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First Drive: 2014 Jaguar F-Type Convertible By Henny Hemmes

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2014 Jaguar F-Type. Henny At Speed

F is For Fabulous

By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
The Auto Channel

PAMPLONA - April 30, 2014: When Jaguar unveiled the F-Type at the Paris auto show last year, Ian Callum, Jaguar’s design director, said that no project had given him a greater pleasure than the creation of this new model: “I do not need to say much: this car speaks for itself…”

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Indeed, I did not need to hear more words, because the well proportioned, exciting looks promise true sports car hardware underneath, making you eager to drive it. I was not the only one to appreciate the looks of the convertible: early this year, the votes of many a fellow-juror of the World Car Awards resulted in the F-Type to become the 2013 World Car Design of the Year.

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The new F-Type is as noteworthy as the E-Type was half a century ago. Since the goal was to develop a sports car true to Jaguar values, it is no surprise that the new model hints at its legendary predecessor, which was one of the most famous sports cars on the market. Look at the wrap around rear lights with the round center part and the double tail pipes in the middle and you see what I mean!

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Not only Jaguar aficionados are glad with the arrival of the F-Type, but all fans of open two-seaters are excited with the arrival of the latest cat. And that is exactly what Jaguar wants, because it wants to reach new, young(er) customers, who are in the market for competitors such as the 911 Carrera, the Audi R8 and the Aston Martin V8 Vantage.

So the F-Type is of great importance to the British brand, that with the most ambitious investment program in its history aims to shift its business from being a niche player into a serious contender in the global premium sports car segment. During the press conference in Pamplona, global brand manager Wayne Darley made it clear that performance is back to the heart of the Jaguar brand and that there is a relentless focus on quality as well.

Points made, time to drive!

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Jaguar invited us to come to Northern Spain to get our first driving impressions with all three supercharged engine variants that are available from the market launch. As usual, I choose to ‘work my way up’ through the power plants and started with the ‘normal’ 340 hp V6-model on the route from Pamplona through the valley and into the mountains of Navarra.

With a length of 176 inches, the two-seater is just that: it sits two. For taller people there is enough leg space and as I am sitting rather close to the steering wheel, there is even some space behind my seat to stow away my jacket. My purse goes into the luggage compartment that only measures 5.2 cu-ft with the soft top stowed away and 6.0 cu-ft with the roof up. By the way, the roof can be opened and closed moving at up to 31 mph.

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Walk up to ‘your car’ with the key in your pocket, the door handle moves out of its slot in the door for easy grip. The cockpit looks smart and is well executed, but I do not like the position of the navigation screen. It sits too low in the center console. I would prefer it to be higher up in the dash, where the ‘pop-up’ air vents are placed. Of course there is a reason: this allows the warm air to blow over your head when you drive with the top down. But hey, you can wear a cap or a scarf if it is chilly. Moreover, the airflow in the cockpit is not bad and you hardly notice the wind blowing through your hair. Sometimes, the navigation system is not quick enough to match a deliberate detour or a swirl around the roundabout.

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The new turbo charged 3.0-liter V6 engine delivers 340 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. My colleague and I agreed that it the performance is well enough to actively conquer the roads up and down the mountains. There may be many customers who will love and appreciate the willingness of the engine that is teamed to the 8-speed ZF automatic ‘Quickshift’ transmission, just like the other two engine variants.

I like to shift with the paddles on the steering wheel, but my companion prefers the automatic mode. In both cases the transmission works excellent. The set up of the suspension is what you can expect of a sports car. Jaguar did not try to combine sportiness with a certain amount of comfort and did not provide this model with adaptive damper control. True to its sports car genes, the F-Type is tight, but not too hard.

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For lunch we arrive at the Circuito de Navarra, a nice and new race track close to Pamplona. Yes, of course, we can also drive the F-Type there. This time there is a slew of F-Type S models available. The instructors take it easy in the hope the journalists will do the same during the four laps granted on the technical track. The 380 hp strong variant of the 3.0- engine that we already drove in the F-Type speeds from the pits makes you believe the published 0-60 mph time of 4.8 seconds is correct. However, we never reach the top speed of just 171 mph, as the Navarra track is too short.

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>p>The weight of 3,558 pounds of the all-aluminum F-Type is ideal with a ratio of 50:50 and you feel the balance helps a lot in the short bends. The stint was too short to try out the Jag in all details. The instructor had set up the suspension by means of a menu in the screen. Familiarizing yourself with a new race track is easiest in automatic mode for a couple of laps and then switch to the sports mode, where the transmission is much more responsive and ‘acts’ as expected.

We took the V6 S from the track to the hotel and appreciated the performance, the immediate reaction upon whatever tiny little bit of steering input and the sound of the 3.0-liter engine. Boy, that sound…! Mind you with the top down, you can really enjoy it more and there is that button in the center console…. push it and the sound is enhanced, while above 3,000 rpm you hear the baffles in the exhaust system.. blob, blob. What fun it is to drive this new Jaguar. Back in the hotel, we have to admit that the sound coming from the tailpipes may be a bit tiring. But it is just one of those things: enjoy it when possible.

And there is even more!

The next day, the F-Type V8 S is our treat after breakfast for a nearly three hour long drive.

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Its unmistakable V8-howl reaches your ears as soon as you push the start button. Push the gear lever in D and off you go. Traction is no problem and in 4.3 seconds the F-Type races to 62 mph and goes on all the way to 186 mph, electronically limited that is. The 5.0-liter produces 495 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque and immediately leaves no doubt about its aspirations. And that V8 sound... Brilliant!

The chassis is well balanced and there is absolutely a lot of grip. The adaptive Dynamics suspension adds to the driving dynamics and only if you really push it, the rear end can move out and then, you still feel well in control. The V8 S model is easily recognizable by...the tailpipes. Indeed, where the V6 features a twin center tailpipe, just like the E-Type, in the V8 S model they are two by two fitted on both sides.

Other differences can be found in the trim, while the V6 model sits standard on 18-inch wheels, with 19- and 20-inch wheels optional, which are standard for the S and V8 S respectively.

The F-Type starts at $ 69,000, the F-Type S leaves the dealerships after paying $ 81,000, while the F-Type V8 S costs $ 92,000.

Jaguar really has developed a desirable, full blooded sports car. Light and rigid, confident and pure, a car for which the F-word has a more civilized meaning…Fabulous!