2014 Jaguar F-Type review:

Jaguar's powerful roadster is a pricey exotic pet

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Regardless of your engine choice, torque flows through a single-option, eight-speed ZF automatic transmission on its way to the rear wheels. Fortunately, the F-Type isn't equipped with that weird Drive Selector knob that other modern Jaguars use to change gears -- in its place, the F-Type has a very BMW-esque shift lever that returns to center after each shift and features a thumb button for parking. I'd have liked to see a standard transmission with manual shifting and three pedals, but drivers will have to make do with the F-Type's Sport program and manual shift mode with paddle shifters.

To the left of the shift knob is a small copper switch that allows the driver to also select between Snow and Dynamic driving programs. Snow adjusts the throttle and power delivery to generate maximum traction in slippery conditions. Dynamic mode does the opposite, sharpening the throttle response, boosting power, and loosening the traction control's grip on the chassis for a nimbler driving experience at the track.

In the case of our V8 S model, Dynamic mode also firms up the adaptive suspension, adjusts the transmission's shift points, and tightens up the hydraulic power steering. It also opens up the bypass valves on the Active Sport Exhaust for freer exhaust flow and what Jaguar calls a "rich, deep tone." I call it freaking loud. Trust me, you won't want to activate this last system when cruising the streets of your neighborhood -- unless you like being the douchebag in the Jag who annoys his neighbors. However, on the open road, the Active Sport Exhaust adds an extra level of thrills to the driving experience, roaring loudly when you dip into the accelerator and popping and burbling when you lift off to brake or shift.

Other go-faster goodies exclusive to the F-Type V8 S include even bigger Super Performance brakes than the V6 S's already enlarged stoppers, a limited-slip differential on the rear axle that offers more grip when launching than the standard open differential, and a launch control system that shaves a few fractions of a second off of your 0-60 run.

Drivers also have the option to spec Configurable Dynamic Mode when outfitting their F-Type. This module of the infotainment system allows drivers to customize the settings of the steering, suspension, engine, and transmission when the Dynamic Mode switch is thrown. Want the engine and suspension to come alive, but the transmission to take it easy when driving on back roads, here's where you can specify your own configuration in a manner similar to using Audi's Individual setting on its Drive Select system.

These days, every vehicle has to at least make an attempt at being more fuel-efficient, even impractical roadsters, so the Jaguar F-Type comes standard with stop/start tech, which shuts down the engine while idling at traffic lights and reignites when you lift off of the brakes. The engine's starting and stopping weren't annoying from the driver's seat and I was pleased with how smooth Jaguar was able to make the transition. However, outside of the cabin, I kept seeing people shooting me surprised and disapproving glances when the big V-8 barked itself awake at every traffic light. I met their glares with a smile and a "haters gonna hate" attitude, but drivers who want to keep the cat's roar to a minimum in parking garages and on crowded boulevards can disable the system with a console button.

Light weight, stop-start, and eight forward gears help the Jaguar V8 S to reach an EPA-estimated 16 city, 23 highway, and 18 combined mpg. The Supercharged V6 option is good for 20 city, 28 highway, and 23 combined, which isn't half bad and yet another reason why I think I might be happier with the base or S trim levels. If you need better economy than that, perhaps I could interest you in a 2013 Mazda Miata -- even then you're only looking at 25 combined mpg. Good show, Jaguar.

Driving impressions
I liked looking at the Jaguar's exterior, but I loved the driving experience while piloting the roadster up the Pacific Coast. (It's truly a shame that you can't look at it and drive it at the same time.)

The steering felt hefty and direct and had that great hydraulically assisted feel that I haven't felt in a long time. Meanwhile the adaptive suspension was firm, but not at all punishing. It may be touted as competition-ready, but roadsters such as this excel when driven in a more laid-back manner, so comfort is important. Thanks to high handling limits, you'll find that laid-back in the Jaguar still translates to way faster than the average. Maybe it was the angry fascia with its LED accents, the barking of the V-8 as I downshifted when slower traffic presented itself, or perhaps they just wanted a better look at this red beauty, but I was grateful for every driver that pulled aside to let me pass during my back-roads testing.

Throttle feel and responsiveness in the Dynamic mode were great -- with 460 pound-feet of torque on tap, they'd better be -- and though the shifts of the manual shift mode were crisp, I found that the Sport program was more than good enough for a back-roads blitz.

As much as I loved the "brrRRAAAAAAP, pop, POP" of the Active Exhaust when the vehicle was set up in its most aggressive mode, I found the noise to be perhaps too ostentatious when driving around downtown San Francisco and on the highways surrounding. The car was simply too loud for discreet bending of the speed limit, so I was grateful for the quieter, yet still powerful, standard drive and exhaust modes.

Sure, the radio sounds like crap, but that's okay when you've got the soundtrack of the Active Sport Exhaust to pick up up the slack for the subwoofers. Sure, there's no voice command on the navigation, but the cabin is probably too windy and loud at speed for you to use it anyway. Tech is a bit of an afterthought here, but you can tell that Jaguar's put a lot of time into the F-Type's driving experience and cabin comfort.

In sum
It's similar in size and mission to the Porsche Boxster, the BMW Z4, and the Mercedes-Benz SL Roadster, yet is nearly as fuel-efficient as a Mazda Miata. It's a gorgeous yet tasteful ride that will turn heads and net you compliments. It's loud and lurid when it needs to be and a ton of fun when the road opens up and shows you its curves. There's a hell of a lot to like about the 2014 Jaguar F-Type Roadster, particularly in its top V8 S trim.

The F-Type starts at $69,000, but our F-Type V8 S leaps up to $92,000 with its larger engine and array of go-faster goodies and gubbins. We've also got the $2,100 Vision Pack with its safety features, the $2,950 Performance Pack with its configurable Dynamic Mode, $3,423 in Extended Leather and Colored Premium Leather Seats, $1,400 for the Premium pack's automatic climate controls and heated seats and steering wheel, and $450 for HD and satellite radio.

F-Type by Michael Alan Ross
She's an impressive beast, but the price makes even the Porsche Boxster seem like a deal. Michael Alan Ross

To be fair, the V8 S stands head and shoulders above the competition from Porsche and BMW where power and price are concerned -- a fairer and more favorable comparison would be with one of Jaguar's V-6 models -- and at $102,325 as tested, the F-Type pushes into the lower reaches of Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet territory, where things start looking dicey for the British roadster.

Even stepping down to the base V-6 model doesn't save a ton of money. The F-Type is more expensive than the BMW Z4 sDrive35is and the Porsche Boxster S and only gets pricier when you add on the options. You could argue that the Jaguar is better-looking and more powerful than the more tech-savvy BMW, but the fact that the midengined Porsche is the better value simply boggles the mind.

Tech specs
Model 2014 Jaguar F-Type
Trim V8 S
Powertrain 5.0-liter supercharged V-8, 8-speed automatic transmission, RWD, limited-slip differential
EPA fuel economy 16 city, 23 highway, and 18 combined mpg
Observed fuel economy Not tested
Navigation Standard
Bluetooth phone support Standard
Disc player Single-slot CD/DVD
MP3 player support Standard analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, USB connection, Bluetooth audio streaming, iPod connection
Other digital audio Optional SiriusXM satellite radio, HD Radio
Audio system 10-speaker Meridian audio system, 380W
Driver aids n/a
Base price $92,000
Price as tested $102,325

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