By Mary Lowry
As if Jaguar’s current crop of cars weren’t already enticing enough, now there’s the F-Type.
It’s a two-seat convertible sports car signifying a sort of homecoming for the brand, reminding everyone that sports cars are Jaguar’s taproot.
In character, the F-Type roadster is most evocative of Jaguar’s esteemed E-Type sports car, which is often ranked among the world’s best. It was produced during the ’60s and ’70s.
To introduce automotive media members to its new arrival, Jaguar chose as its venue the urban wonderland of downtown Seattle, with an extensive drive route which included Mount Rainier National Park and concluded at The Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton for some track and autocross action.
Indications that the 2014 F-Type means business beyond its dazzling good looks are a front-mounted engine, rear-wheel drive and weight-saving measures including an aluminum chassis and soft top. Some driving enthusiasts will bemoan the lack of a manual transmission. Maybe one will be available sometime down the road, but for now, all engines are matched with an eight-speed automatic with manual shift ability, via a shift lever on the center console or paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
There are three different F-Type versions, distinguished by what’s under the hood: F-Type, F-Type S, and F-Type V8 S. The first two versions carry a 3.0-liter supercharged V6, outputting 340 horsepower in the F-Type and 380 horsepower in the F-Type S. The third version has a 5-liter supercharged V8 whose horsepower rating is 495.
Base pricing, not including the $895 destination charge, starts at $69,000 for the F-Type, $81,000 for the F-Type S, and $92,000 for the F-Type V8 S.
Fuel economy ratings are 20 mpg city and 28 mpg highway for the F-Type, 19/27 for the F-Type S, and 16/23 for the F-Type V8 S.
V6 models have twin tailpipes, huddled together and centered, while the V8’s outlet count is four: outboard-mounted, two on each side. The V6 center twin tailpipes are a throwback to the old E-Type.
The F-Type model’s grilles, vents and other external elements are trimmed in satin black, but the trim for both S versions is gloss black. The V8 model is singled out by its flat side sill extensions and front vanes beneath the shark gills.
Standard wheel sizes, listed in the same model order as above, are 18-inch, 19-inch and 20-inch.
Zero-to-60 mph times are 5.1 seconds for the F-Type, 4.8 seconds for the F-Type S, and 4.2 seconds for the F-Type V8 S. The latter has a top track speed of 186 mph.
An active rear spoiler makes its presence known when vehicle speed reaches 60 mph, and goes back into hiding when speed is reduced to less than 40 mph.
Another peekaboo feature is the door handles, which are hidden flush with the door panel until the driver unlocks the car with the key fob or makes contact with the touch-sensitive area on the handle. With that, the handles automatically spring forth, providing what Jaguar describes as a “mechanical handshake.” Once the car is under way, the handles withdraw and the F-Type’s unadulterated and aerodynamic profile is restored.
The convertible top does double duty by serving as a tonneau cover when lowered. It goes up or down in 12 seconds and can be operated at speeds up to 30 mph. Thinsulate is included in the top’s multiple layers for temperature control and noise reduction in the passenger cabin.
The cabin was designed chiefly with the driver in mind, so that controls are intuitive and within easy reach, requiring minimal attention diverted from the primary task at hand: driving. Jonathan Sandys, principal design manager for the F-Type, described its interior as a “cosseting cabin” wrapped around the driver. “We wanted the driver to feel protected,” he said.
Passengers in the other seat weren’t completely overlooked, of course. Among many other features for their comfort and convenience, there’s a large grab handle on the right side of the center console, no doubt for steadying themselves during a driver’s animated moves on curvy roads. The grab handle makes the console asymmetrical, but a handle on the other side would encroach on driver knee room. Not good.
At the F-Type presentation in Seattle, representatives from Jaguar said the F-Type will compete against the Porsche 911 Carrera. One of them threw down the gauntlet by declaring, “We’re taking it on!” In any case, Jaguar predicts that 90 percent of F-Type buyers will be new to the Jaguar brand.
The F-Type roadster is built in Birmingham, England. The introduction of a coupe version is expected sometime next year.