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[REVIEW] 2014 Jaguar F-type S – The sound of music

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Music is a funny thing. Some people love polka music, others love country.

My firefighter friend Jordan loves heavy metal music and always has a healthy selection of it playing in his Audi, much to my chagrin as a passenger.

My colleague and friend Warren, is a lead guitarist in the Fox Seeds winning rock band, The Post War. And I’ve grown to enjoy that genre of music as well.

Me? I enjoy the cheesy top 10 pop hits and electronic house music. But as a classically trained pianist of over 16 years, I also appreciate the classical stuff whether it is from a guitar, piano, or a full symphony.

Over the 2013 Christmas and New Year’s holidays, I learnt of another type of music that I would enjoy. Another instrument that was music to my ears upon the first note.

And that was the soundtrack of the 3.0L Supercharged V6 motor of a Jaguar F-type S in Dynamic mode.

Keep reading to find out why I found it to be the most fun car I’ve reviewed to date, even surpassing the mega 2014 Jaguar XKR and the crowd favourite Ford Mustang GT V8.

With the F-type being one of this year’s most exciting cars, I also invited racing car driver Brody Goble to provide his driving impressions. Not only is Brody a local Surrey/White Rock resident,  but he has also worked for many different manufacturers in their vehicle launch programs. Brody’s review will be posted after mine.  -Andrew

First, a little history lesson

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Ahhh the Jaguar F-type. 40+ years in the making, the F-type is the spiritual successor to the iconic E-type of the 1960 and 70’s.

Like the E-type, the F-type carries on the British tradition of a small two door roadster that is ridiculously fun to drive, but yet with a modicum of civility to it. Very proper, and very British.

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Over 23 years ago, Jaguar designer Ian Callum attempted to revive the F-type namesake with the prototype XJ41. It’s a good thing that Jaguar nixed that project and waited this long. In hindsight, that prototype being significantly larger and heavier than the car today , would’ve likely sullied the F-type namesake. Good things do come to those who wait!

The Looks….

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I’ve always loved the really highly focused design ethos of Jaguar. After all, this is a thoroughbred driver’s car.

Wayne Burgess, the man behind the F-type’s lovely design, is certainly not just the impeccably tailor-suited figure that one would expect of a Jaguar designer.

While he does clean up quite nicely, he’s equally comfortable in a T-shirt and jeans. No surprise as he happens to also be the lead guitarist of U.K metal quintet, Scattering Ashes.

To me, the F-type is all about the details. It’s achingly beautiful with its bulging fenders, Tron-inspired LED taillamps, Star Wars-designed headlamp projectors, and its flat-deck trunk lid.

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Wayne insists that instead of just designing an obvious replacement for the E-type, he wanted to create a world class 21st century two-door two-seater sports car.

I think he succeeded, especially with the rear end of the car being his best design work with its hints of BMW Z8 roadster. Certainly not a bad comparison. The front end is a little more generic, with some hints of Mercedes-Benz SLS with its nose and headlamps.

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Regardless, I love the relative rarity of this car. You are unlikely to see one coming back at you on the streets…

Except, of course, if your friend also happens to have an F-type as well! I could not resist the opportunity to photograph both my Firesand Orange V6 S model, and his non-S Italian Racing Red Metallic model together.

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At an as tested price of $108K+, this is not an inexpensive car. And at this price range, it’s the little things that need to be there to add to the F-type’s character. To make it worth the extra money that it commands over its rivals.

I love the small details like how the door handles pop-out when the car is unlocked and then hide flush against body when they’re not in use. There are even integrated LED puddle lamps beneath the door handles, and brushed metal metal “Jaguar” badges on the top part of the handles.

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Did you know that the centrally mounted twin exhaust tips on all V6 model are designed to pay homage to the old E-type’s. But wait there is more! These tips are not cast aluminum, but instead they’re carefully milled out of a solid block of aluminum. WOW.

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I can’t help but reference this famous Michelangelo quote.

“Every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”

If you “invest” up the extra $20K for the V8 S F-type, you get outboard mounted quad pipes which are perforated with holes because the engineers wanted to get the exhaust note just right…and also because the look reminded them of jet fighter afterburners.

With its long hood and short rear deck, the F-type confirms to proper British roadster proportions. But the face of this small cat is more aggressive than any other Jaguar in the line-up.

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Compared to the non-S F-type, the S plays off its cheeky good looks with a slightly more aggressive (and expensive-looking) character by adding gloss black elements to the grill, front splitter, side vents, rear diffuser, and hood head extractors.

Everywhere I went, the F-type S turned heads and drew stares. Fingers were pointed, smiles were seen, and thumbs were raised from both car guys (whether they were driving Audi R8s, lifted Ford F150s or VW Jettas) and non-car people alike. This is not a car for you if you want to be a wall flower.

