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2015 Jaguar F-TYPE Test Drive Review
Jaguar started with the drop-top, and now they’ve dropped the coupe version on us. It seems the F-TYPE just keeps getting better. With only a few small issues to fix, the spiritual successor to the legendary E-Type has done nearly everything right.
Look and Feel
Before the F-TYPE, it had been a good while since Jaguar really excited us. The '90s were very dark times. Things are truly bad when your most notable contribution to the automotive landscape is providing inspiration for Korean car designers. So when the F-TYPE landed, all sexy drop-top lines and actual performance, it shone even brighter against the bland backdrop of the Ford years.
For 2015 the coupe version makes its debut, and despite having to compete with the fresh memory of convertible F-TYPE glory, it manages to make the same impression—it’s everything we’ve been wanting from Jaguar for the last 40 years.
Choose your flavor, but keep in mind this isn’t a mild, medium, or hot situation. This is more like Hot, Fire, or Atomic. Even the “base” F-TYPE offers 340 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque from a supercharged 3.0-liter V6, and if you move up to the S, those numbers rise to 380 and 339. If that doesn’t satisfy, there’s always a V8 option: 5 liters of supercharged silliness power the F-TYPE R in coupe or convertible form. That means an insane 550 hp and 502 lb-ft of torque ready to rocket you to 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds. You can get the S in all-wheel-drive form, but otherwise it’s pure rear-wheel-drive pleasure, and all versions come with the now-legendary ZF 8-speed automatic. Pay attention, though—there’s a 6-speed ZF manual coming our way next year.
Jaguar was nice enough to send me an F-TYPE S coupe (MSRP $77,000) that was fitted with more than $13K in extras. Most noticeable was the Performance Pack S ($3,400), which added all the goodies you’ve been hearing about. Sport seats (with 3-point harness cutouts), a flat-bottom steering wheel, and a black interior trim pack outfitted the interior, while the actual performance came in the form of sport brakes with red calipers and a selectable active exhaust and dynamic driving modes. The Premium Pack 2 ($1,800) was also included here, adding 14-way power seats with memory, dual-zone climate control, and a garage door opener. A nice package, but rather pricey for features that should already be included at an $80,000 price point. The Vision Pack 2 ($2,400) added adaptive, intelligent front lighting, front sensors, a blind-spot monitor, and a rear parking camera, but again this is a lot of extra money for features that really should be included. The Extended Leather Pack adds another $2,700, and I can’t imagine there’s enough room in this 2-door 2-seater to fit nearly 3 grand worth of leather. Gorgeous as the Lunar Grey Metallic paint was, I really can’t stand paying extra for a color option, although in comparison to the other prices, $600 seems a steal, especially when considering that’s the same price as the Climate Pack, which added heated seats and steering wheel. Outfitting the 770-watt Meridian stereo ($1,200) with HD Radio and Sirius satellite added another $450, and the contentious InControl Apps feature was another $400. With a $925 destination & delivery charge, the drive-away price on the F-TYPE Sport Coupe was $91,475.
When multiple manufacturers are putting out 600+-hp sedans, 380 horses don’t sound like much. Usually, they aren’t. But then, engines usually deliver power in what is commonly referred to as a power curve. You depress the accelerator, and power builds as you increase pressure. Instead, Jaguar saw fit to install an On/Off switch in place of an accelerator. It’s a confusing situation, as the meaty part of the torque curve isn’t supposed to show up until 3,500-5,000 rpms, and max power isn’t achieved until 6,500, just shy of the redline. In reality, slot the drive control into Dynamic mode, and the car leaps away from the line the moment you hit the accelerator, climbing through the speedo without any hint of a flat spot. Normal is a bit more restrained, and there’s even a Snow selection with reduced torque for more traction in the slop. But either of the other two allow for easy squealing with minimal input.
There are some cars that are fun, even composed at the limit. I recently tested both the BMW 228i and the Subaru BRZ—two perfect examples of this. Turn off the traction control, break loose the rear tires, and hang the rear end out around a curve for as long as you like—you never really feel out of control. This is not the case with the F-TYPE. If you are brave (stupid?) enough to turn off the traction control here, you’ll very suddenly be reminded of 2 things. First, despite an aluminum body, engine, and suspension components, this car weighs 4,000 pounds. Second, the F-TYPE costs nearly $100K, and that’s a very expensive accident. Four thousand pounds is a lot of weight to come swinging around, and tank slappers are induced with ease. Leave the traction control in place, and you’ll be able to have enough fun to satisfy most of your hooligan tendencies. To wit, the very… ahem… spirited takeoff you can see in my video review was achieved with that traction control in place.
EPA estimates show 19 mpg city/27 highway/22 combined. There’s even an Eco button, although I couldn’t actually bring myself to press it. In my time with the Jaguar, I didn’t do very well, ecologically speaking, and my average economy was in the high teens. However, during a longer trip down the coast, I took it easy for a couple of hours and during that very restrained period I was able to achieve the 27 figure, even without the Eco button, plus a few spirited passes tossed in for good measure.
Beyond the engine, the F-TYPE has an automatic transmission that’s so good I almost didn’t want a manual. Thankfully, a manual is coming next year, but when the automatic is this quick and smooth and intuitive, I consider it a legitimate alternative, even in a sports coupe. Plus, the automatic allows you to keep both hands on the wheel in case you do decide to turn off the traction control and try a little fishtailing of your own.
