2014 Jaguar F-Type review: Jaguar's powerful roadster is a pricey exotic pet
"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 larger Jaguar XKR-S that 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.
Engine and power train
Jaguar F-Type models can be had with Supercharged V-6 engines that output 340 and 380 horsepower, respectively, at the base and S trim levels, but lift the F-Type V8 S's forward-hinged, clamshell hood to be greeted with a 495-horsepower, 460-pound-feet-of-torque-generating 5.0-liter Supercharged V-8 engine -- or rather, the plastic shroud that covers it.
It'll cost you $92,000 to get your foot in the door, but if you want the most powerful model, this is the one to get. Personally, I think I might have been happy with F-Type S' V-6, as I was almost never able to take full advantage of the nearly 500 horsepower on the public roads during testing. Your mileage may vary.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Model||2014 Jaguar F-Type|
|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|
|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|
|Price as tested||$102,325|