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The interior accouterments

The F-type’s interior is designed to be highly driver-focused. Something which is immediately evident with the “holy sh*t” grab handle on the passenger side of the centre console.

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All of the controls are within easy reach and are ergonomically sound. Something that is a big improvement over previous Jags that I have tested. There are plenty of redundant controls for the climate control and other key functions.

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I particularly like the LED knobs for adjusting the fan and cabin temperature. The designers cleverly integrated the heated seat switch into the same controls as well. Brilliant!

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A large configurable 8” LCD touchscreen dominates the rest of the centre console allowing you to control everything from the satellite navigation, the radio, various vehicle settings, and of course the Bluetooth hands-free phone controls.

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In my Jaguar XKR review, I complained about how that car’s archaic headunit didn’t do the car justice. I’m happy to report that the F-type proves that the future is alive and well for new Jag models. It is the equivalent of putting a man on the moon versus Sputnik being launched. Yup, it’s that big of a leap.

Interestingly enough, a friend of mine with a Range Rover Sport confirmed that while the user interface and graphics were similar to his vehicle, the computing horsepower within the headunit seems to be significantly upgraded.

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The S model’s headunit also boasts things such as a driver configurable Dynamics mode which allows you to program a custom track setup as well as monitor lap times and record telemetry info.

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Unlike other Jaguars, there is no Jaguar DriveSelect knob rising from the centre console (there are air vents that rise instead). You get a proper gearshift lever in the F-type, and in fact one that feels very much like a flight control stick from a fighter jet.

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Amusingly, Jaguar even calls the release switch a “trigger”. Like a rally car, the manual model’s shift gate works properly in that you pull back (towards you) to upshift through the 8 gears, and push forward to downshift to a lower gear.

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You can also use the orange-coppery accented steering mounted paddles for that race car driving experience.

Why orange-coppery accents you might ask? The background story is that originally the designers were trying anodized reds and other colours to highlight certain exciting controls in the S models.

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But they weren’t satisfied until one of them spotted designer Wayne Burgess’ watch, which had a striking metallic orange bezel. She took the watch from him and low and behold, the colour and finish became the bronze-like accent colour used in the car.

For all of you watch aficionados out there, I’m guessing that Wayne was wearing an Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean?

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Anyhow, back to the car. The seats are bolstered like you would expect them to be in a sports car. Firm but comfortable with its adjustable side bolstering and supportive thigh support. My derrière was still happy even after sitting in the saddle for a couple of hours.

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My test car was also equipped with the $2,000 extended leather package. Get it! This package makes the interior feel even more exquisitely hand-crafted than it is already.

It adds premium soft grain leather to the seat surfaces, dashboard, door panels, centre console, as well as the A-pillars, header, and sun visors. It also adds contrast stitching to finish off the interior. I loved how the orange stitching popped against the black leather.

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The only flaws that I could find in the Jag’s interior were minor.

  1. The gloss black plastic trim around the centre console shows scratches easily.
  2. The LCD screen in between the race-inspired gauges was a bit low resolution (and pixelated).
  3. The heated steering wheel switch (part of the optional climate package) was difficult to see when in direct sunlight. By this I mean it was tough to see whether the heat was on or off in daylight.
  4. While they worked just fine, the sun visors’ mirrors are comically small. They’re about the size of mirrors in lipstick cases!
  5. When it’s raining heavily, water can drip off the roof and directly onto the thigh bolster resulting in a slightly wet seat and subsequent wet pant leg.IMG_4257

The Big Question…What is the driving experience like?

Every time I get into an open top car I question myself as to why not all cars are made this way. With the world around you and either the stars or the sun above, it was truly a joy to behold.

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Even with the top down, turbulence within the F-type’s cabin is minimal. The mesh windblocker works well, and you carry on a conversation with your passenger without really having to raise your voice. The engineers and designers have earned their pay cheques here and I never felt vulnerable even when driving alongside 18 wheelers.

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There was no problem driving with the top down even in single digit temperatures. Despite my late December loan, I was fortunate enough to have a few days of dry weather mixed in with the rain. I was surely not going to miss out on the convertible experience just because of the cooler temperature on the dry days!

All of this open top experience was made possible with a combination of a much appreciated heated steering wheel, heated seats that can be cranked up hot enough to cause 1st degree burns (I mean this jokingly), and footwell heat that can be pumped up with enough volume to cause your feet to sweat.

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Jaguar’s engineers took excessive care to ensure as close to 50/50 weight distribution as possible. They even moved the washer fluid bottle to the trunk as part of this obsessive quest for better handling. The result is an agile car that is an utter joy to pilot about, with the reflexes to match its looks.