Despite its immense girth, the F-TYPE has such a stiff chassis and elegant suspension that it manages to feel heavy only at the limit. With a typical British suspension setup, it’s not overly stiff until you’ve slotted it into Dynamic mode and brought it up to speed—which is exactly when you’d want it nice and rigid. Leave it in Normal, and you can cruise around without losing your fillings. The steering was flickably quick and confidence-inspiring, with enough weight to feel substantial but not so much as to betray the nearly 2 tons it was pushing around. Perhaps even more impressive is how quickly those big brakes bring everything to a halt with no disruptive dive. I didn’t get the F-TYPE onto a track, but I did put it through the paces on some of the windiest of California roads, and I encountered no brake fade. If you’re really worried, there’s always the carbon-ceramic option.
Form and Function
The F-TYPE is gorgeous, perhaps the best-looking car being produced currently. It’s certainly the best-looking car Jaguar has produced since the E-Type, the spiritual benchmark used here. When it comes to 2-seat sports coupes, it’s hard to find something you’d want that the F-TYPE doesn’t accomplish. The lack of a manual option is the one shortcoming that comes to mind, and they’re correcting that one next year. The seats are comfortable and supportive in the turns, the materials are exactly what I’d expect for the price point, and there’s nary a gap or misaligned panel to be found. It shows neither the Spartan reticence of a German offering nor the antiseptic busyness of the Japanese. There’s a pleasant combination of factors here—classic tan leather paired with the welcome absurdity of a passenger grab handle. A clean, low-slung dash gets vents that rise mechanically and disappear at the push of a button. The traditional dual-gauge layout is augmented with a splash of colored lights and sweeping needles to accompany the ostentatious roar that welcomes you every time you hit the orange Start button. In fact, that’s the one complaint I had about the interior design, a grippy orange paint that covered the start button and paddle shifters—it looked and felt good, but still somehow came off as slightly cheap, as though I could scratch it off with my fingernail.
As for that roar, this is something I debated putting into the Performance section, but it really is all about the Form. Go watch the review you'll find on the Video page, and just listen to that exhaust. Punch the Active Exhaust button, and valves open up over 3,000 rpm to make you sound like the most annoying attention whore on the block. It’s loud, it constantly backfires anytime you let off the throttle, and I love it. When I first got the car, I couldn’t believe how loud the exhaust was even before hitting that little button. I crawled through my neighborhood and would barely touch the accelerator, waiting until I got on the highway to try out what I came to call the “Look at ME!” button. By the end of the week it was the first thing I did after starting it up, and I hunted throughout the Bay for new tunnels and overpasses to drive under. If you’re ridiculous enough to spend nearly $100K on a car with only two seats, it had better sound as ridiculous as this, tickets be damned.
The trunk isn’t small, but it is a little awkward—not that you’re heading to Home Depot in this thing. There isn’t a ton of interior storage, either, although you do get a little tray right behind your right ear. I found all the instrumentation to be exceptionally placed with a special nod to the rubber-ringed climate controls. Competitors, please take note. One complaint, though: The touchscreen was recessed far into the console, enough to make operation awkward for the driver, especially when attempting to reach buttons on the bottom of the screen.
There had to be a downside, right? While some technology was mysteriously absent, such as Voice control, some of it I wish was simply gone. InControl Apps is a $400 option that pairs with your smartphone, allowing you to run an app on your phone that dictates what shows up on the touchscreen. I had a lot of trouble getting this to work, and the app choices are rather limited at this point, but it could be a very useful system once they’ve had some time to massage and re-build it.
The Meridian stereo was plenty powerful for the small cabin, even with the windows down and sunroof open, providing clear sound without blowing out the levels. It’s not the best stereo I’ve heard, though, and that’s what I expect at this price point, especially considering it doubled the power of the base stereo and cost an extra $1,200. Blind-spot monitoring worked fine, and the rear parking camera was a blessing with the raked rear of the F-TYPE, but honestly it wasn’t really necessary, and it would be a bitter swallow having to pay an extra $2,400 for the privilege.
There has been no crash testing done for the F-TYPE, by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Don’t hold your breath, either, as it’s rare for cars in this class to go through the process. With that in mind, the F-TYPE comes with dual front and side airbags, seatbelt pre-tensioners, a limited-slip differential, high-performance brakes with emergency brake assist, traction and dynamic stability control, and the optional adaptive front lights, front sensors, rear camera, and a blind-spot monitor. In independent testing, an F-TYPE S came to a stop from 60 mph in 115 feet, respectable but not benchmark-worthy. Add the carbon-ceramic brakes and you should be able to shave another 10 feet off that distance.
Any discussion of cost-effectiveness when dealing with a car in this class must be done with tongue thrust deeply into cheek. With that in mind, you could save some money by going with the BMW M4, but it wouldn’t have the same showmanship. The drama there is all in the drivetrain. You could get better performance from a 911, but you’ll spend a bit more and be nothing more than another fish in the ever-increasing school of 911s out there. Plus, if you’re spending a bit more than this, why not stay British and go for a V8 Vantage? No, to own the first sports coupe from Jaguar in four decades is far too tempting. Cost-effective it may not be, but when it comes to getting what you pay for, I’m not sure the F-TYPE S can be beaten.
A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.
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