Since its launch at the Paris Motor Show last September, the Jaguar F-Type has positioned itself as one of the most exciting vehicles to hit the ground this year. The supercar circuit of McLaren and company tends to refresh itself every few years with decadent pricing and specs, but these vehicles just aren’t for the everyday consumer. Which leads us to the F-Type.
The first new major sports line to be released since the Boxster, the F-Type combines agility and performance with a timeless external shell that straddles the line between futuristic and nostalgic. Divided into three trim levels, the V6, V6 S and V8 S—each priced under $100,000—the F-Type is poised to shake up the market against competition that includes the 911 Carrera, Audi R8 and Aston V8 Vantage.
As we edge an Amethyst Black V6 over the ancient cobblestones of Pamplona, Spain, the prowl emanating from the engine is but a teaser of the active exhaust system’s power. We navigate interminable traffic roundabouts before finally throwing down the throttle into the Spanish countryside.
The response: pure adrenaline rush, courtesy of the 3.0-liter supercharged engine delivering 340 horses. While the lack of dead stops defeats any attempt to qualify the zero to 60 mark of 5.1 seconds for this trim, the F-Type is no blank shooter in the acceleration department, with consistently fast gear-changing through the eight-speed “QuickShift” (automatic) or “SportShift” (manual) transmissions. At an opening price point of $69,000, stepping into the V6 is Wonderland already but, considering it has two bigger siblings, is just the first chapter of this high-octane fairytale.
There’s no more appropriate venue to get acquainted with a new sports car than the wide-open track; cue our arrival at the Circuito de Navarra near the small northern town of Los Arcos. As we say goodbye to our now treasured V6s, the tuned-up 380-hp V6S stands ready; helmets are handed out.
Within mere seconds into the first lap, it’s clear that the V6S is a much more appropriate vehicle to be out here with us. The F-Type’s low body weight of just over 3500 pounds and 50:50 distributions ensure that the car flies around the vastly technical track, but with a surprising degree of control that has you anticipating the dive into the slew of hairpin turns. Out on the straightaways it’s oh–so-easy to hit 120 mph before engaging the responsive brakes, which are more than suited for the task, though a fair amount of pressure is needed at this point.
Though we were reluctant to give up our Salsa-hued track demon, the opportunity to take the V6S out onto the winding foothills of the Pyrenees is an offer we weren’t about to ignore. The convertible roof that descends while moving at up to about 30 mph is a nice touch of convenience, but slowly climbing into higher elevations makes the seat warmers and heat vents that rise, Death Star–style, from the dash very necessary upon the first sign of snow.
As anticipated, the handling fares just as well off-track, but in addition to hairpin turns and local drivers, we’re faced with a decidedly suicidal group of mountain goats who appear and vanish like leprechauns. Thankfully the V6S, which will set back buyers about $81,000, safely avoids the horny buggers.
The following morning, however, is really the climax of this journey as we get to test a top-of-the-line V8S. Containing 495 horses in its 5.0-liter supercharged engine—the same found in Jaguar’s XKR-S and XFR-S—it boasts a very capable 460 pound-feet of torque and zero to 60 time of 4.2 seconds.
The V8S can be described as a no-bullshit visceral driving experience that is as much emotional as it is physical. The cry of the engine as it revels through its gear cycle is powerful, succinct and gloat-worthy, with no exaggeration of its capabilities. The gear shifts could be faster, but it is a bigger engine than the V6S, so it’s only natural that it may take a moment more.
Rising into the mountains and gaining traction on the weathered slim roads, the F-Type’s dead handling is spot on—even more so than the V6S—and with an extra punch of power to really drive you out of those corners. As you pass the 60 mph mark and the rear spoiler automatically deploys, the stance is refined and classy yet wholly sporty. At $92,000 it’s a clear winner, though if you’re more inclined to take the V6S on price, you’re still not in the wrong.
It’s clear when Jag design master Ian Callum set out to design the world’s greatest new sports car he was ambitious, but watching him take hold of his 2013 World Car Design of the Year trophy for the first time, you do get the sense he’s reached his mark.
Overall, the Jaguar F-Type lays a clear groundwork for Jaguar’s triumphant return to its racing heritage, one that both praises and builds upon the legendary E-Type’s legacy and is sure to put the company back on the map for years to come.