For car lovers, the first reaction to news that Jaguar was again introducing a proper sports car must have been, "What took so long?" (This surely was followed by concerns that the new roadster might detract from the iconic E-Type's legacy.) After spending the holidays with the F-Type, we're here to say: It's a gift that keeps on giving.
Appearance: Jaguar calls the F-Type the "spiritual successor to the E-Type," which was the epitome of 1960s cool and is considered one of the most beautiful cars ever made. The two-seater is smaller than it looks in photos, with styling cues that invoke the E-Type, such as the long nose, chrome-trimmed black-mesh grille and hood bulge and hood vents. The F-Type's sweptback headlights are underscored by sharp "J-Blade" LED accent lights. Our tester came in the eye-catching Firesand Orange Metallic, an attention-getter. The rear of the F-Type is wider and the sheet metal curves up along the wheel wells. Very sexy. The fabric convertible top opens in 12 seconds and can be raised and lowered at speeds of up to 30 mph. The top tucks away compactly, revealing roll bars for the occupants.
Performance: Sadly, there's no manual transmission available — yet. The 8-speed QuickShift transmission (with paddles) lives up to its name, especially in Dynamic Mode. It's one of the smoothest we've encountered. The convertible comes in three supercharged trim levels: F-Type (V-6, 340 horsepower), F-Type S (V-6, 380) and F-Type V8 S. Our tester was the third, which puts out 495 horses and 460 pound-feet of torque. This power, coupled with the car's all-aluminum body and relatively light weight (about 3,600 pounds for the V-8), makes for a visceral experience with the top down and the Active Exhaust engaged. The 0-to-60 time is estimated at 4.2 seconds, and twice that speed seems to come a few ticks after. In city driving, the F-Type is fairly well-mannered, but when you put the hammer down, you'll feel the car getting a bit jittery before the traction control kicks in. The steering is responsive and provides good feedback, and the roadster remains composed even under hard cornering. As for the Active Exhaust, which uses bypass valves, it may be one of the roughest and most menacing car sounds we've heard: a cacophony of barks and pops that sounds like small-arms fire. Overkill? Maybe, but we loved it.
Interior: The two-seat cabin is all about the driving experience: It's simple, comfortable and, especially with our tester's Leather Pack option package, well-appointed. The controls are all within easy reach and are a mix of large rotary dials, switches and an 8-inch touchscreen. Even the cockpit's most striking feature — the active center vent — is designed to reduce cabin clutter: When the climate control is turned on, it rises from the dash, then lowers when the system is turned off. We like that the 14-way seat controls are on the door, much like in a Mercedes. This is especially practical in a tight cockpit. Now, about the storage space: If you're looking for some, then this isn't your car. The trunk is small — a laughable 7 cubic feet — but then it is a convertible.
Our 3 favorites
Details: The door handles pop out when the car is unlocked, or when you press a button, for a sleeker profile.
Exhaust: You, if not your neighbors, will love the gurgling, popping race-car symphony.
Cachet: It's great to have Jaguar back with a pure two-seater.
Design: A very sexy convertible with elegant lines and sharp lights.
Handling: Corners like it's on rails.
"Eco" button: Push it to turn off the auto start/stop mode, which restarts with a rough shudder.
The bottom line: The F-Type loudly announces itself as a serious competitor to sports cars such as Porsche's 911 and Cayman, and even Chevy's new Corvette Stingray. It's a winner. We can't wait to try the new coupe version due out this year.