Can it match its competitor, the Porsche 911 Cabriolet? No probably not when it comes to the scalpel-like driving dynamics that all Porsches are renowned for. But it gives a damn good try nonetheless and I think that the overall experience is arguably less clinical.

The F-type’s steering is quick, communicative, and gets even better in Dynamic mode. The ride is firm but compliant even with the optional 20” turbine wheels on my test car. Adjustable suspension modes pay dividends here and the ride only gets slightly choppy on heavily washboard surfaces partly due to the car’s relatively short wheelbase.

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The F-type’s brakes also deserve special mention here. With humongous 355mm discs at all 4 corners and a firm brake pedal feels positive at the biting point, the system inspires lots of confidence. Interestingly, the F-type V8 S adopts the biggest set of standard brake discs in Jaguar’s entire line-up – 380mm front and rear!

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With an aluminum body shell that only weights 573 pounds, the F-type’s structure is 30% stiffer than any other Jaguar in specific areas. Why? Because the shell has no welding at all, and is made from 183 pressings, castings and extrusions that are strictly bonded and riveted.

So in summary, the F-type S drives like a little nutcase and will bring a huge Cheshire cat grin to your face each and every time. It’s all about point-and-shoot steering, direct handling, and seat of your pants fun.

This car really reaffirms how Jaguar has built its reputation on handling.

The soundtrack

Ah the sound of a V8. There’s nothing quite like it. Except that my F-Type S tester was the supercharged V6 model. With a 40hp bump over the standard supercharged v6 car, the S has 380hp. Nothing to sneeze at.

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If you really must have a V8, the F-type S is also available with an absolutely bonkers 5.0L supercharged V8 with 490 hp (a slightly detuned version of the XKR’s engine). I can only imagine what the car sounds and feels like in person!

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Regardless, the V6 S makes a stunningly convincing case that the six-cylinder motor is all you will ever need. Paired with the active exhaust system, the noises coming out of the back are a combination of glorious exhaust and engine notes mixed in with hilarious cracks, pops, backfires, and farts (during upshifts).

I didn’t think anything would beat the soundtrack of the XKR, until this car. I found myself strangely drawn to tunnels and underpasses, just to hear the exhaust note.

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Leave the Dynamic Mode off, and the F-type settles down immediately. Like a cat given some catnip, it becomes docile and perfect for that long highway drive without any exhaust drone.

Summary

“What is it?”, asks my neighbour.

“Uhh what?”

“The car. What is it?”

“OHH it’s a 2014 Jaguar F-type S”, I reply.

“It’s a gorgeous colour and the exhaust sound is to die for. I’ve just added it to my bucket list. Never mind what the ex-wife will say”, he laughed.

The conversation above was 100% real, with the exception of the lack of a few expletives thrown in here and there.

But truthfully, it’s not tough to see why the F-type is the talk of the town these days.

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Under new parent company Tata’s stewardship, Jaguar finally has the resources it needs to innovate. One of the key things they did was to create what they call “Jaguar Alive” technologies.

Every part of the car is designed to be akin to a welcoming handshake. From the door handle that extends as you unlock the car, to the engine start button that pulses like a heart beat inviting you to bring the car to life, every detail is designed to engage your senses.

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I can think of no other car in the Jaguar line-up that exemplifies the “alive from the very first second” concept better than the F-Type. This car feels like it has a kind of duality to it. You can take it to work comfortably everyday and then to the track on the weekend.

One of the benefits of reviewing cars is not that I get the privilege of being trusted with so many different vehicles. It’s that sometimes the dates magically line-up to make for an extra memorable driving experience. I definitely won’t forget my 1am New Year’s morning top-down drive anytime soon.

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What initially attracted me to the F-type was its looks. But it also won my heart over with its glamour factor worthy of its E-type predecessor and name badge.

Character is something this car has in spades. No matter what speed you are driving it, what road you’re driving on, the engine note, the exhaust note, the steering feel, and the rear wheel drive balance all work together.

Driving this little Jaguar also made me appreciate it’s high quality interior, smart design, and timeless looks. It’s a reason to get out of bed in the morning, and truly a testament to its maker.

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I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for the F-Type and I’ll be forever sad that the little orange Jaguar isn’t tucked away in my garage.

But with an SUV coming out in 2015, the Jaguar brand is alive and well. Until then, the F-type will have a very special place in my heart and mind.

“Crack on” as they say!

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Brody Goble’s review of the 2014 Jaguar F-type S

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The F-Type was a welcomed surprise after driving quite a few of Jaguar’s “previous generation” vehicles. This is a car that a 23 year old as myself wouldn’t be embarrassed to drive and it certainly wouldn’t bore me. I am definitely more into coupes than roadsters (racing side of me) but the 2015 coupe has yet to be released.

