The 2015 Jaguar F-Type resurrects Jaguar as a builder of sports cars. It’s a two-seat performance automobile that simultaneously provides the luxury and interior quality Jaguar is known for, yet respects the brand’s heritage as a sports car manufacturer.
I’ve been at this “writing about cars” business for a surprisingly long time. In almost twenty years, I’ve driven some truly amazing automobiles, from the ultimate luxury cars to bleeding edge performance. But in that time, I’ve only come away from a scant number of cars that I really wished would be permanently parked in my garage. Actually, up until this week, that number was “One,” and the car was the cult favorite 1999 BMW M Coupe.
As I watched the Jaguar F-Type roll out of the driveway, that number officially doubled to two.
On paper, I shouldn’t like the F-Type that much. Sure, its all-aluminum body is flat-out gorgeous from every angle, but a 340hp V-6 lashed to an automatic transmission wasn’t exactly something I was champing at the bit to drive.
What I learned immediately, though, is that 340hp in a car that weighs in at 3,400 feels awesome, and the eight-speed automatic can either provide leisurely shifts when you want them, or kick-your-butt firm when you don’t. This isn’t neck-snapping acceleration by any means. The 340hp reaches its max at 6,500 rpm, and the maximum 332-lb.ft. of torque is up in the 3,500 to 5,000 rpm range, too, so power builds as the tach sweeps its way up to the 7,000 rpm redline.
Like all vehicles from the F-Type to the Odyssey minivan, everything seems to come with a manu-matic automatic transmission, allowing you to shift gears on your own schedule. Some are good, some are really, really pathetic. The QuickShift eight-speed in the Jaguar F-Type is the former, variations of which end up in a whole range of automobiles from the BMW 760Li to the new Rolls-Royce Ghost.
The biggest reason to have an eight-speed is obviously fuel economy. With a 1:1 gear ratio in sixth, and overdrive ratios in seventh and eighth, the Jaguar F-Type turns in respectable fuel economy numbers for a sports car, delivering an observed 22mpg average, in combined highway and back-road driving.
The trick, though, is to make that transmission engaging and fun when you’re not as interested in sipping premium fuel. Move the shifter from D to S and you can either shift manually via the shifter, with the paddles mounted on the steering wheel, or just let the transmission do its own thing, maximizing performance for you. You’ll find yourself looking for reasons to keep it in S mode.
The only thing I didn’t like about it was endemic to all electronic automatics today. The sequence to get it in Drive or Reverse is really specific: Depress brake. Push Button. Select Proper Position. Any imprecision in this procedure puts you in Neutral. It requires concentration to execute what should be completely intuitive.
This is a brand that essentially kept itself afloat with luxurious interiors in the 1990s and early 2000s, so it was a surprise to find an interior so sparse and sport-oriented. That’s not a bad thing. Our tested Jaguar F-Type featured the optional $1,500 Performance Seat, as well as the $2,200 Premium Pack 1, featuring 14-way adjustment for both seats. They’re heavily bolstered sport seats designed to keep you right in place, but they’re also super-comfortable, too. About the only drawback inside is that anybody over about six feet tall is going to have a hard time getting inside.
The controls are all legible and easy to use. Thankfully, all of the heat controls are operated via three centrally located knobs, rathter than forcing drivers to navigate through touch screens.
The 380W Meridian sound system was terrific, when we felt like listening to it (more on that in a minute.) Phone pairing was a snap with an intuitive process that didn’t require digging out the manual.
One minor caution is that the center vents and the exterior door handles are both motorized. Both are a cool effect, but my wife owns a 1999 Jaguar. Everything cool then — the cupholder, the power antenna, the bazillion sensors to alert things like low coolant — are all on the fritz. I’d hate to think what it’ll cost to fix a busted motor for a center vent stack.
There’s not much you can say about the exterior design that won’t become immediately obvious the minute you drive this car around other human beings. There wasn’t a single time in five days that somebody didn’t stop and stare, turn around in their seat, or cross a parking lot to look at it.
On the last day I had it, I photographed it in the huge parking lot of a corporate center a half hour outside of Boston. I spent twenty minutes there and realized that one of the security guards was walking across the parking lot toward me. Figuring I was getting tossed off private property, I got ready to leave, but he told me to stay put, because he’d turned off the security camera pointing at me. He just wanted to give it a good once-over.
The driving experience is every bit as thrilling as the looks. Our tester came with the $1,500 Switchable Active Sport Exhaust which you can activate manually in ECO mode, or which activates automatically in performance mode.
Here’s what the exhaust sounds like in ECO mode with the Active Sport Exhaust turned off:
…and here’s what it sounds like on.
Yeah, it’s a total gimmick. You pay $1,500 for nothing other than the exhaust note, produced by electronic reshuffling of a couple of baffles in the exhaust. However, that exhaust note is awe-inspiring, grin-inducing and LOUD, and well worth every blessed dime. It’s an instigator, goading you on to whack the throttle open at every opportunity, just to hear it at full song. You’ll dream of the way it pops and barks on downshift. If you’re planning on buying an F-Type without buying the exhaust, you’re officially dead to me.
I’ve driven much faster, much more exotic, much more expensive, much better handling automobiles at one time or another, but none of them had the appeal of the Jaguar F-Type. It’s one of the most special cars I’ve had the pleasure of sampling, and if I hit the Powerball tomorrow, my first act is going to be to put my order in for one.
Outstanding real-world, every single day performance
Gorgeous exterior design
Oh, mama, that $1,500 Active Sport Exhaust
Motorized door handles and center vents might be prone to failure later
Shift to Drive requires concentration
There isn’t one in my garage
2015 Jaguar F-Type
Base MSRP: $65,000
MSRP as Tested: $77,375
Climate Pack with Heated Seats/Wheel: $600
Performance Seat: $1,500
Dark Hex Aluminum Trim: N/C
19″ Centrifuge Alloy Wheels, Black: $2,500
HD Radio & Sirius Satellite Radio: $450
Switchable Active Exhaust: $1,500
Premium Pack 1: $2,200
Extended Leather Pack: $2,700