.
Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming are also standard and feature address book sync. Other audio sources include standard USB and iPod connectivity, a 3.5mm analog auxiliary input, a CD/DVD player (hidden away in the glovebox), and AM/FM radio. SiriusXM satellite radio and HD Radio tuning are additional options that can be added by checking one box when ordering. If you're like me, and listen to most of your music from digital sources and smartphones, feel free to skip that box.
I did pop in a few CDs to test the Meridian premium audio system and came back disappointed again. This 380W premium sound system features 10 speakers, including what look like a pair of woofers that fire into the small of your back, but somehow managed to return abysmally distorted bass response. While it didn't like hip-hop or (gasp) dubstep, the system seemed to do better with live recordings and jazz, but it never really came into its own; I was never really satisfied with buzzy bass, and, most importantly, the 380W setup didn't sound like a system that belonged in a nearly $100K premium roadster.
You could pay a bit more and step up to 770W Meridian premium surround-sound system with 12 speakers, but I'm not sure if it's worth the extra dough. Fortunately, there was a much better audio system to be found peeking from beneath the rear bumper.
A rear camera is standard and cleverly hidden in the rear bumper, giving a wide view of the area behind the vehicle when reversing. Resolution isn't that great but it gets the job done and you can even manually activate the camera while driving forward, giving a view of the road behind the Jaguar at speed. I'm not sure why you'd want this as the driver, but passengers sure found it visually interesting.
The optional Vision Pack adds audible front and rear proximity detection and Reverse Traffic Detection -- Jaguar's name for its rear cross-traffic alert system -- that audibly beep when an obstruction is being approached while parking or is approaching from the sides when you're reversing out of a parking space. This option also adds a Blind Spot Monitoring system that illuminates an icon in the side mirrors when a vehicle is detected in the blind spot at the rear quarters of the vehicle. With the top down, there is ostensibly no blind spot, but I was thankful to have the system in place during top-up driving, when visibility can be limited. (Yet another reason to keep the top down at all times when driving a sweet roadster.)
There's also the Jaguar standard automatic speed limiter feature, which lets the driver set a maximum speed that can't be exceeded. I've always wondered why anyone would ever want to use such a system, but it was recently pointed out that it's good for those times when you're loaning the car to family members or dropping it off with a valet, as well as for curbing the need for speed that leads to speeding tickets. Fair enough; I'll allow it.