Everything about the new F-Type twists your outlook on the brand, everything from styling to its’ performance.

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Power and Response – With a 3.0L V6 under the hood you may not be overly excited at this point. Thankfully our “S” has a supercharger strapped to it making 380hp, that’s 127hp per liter. This car isn’t “quirky” to drive like many new vehicles today, it’s fly by wire throttle system feels very linear and predictable; no surprises or lack of feel here, I would be surprised if you can tell a difference between a traditional cable throttle seen in most race cars compared to Jag’s fly by wire electronic throttle.

The Supercharger doesn’t make much noise but it is responsive enough at low rpm to make you even forget its’ there. The car feels as though it has a larger displacement motor, not a boosted 3.0L This is great news as it doesn’t have “lag”, it simply pulls hard right off idle progressively building power throughout its’ rev range.

Of course, from 4500 rpm onwards is still where the fun is to be had.  I will leave you with this thought; on a cold dry day (the day I was driving this car) it had enough power to break traction on any straight city street with a squeeze of your right foot, I say every sports car should be able to do this!

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Transmission – 8-Speed auto with paddle shift. This isn’t a dual clutch manual automatic but it does bang up through the gears just as quick I’d say. The response time between a pull of the paddle and the car initiating the gear change is very minimal, that’s a huge pet peeve of mine when the car doesn’t react to a driver’s inputs. When we are talking about the transmission’s speed, the downshifts are a touch lazy, this is where you can notice the lack of a dual clutch. It reacts and blips the throttle but I would like those blips to be more crisp and quicker, it isn’t terrible but could use some polishing.

If you have ever driven a Lexus ISF, it too has an 8-speed transmission. It’s strange because in the Lexus the car feels as though it has too many gears, you are constantly clicking up and down on those paddles when you are in the city as the 1,2,3 stack in the transmission is very tight. Thankfully, the Jaguar has some longer initial gears so you aren’t shifting 800 times on your morning commute, the supercharger helps with some bottom end grunt so it doesn’t damper the vehicle’s performance; a 4.8sec 0-60mph time.

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Handling and Feel – Like the engine, the handling is predictable without any surprises. This inspires a ton of confidence and I think this would be any easy car to push to the limit on the track. BMW has heavy steering and Mercedes has light steering, the Jaguar finds a nice middle ground in steering weight which I preferred over either of its’ competitors. Obviously without taking it for some hot laps on our local racetrack; The River’s Edge Road Course, I can not speak too much on it’s true handling characteristics while at the limit

My initial feelings with some brief street driving is that it had precise and quick turn in; nimble in the way it could change direction quickly. To do so, Jaguar has really firmed up the ride, that’s likely the first time you have ever seen “Jaguar” and “firm” in the same sentence. It’s a true sports car so it’s going to be firm but that doesn’t mean it still can’t be comfortable and elegant. The seats have a ton of support but the materials used are soft to the touch, a great combination for any long distance road trip.  They support your back and support your body while diving into some spirited driving.

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Here’s something exciting, you can fully disengage all of the vehicle’s handling systems… if you ever want to take your sports car to a racetrack of course.

While you are building your speed up in the new F-Type you can fine tune the “help” with different performance settings, great for allowing the car to rotate but catch itself when you are about to spin. The system is good fun and really does work without being too intrusive. You would be surprised with how many vehicles nowadays that claim the systems are completely disengaged but are actually still being activated by the vehicle’s computer, that’s annoying.

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Brakes – Without a race track we can’t test brake fade or feel under threshold braking, but in the city, the brakes are a breeze to operate. It’s a little tense driving a car with overly sensitive brakes, it’s not cool to try and lightly touch the brakes but make your passenger car sick in the process.

The F-Type has some great progression built into the pedal allowing you to squeeze into them gradually making for a “no drama” street car while having all the stopping force the tires could ever hold.

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Summary – I am truly happy with the new F-Type. It was a fun car to drive that sounded wicked with the active sports exhaust. The car was tight, stiff and free of vibrations or rattles which is great for any convertible. The driver’s inputs where transferred to the car without delay and the handling, power and brakes were all very linear and predictable; its’ something that is commonly lost with the amount of electronics built into today’s vehicles.

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Andrew Ling
Andrew is a proud car and tech geek who has worked in Surrey for over the last 10 years. He comes from a communications/marketing background and has worked for automotive-related companies such as Edmunds.com, BenzWorld.org since 1999. From track driving, to rally driving to autocross, he has done it all! When he’s not reading about the latest automotive news, he can be found outdoors snapping pictures at various events around town.
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