Four hundred ninety-five horsepower, thirty-six-hundred pounds.
This is my third time writing this article. My first submission consisted only of the aforementioned specifications in numerical form along with the photos you’re looking at in this spread. My editor told me that I had to write words. I resubmitted the same content having changed the numbers into the form they appear in the subhead of this iteration. I was informed I’d no longer have a job if this continued. I then posed the question of whether anything else about the Jaguar F-Type really matters aside from the facts that it possesses a power-to-weight ratio that nears supercar status and it’s arguably the best-looking front-engine’d convertible on the market.
Despite it being one of the most beautiful objects I’ve ever laid eyes and hands on, the F-Type and I got off to a rocky start. I suppose it’s often the case with beautiful objects and myself but that’s not a discussion for the automotive column. I picked up our test-vehicle at this magazine’s namesake airport with intentions of a quick jaunt east on the I-10 and up I-15 to Las Vegas to witness the marriage of a dear childhood friend. I did a few (or 20) laps around the vehicle to admire some of the subtle touches that make such a dazzling machine; the forward-slanting grille combined with auxiliary vents and vertical headlights form a ravenous shark-like appearance, flush-mounted door handles which emerge when unlocked, muscular rear arches flexing over massive 295-width tires, a race-inspired rear-diffuser shrouding its quadruple-tipped exhaust, fiber-optic LED taillights… did I mention how gorgeous I think this car is?
Hopping in the Jag, I fine-tuned my 10-way power-adjustable seat and it was then that the F-Type and I had our first tiff. At 6’2” and 175lbs, I’m not the largest human being, but owning limbs closer in length to someone a couple inches taller, I was quite devastated to realize that I could not slide back far enough to accommodate my legs without pitching the top of the seat forward — not an ideal sports car seating position.
Gazing around the interior of the F-Type reveals a luxurious leather-shod dash and door surfaces with contrast-stitching, as well as a wide array of high-quality finishes ranging from matte black to satin chrome and dark aluminum. I depressed the brake pedal, eased my index finger into the fluorescent-orange Engine Start button, and brought the beast to life. A strident bark emitted from the tailpipes and a smooth rumble reverberated from the engine compartment as the center air vents rose atop the dashboard. I plugged my destination into the highly intuitive navigation system and was instructed to utilize surface streets. It was 5:30pm on a Friday and the freeway was essentially gridlocked. I dropped the top (which takes a mere twelve seconds to lower or raise and can be done at speeds up to 30MPH) and set off on my way.
On city streets with the Adaptive Dynamics system in ‘normal’ mode, the F-Type is quite a docile kitten. The steering is light but tactful, active suspension dampeners adjust their firmness up to 100-times per second according to road conditions, gear changes from the 8-speed ZF transmission are rapid but smooth, and the throttle mapping induces a slight delay in actuation to keep the supercharged V8 manageable in traffic. Pair the aforementioned attributes with an intelligent 2-stage start/stop system that kills the engine at idle and restarts it as soon as your foot lifts from the brake and you end up with a surprisingly tame animal that’s plenty-suitable for everyday city driving.
As the navigation system informed me that I was approaching my onramp I slapped the shifter into manual-actuation and flicked the switch to engage Dynamic mode; the instrument cluster and ambient cabin lighting changed from soothing aqua teal to hellish scarlet red and the exhaust began to roar as the active bypass valve in the mufflers released an unobstructed path for spent gasses to exit. To my delight, the onramp signal was turned off so I (cautiously) stabbed the throttle to its maximum and the roar from the exhaust became a deafening howl; the 5.0-liter supercharged V8 attempted to send each and every one of its 495 horsepower and 460ft-lbs of torque to the pavement. The tail of the F-Type wagged, the traction control intervened, the tires hooked up, and less than a few seconds later I was stomping hard on the 15-inch brakes belting out every explicative in the English language because my speedometer was reading well into the triple-digit range and traffic was coming fast. Jaguar’s official published 50-75 MPH passing acceleration is rated at 2.4 seconds, so extrapolate that as you wish.
Fast forward two days and 500 miles. We’re back at LAX and we’ve confirmed that a two-seat convertible in which I do not fit comfortably and achieves 23 MPG highway is not the ideal road trip car. But we’ve also had a few hard runs through the hills above Malibu and a leisurely cruise up PCH to experience what the F-Type was purposely built to do. And it does that flawlessly.
A two-seat roadster is meant to be the purest expression of a sports car. It’s meant to be compact, lightweight, agile, and it’s meant to inspire a sensation of connection to the road -— not only through the machine itself but also through the environment which surrounds it. When you remove the roof from a vehicle and expose its occupants to the mechanical snarl that emanates from an engine, the faint squealing of rubber as tires near their limits of adhesion, the echoes of exhaust notes rebounding off of tree-lined back-roads and canyon walls — the driving experience becomes incredibly immersive.