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By Bob Gritzinger | Contributor | @bobgritzinger
There are cars, and then there are Jaguars. And then there is the 2014 Jaguar F-Type, a car truly deserving of all the accolades showered upon it since it was introduced in hatchback coupe and convertible form in the past year.
The spiritual successor in both form and function to the fabled E-type from the early 1960s, the F-Type is nothing short of a joy to gaze upon, sit in, hear, and of course, drive. Our test car, an F-Type S convertible, is the middling of the drop-top group, packing a 380-hp, 339-lb-ft supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine. The base F-Type uses the same engine, producing 340 hp and 332-lb-ft of torque, while the F-Type V8 S gets a supercharged 5.0-liter V8 making 495 hp and 460-lb-ft of torque. Based on how quickly the mid-level F-Type S achieves 60 mph (4.8 seconds) with 100 mph coming a few ticks later, we’re not sure the V8 is necessary to save a half a second here or there.
We can attest that the F-Type S is the most pure driving machine in years from Jaguar. Even with the roof removed, the lightweight aluminum-bodied car feels solid, steady and capable under stress, all while retaining a certain buttery smoothness and impeccable predictability that mark the best Jaguars we’ve driven. We drove the car on a series of near perfect sunshine-soaked autumn days and found it perfect top up or down. Around town and on country drives the car is superb with the roof down, and despite some buffeting at speed it’s still possible to hold down brief conversations or hear the beefy 380-watt audio system.
The tease that is a Jaguar starts upon approach. Despite some styling compromises, such as the tall snout demanded by pedestrian crash protection regulations, the F-Type still cuts a dashing line. The convertible’s fabric roof isn’t quite as sharp and sexy as the hardtop, but once it is electronically stowed beneath the rear tonneau cover, the resulting drop-top is the automotive equivalent of “come hither.”
Slipping behind the wheel, the driver’s attention is directed to the pulsating red “start” button on the center console. At a push, the burbling V6 comes to life with an automatic blip of the throttle that tells everyone within earshot that something special is happening. Introverts will blush and tucked beneath their sun visors (you are wearing a hat, aren’t you?), while life-of-the-party types will click the console-mounted toggle switch to “Dynamic” mode to unleash a whole extra level of exhibitionism. That one switch adds steering weight, firms the suspension, sharpens the response from both the throttle and the eight-speed automatic transmission—and seemingly trebles the exhaust volume and its backfiring antics.
Power from the supercharged V6 is immediate and intense, launching the 3,500-pound two-seater from a stop with authority, but also providing ample punch at passing speeds. Supercharged whine is evident but not overwhelming, in part because the active exhaust note is so aurally intoxicating it almost demands repeated downshifts, upshifts, stomps and lifts on the accelerator to make more music.
Besides the boost in engine output, the S version adds adaptive suspension to measure and adjust to road conditions and driver inputs, a limited-slip differential to direct power to the rear wheel with grip, and launch mode, which allows for maximum traction and acceleration from a standing start. While the latter doesn’t come into play in daily driving, the former certainly help keep the F-Type planted and predictable, allowing for an enjoyable level of tail-out cornering without any drama. More powerful brakes on the S provide assured and smooth stopping power. Steering is direct with a good on-center feel, and is adjustable for a relatively lighter feel, though even the lighter steering will seem heavy to most drivers.
The F-Type S starts at $81,000 (plus $895 destination); our premium tester including extra leather, performance seats, heated seats and steering wheel, and handy blind spot monitors, parking sensors and rear-view camera clocked in at $91,228. That’s pricey, but it’s as close to perfection as you might find in a luxury sports car.