True beauty distracts.
Try driving the Jaguar F-Type S coupe around for a few days. You’ll have teenage girls, middle-aged shop owners, and preppy blonde moms forgetting what they were doing and just staring at your svelte silver bullet of a car.
You’ll also get dad-bod cops pulling you over on a random pretense and then pacing around it for 10 minutes while they run your license. “Uh, it looked like you swerved into the bike lane for a moment back there.” Thanks, fellas.
More than one person I know told me they believe the F-Type is the most beautiful modern car you can buy—at any price—on the market today. That may be, although I’d venture that the Rolls-Royce Wraith, Aston Martin Vanquish, Zagato Mostro, Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6, and Mercedes-Benz AMG GT also qualify as supermodel-caliber individuals.
And here’s what’s really distracting: that guttural burbling as the F-Type awakens, that resonant purring as it cruises, (some would say overly) dramatic screaming as it accelerates. The F-Type makes the most distinct and gratifying sound of any sub-$200,000 car on the market today. (No comment to the haters who decry its engine notes as somehow fraudulent because they’re deliberately exaggerated. I still like the noise.)
All this we know.
The real question is, if you are considering buying this two-seat sports coupe made by such a vaunted British brand, should you pay $103,000 for the 550-horsepower V8 R version or save $25,000 and go for the 380-horsepower supercharged V6.
If money is truly no object for you, and by this I mean you already own a number of other special cars and enjoy occasional track days in charming towns near your vacation residence (or one of them), choose the V8. It’s hangry for asphalt and vocal about it in a way the V6 can’t touch. It screams with feline fury when it pounces.
But if this purchase will be your one special car for a while, and if you plan to drive it around town and on weekend getaways, choose the V6. It offers the subtler, possibly chicer, elegance of moderation. (Two exhaust pipes rather than four on that V8, for example.) And it’s truer to Jag’s historic use of V6 engines anyway.
Fast—for a V6
Not to say the V6 is moderate. Far from it. Gallivanting east last weekend, that 3.0-liter supercharged engine felt plenty adequate—even if it is noticeably more sedate than the F-Type R. It goes zero to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds, about the same as the $40,000 BMW 4-Series Gran Coupe I drove last week. And it moved from 60 mph to 95 mph with no questions asked as I whipped around bulky SUVs and sedentary sedans on the way out to Montauk on Saturday.
Likewise, the F-Type S coupe is nimble enough—more so than its heavier V8 sister. It has a pleasingly stiff chassis and what felt like zero body roll as I wound my way over the hills and curves on Old Montauk Highway at a rate faster than advisable. It’s certainly more nimble than most things with a lower price tag. But when it comes to pure mobility, it can’t touch the flyweight exhilaration you’ll feel even in a Porsche Cayman or in a Mercedes-Benz SL.
Jaguar has loaded this thing with such modern driving aids as launch control and adaptive suspension, which work seamlessly to enhance your time behind the wheel. The 8-speed automatic transmission (with paddle shifting) works well, as does the hydraulic steering. They make you feel simultaneously closer to the road without actually feeling the detritus (bumps, noise, heat) of being there.
The Best Value at Jaguar Today
If you compare this against any nonluxury car for its ability to surge and maneuver at high speeds, it’ll win every time. Thing is, this is no common car, and to earn respect it must compete with its rivals in the luxury market. Good looks alone won’t save you in this clubhouse, babe.
That’s why I characterize its driving character “more than adequate” and “works well” rather than mind-bending. For instance, the transmission in the $70,000 Corvette Stingray will make this one seem just de rigeur. The $84,000 Mercedes-Benz SL roadster is just as, if not more, receptive to steering cues. And if you want to compete with the (granted more expensive) Porsche 911 or a Mercedes-Benz AMG GT for sheer speed, you’ll definitely need to buy the V8 F-Type R coupe.
But as I said, for the money, and for that million-dollar body, the F-Type S is the all-around best car Jaguar makes.
Plus, I like the small rear spoiler that magically deploys when you punch the gas at high speeds.
Plenty has been said about the fact that this car looks good from every angle. Every angle. The line of the roof is perfectly timed to break at the windshield and extend toward the front of the car at just the right length to be prominent but not obscene. The soft bulge of the hood when you view the car straight on suggests erudition in matters concerning speed. The near-vertical xenon headlamps stand alert to either side; the straight, small grille between them beckons with a Mona Lisa smile.
I should note that there’s a noticeable blind spot at about 7 o’clock and 5 o’clock behind your left and right shoulders, respectively, caused by the small windows in back. And the chubby rearview mirror can sometimes impede your view of stoplights and road signs as you look ahead.
The long slim door handles, about the length of an iPhone 6 and an inch thick, automatically extend slightly when you unlock the car, enabling your easy access. A $3,400 performance pack includes adjustable drive settings, sporty seats, and race-ready metal pedals. You can also buy $13,500 carbon ceramic brakes, but for that kind of money, why wouldn’t you just upgrade to an R?
Forego the Cosmetics
What you’ll be pleased to find is that the interior of the car supports the exterior in a way that compliments without overshadowing its allure. The dashboard is freer from clutter than those of Jag’s German counterparts, with just a few knobs placed intuitively near the driver. I don’t like the recessed touch screen in the center of the dash—it could have been set closer, easier to reach and use. But I do love the two high-backed, low cockpit seats folded in to brace you around corners.
The interior is also where you’ll be tempted to procure other posh trifles: $2,700 extended leather trim, $2,400 lighting and parking cameras, $1,800 power seat adjusters, a $1,200 panoramic sunroof, $600 heated seats and steering wheel (that’s separate from the power seat option), and a $450 sound system.
I’d go easy on the extras, though. The appeal of this F-Type is that it doesn’t need to be gussied up with a lot of expensive makeup. Keep it as a natural beauty, just the way God intended.