Some people take the trouble to play vinyl records, shoot film for photography, or shift their car's gears manually. Color me guilty on all counts. Jaguar recognizes this tendency with the 2016 F-Type, which can now be optioned with a six-speed manual transmission. Or put another way, not optioned with the eight-speed automatic.
Those of us who enjoy manual shifting may be disappointed to hear that technology has made us obsolete. Case in point, the F-Type's automatic transmission gets the car to 60 mph a full 0.4 second faster than the manual transmission. That's almost half a second.
So choosing the manual transmission is not a question of performance. But, like dropping the needle into an LP's groove, it's a matter of personal engagement, of enjoying the experience. And the Jaguar F-Type offers a truly grand experience.
Jaguar's design legacy
The 2016 Jaguar F-Type S Coupe, the example I drove, is about the most gorgeous car you can buy today. This two-seater's body shows a low cabin nestled between the big rear haunches. While driving this F-Type, I got more than a few thumbs-ups and admiring looks.
Jaguar designer Ian Callum has said he delved into his personal history with the Jaguar cars of his youth when coming up with the F-type, and I think it's an instant classic. The manual transmission seems a good match for that legacy-inspired design.
Jaguar offers the F-Type as a Coupe or Roadster, and with three different engines, two V-6es and a V-8, although you can't get the manual transmission with the V-8. The base Coupe model goes for $65,995, while the F-Type S Coupe comes in at $78,295 with the manual transmission, $1,500 more for the automatic. Options and the Premium plus Vision package, which brought in a blind-spot monitor, rear-view camera, and adaptive headlights, took the total up to a hefty $95,595.
UK buyers, who can lay claim to Jaguar heritage, are looking at £51,260 for the base F-Type Coupe and £60,260 for the F-Type S Coupe with manual transmission. Prices jump in Australia, where the base F-type Coupe commands AU$129,460 and the F-Type S Coupe manual goes for AU$163,375.
Jaguar is a bit unique among today's automakers in that it uses superchargers on its engines. For the F-Type S Coupe, that means a blower powered by the 3-liter V-6 engine, forcing air into the cylinders for 380 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque. I found it a very satisfying amount of power for everyday driving, and perfectly suitable to the manual transmission.
The linkage for that six-speed manual exhibits a mechanical, sometimes rough feeling at the shifter, but it popped neatly into each gear. I was very impressed how, when braking, the shifter seemed to guide my hand for the downshift. There was no confusion about which gear I wanted to grab.
And while manual shifting requires a little extra work, especially in stop-and-go traffic, I found this one perfectly livable in conjunction with the F-Type S Coupe's light clutch and easily modulated power. A hill-hold feature made the manual transmission even more reasonable for the steep streets of San Francisco.
While the F-Type S Coupe proved fine for mundane, everyday driving, the roar of its sports exhaust and the fine handling afforded by its adaptive suspension begged for more interesting roads. Push a button on the console to open up the baffles in the exhaust system, or just hit the checkered-flag Dynamic mode button which also activates the sports exhaust, hit the gas, and the F-Type S Coupe roars and spits, its twin rear pipes making music for the enthusiast's ear.
The 8.5-foot wheelbase, along with the light, precise steering action, lends to the excellent cornering ability. Turn after turn, I enjoyed the F-Type S Coupe's character, feeling its strong grip on the road and its flat rotation at apexes. The adaptive suspension not only kept the car flat in the turns, but expertly absorbed the jolts produced by bumps in the road, immediately damping them out for minimal impact on the car.
Fussy app integration
Jaguar makes the adaptive suspension standard in the F-Type S Coupe, as it does its InControl infotainment system. Portrayed on an 8-inch capacitive touchscreen in the dash, the system responded well to my inputs. The home screen shows four function areas: navigation, stereo, phone and climate. Arrows on either side let me scroll to see additional functions on supplementary screens.
Most interesting is Jaguar's InControl Apps, an app integration method relying on an Android phone or iPhone running the InControl app. This app enables control of a number of useful apps on the F-Type S Coupe's touchscreen. The supported third-party apps include Glympse, Stitcher, Rdio, CitySeeker and Parkopedia. I wanted to like this integration, but it proved too fussy to work on a regular basis.
Somewhat confusing, one USB port in the console supports regular iOS music device integration, while another USB port supports phones running the InControl app. Once I had my iPhone, running the InControl app, plugged into the right USB port, I hit the InControl Apps button on the touchscreen and too often received a failed-to-connect message.
The F-Type S Coupe's navigation system looks and works reasonably well. It shows maps in plan and perspective view, and includes live traffic for dynamic routing. I was impressed how aggressively it tried to avoid traffic jams. I found the usual destination entry option, such as address and point-of-interest search, but lacking was an integrated online destination search feature. That's a big miss in a car costing close to a hundred grand. Also missing was voice command for the infotainment system.
The InControl App included its own music library feature, letting me access tracks stored on my iPhone through a better-looking interface than the car's own iOS integration. Bluetooth streaming was also available.
Music plays through a standard 770-watt Meridian audio system with 12 speakers, an extraordinarily robust system for the F-Type S Coupe's small, two-seater cabin. The sound was definitely audiophile quality, with extremely clean and balanced reproduction. The equalizer offered subwoofer levels separate from the bass levels, letting me fine-tune the low-end.
The blind-spot monitoring system included in the Premium plus Vision package, which showed an icon in the side mirror to warn of traffic to either side, proved useful because of the low cabin. I would also consider the rear-view camera, which shows trajectory lines and distance warnings, a must-have, considering the limited visibility out of the back window.
Fuel economy isn't the F-Type S Coupe's strong point, coming in at 15 mpg city and 24 mpg highway under EPA testing. That city figure was mitigated by an idle-stop feature that shut down the engine at traffic stops. Although I could turn off this feature easily, I generally kept it on, as the engine fired up right away whenever I pressed the clutch. My overall average came in at 19.9 mpg, giving credence to the EPA figures.
The 2016 Jaguar F-Type S Coupe is a remarkably impractical car. It only fits two in its cabin, requiring some bending to get in, and can't hold much under its cargo hatch. Average fuel economy is mediocre for its size and its stereo has far more speakers than it needs.
And it is very pricey, but just look at the artfulness of its design and that money will seem well-spent. Listen to the roar from the sports exhaust as you slam it through the gears, and you won't want to drive anything else.
The InControl system shows good effort, especially in its responsiveness, but suffers from similar problems as most other automakers infotainment. The app integration in particular seems far too fussy to use on a regular basis and the lack of voice command seems somewhat bizarre. Jaguar has a new infotainment system on the horizon, first coming out in the, but it could be some time before it's seen in the F-Type.
Given its handling, and power, though, the F-Type S Coupe is an exquisite sports car, few can rival its looks.
|Model||2016 Jaguar F-Type Coupe|
|Powertrain||Supercharged direct-injection 3-liter V-6 engine, six-speed manual transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||15 mpg city/24 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||19.9 mpg|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Digital audio sources||Internet streaming, Bluetooth streaming, USB drive, iOS integration, satellite radio, HD radio|
|Audio system||Meridian 770-watt 12-speaker audio system|
|Driver assistance||Blind-spot monitor, rear-view camera|
|Price as tested||$95,595|