As a Jaguar designer put it at a recent launch event in Seattle for the company’s all-new 2014 F-Type convertible sports car, “Jaguar is not just in the transportation business, but in the entertainment business.”
True, the red-carpet-worthy roadster did co-star alongside Damian Lewis (of “Homeland” fame) and Shannyn Sossamon in a 13-minute promotional action flick from Ridley Scott’s production house. But Jaguar is really about delighting audiences off-screen.
The automaker’s flair for the dramatic arguably started with the XF sedan, which greeted drivers with a “handshake” start-up sequence featuring a pulsing red start button and rising rotary gear selector. Sure, the F-Type has its own startup performance that includes an airplane-inspired needle sweep of the gauges. Engage the Dynamic driving mode, and you are treated to a bit of lighting design, with the cabin scheme going from cool phosphor blue to “battle station red.” But bells, whistles, and light shows aside, the F-Type ultimately entertains where it counts: the road.
I had the pleasure of sampling two of the three F-Type variants: the 380-hp S model ($81,000 MSRP) motivated by a 3.0-liter Supercharged V6; and the staggering V8 S ($92,000 MSRP), propelled by 5.0-liter supercharged V8 making 495 hp. Even in the traffic-choked streets of downtown Seattle, the F-Type immediately made its potent presence felt. Its brilliant, active exhaust system sent burbling growls and snap-crackle-and-popping downshifts reverberating off building facades. On freeway stretches, both models were competent comfort cruisers. In Dynamic mode, the throttle became more responsive, the steering heavier and the suspension more taut. Suddenly, you were driving an asphalt carving, heat-seeking missile – especially in V8 trim, when the F-Type bellows from zero to 60 in 4.2 seconds.
Visually, the F-Type sports a low, muscular stance and short overhangs. The front half seems overly pockmarked by various vents. However, from the windshield to the wide rear haunches, the bodywork is taut, smooth and uninterrupted – including door handles that sit flush with the sheet metal until deployed via the key fob. Inside, the cabin cossets driver and passenger in a sporty, uncluttered, leather-laden environment. It is unabashedly driver-centric, with a prominent center console grab handle sequestering the passenger away from the clean, expensive-feeling switchgear. And although the cloth top stows in a dedicated compartment in 12 seconds, trunk space remains abysmal. Forget a golf bag; you’ll be lucky to stow a weekend bag.
Jaguar describes intended F-Type customers as “free spirits with a progressive and performance-oriented attitude.” Whatever that means, the company is admittedly gunning for the Porsche 911 crowd. Great though it may be, the F-Type – or any other car, for that matter – is unlikely to poach many Porsche purists. However, the vast majority of 911 drivers appear to be men. I suggest that at least a few Porsche purists’ better halves might covet Jag’s latest fast feline for its greater refinement, elegance and panache. Just picture it: a his and hers two-car garage hosting a 911 and an F-Type… Now that’s entertainment!