Thursday, September 26, 2013

Test Drive: 2014 Jaguar F-Type V6S

Update: See how the Jaguar performed in a head-to-head comparison against the standard setting Porsche Boxster S.

Sometimes, things just come together. For a wedding, for instance, there are so many moving pieces that all must come together and fall into place in order for the day to be perfect. Dresses must look perfect, tuxes must be pressed, the caterer must deliver great food, the DJ must set the perfect atmosphere, and even those things that one cannot control, such as the weather, must all align. When everything is just right, it feels like a miracle and the day comes out elegant, beautiful, and memorable. With this newest entry into the convertible category, Jaguar may very well have pulled off just such a miracle. There is just so much to enjoy in this car that you most likely will not car that it is not quite flawless.

Upon first setting eyes on this car during its debut in Paris, it was hard not to appreciate the athletic form, the sleek lines, and shapely rear. Yet, something about the front of it felt a little off, as if it did not quite fit cleanly with everything else. However, photographs simply do not do this car justice. In the flesh, it is stunning to look at and running your hands over the bodywork feels downright naughty. There is simply not a single detail that was not thought out about the design of this car. Credit is due to Jaguar for putting out what are some of the most impressively elegant cars in the business today. You can just sense the heritage in the overall shape, yet the intimate details are so delightfully modern. There is simply no other word for it but beautiful.

Touch the trick door handles and it reaches out to greet you like an old friend. Pop open the door and step inside and breath in the fantastic smell of the rich leather that covers the seats and door panels. Most things that look like metal, are actual metal and feel rich to the touch. Those seats coddle you just right and are insanely adjustable, allowing any driver to find just the right position behind the thickly-rimmed steering wheel. It is not quite a perfect, with some of the center console plastic between the two seats looking a step or two below expectations, but you will hardly notice it because you will be too busy enjoying all the good stuff.

Step on the brake, press the starter button, and with a mighty roar, the Jag's supercharged V6 springs to life, making its presence heard, but not felt. The motor is so smooth that at idle, you simply cannot feel its presence at all. That bellowing from the pipes, however, cannot be ignored. Like a pair of cannons saluting your every action, the exhaust on this car makes itself known instantly. Of course, it is just part of the magic because as you are listening to the wonderful exhaust burble, the center A/C vents are motoring out of their hiding place atop the center dash panel. While this is wizardry purely for the showmanship, it is amusing to watch and quick becoming a bit of a Jaguar trademark. A quick press of a button on the center console and the top promptly disappears, exposing everything to fresh air.

Shift into drive and dip into the throttle to be greeted by a rich baritone burble as the car pulls smoothly away. Dip into it some more and the sensation of thrust is accompanied by the symphony of sound that makes the entire driving experience thrilling, even at modest speeds. Take control of the transmission in manual mode and each buttery upshift is paired with a snap, crackle, and pop from the exhaust. Lift out of the throttle and those same wonderful noises reappear, filling your head with sounds that usually are only found on cars fitted with raucous aftermarket exhaust systems. Best of all, there is a button next to the shifter that with a single press, raises the volume of those wonderful sounds a few more notches. It is intoxicating and you find yourself doing things just to make more sound.

Find an empty freeway on-ramp and hammer the throttle to fully appreciate the power. The car surges forward, accompanied by the wicked bellow from the exhaust. Shift! Snap, crackle, roar! It is ridiculous fun and before you know it, you're doing extra-legal speeds with the sales guy fidgeting nervously in the passenger seat. Luckily the brakes are stout and smoothly bring the big cat back down to the speed limit. No drama, just wonderful noises enhanced by the fact that there is no top to get in the way. Click the left shift paddle twice, and the transmission delivers up near instantaneously the desired gear and away we go again, accompanied by the exhaust sounds bouncing off the concrete barriers.

Pull off the freeway and onto some of Boston's frost-heaved roads and one thing quickly becomes apparent - the Jag is not only aurally pleasing, the ride is fantastic as well. It glides along the rough roads, soaking up bumps and mellowing out jolts, making for an incredibly pleasant platform from which to enjoy the road. That is not to say that the car feels wallowy. In fact, it is quite the opposite, with immediate turn-in, little body roll, and great control in the corners. Toss it into a sweeping turn and the car tracks cleanly through, going exactly where it is pointed. It may not be razor sharp, but the steering wheel offers good feedback and weights up nicely as it is pulled off center. Desire some oversteer, just crack open the throttle and dial in just the right angle.

Pulling back into the dealership, I was feeling almost a little saddened that my time with this phenomenal car was drawing to a close. It seemed that the car knew it too, offering up one last pop from the exhaust as I shut it down. This Jag is certainly an amazing car and delivers on something few Jag lovers ever thought could happen: a truly impressive successor to the legendary E-Type. Sure, there are a few tiny flaws with the F-Type, such as the laughably tiny trunk that might as well not be there, but it is the first Jaguar sports car in ages to offer that truly unique experience that was a big part of what made the E-Type so special. And it is this that sets this new Jag apart from its competitors on the market. Unlike those cars that it shares a class with, this car makes the driver feel special and offers up an experience that elevates itself above the competition.

Just like a wedding, the F-Type required so many disparate pieces to come together to make it work. Somehow, Jaguar has managed this well and delivered on what is a truly memorable experience. And that is the key here because just like a wedding, the F-Type is not flawless, but it gets so much right that it makes for a wonderful and unforgettable experience all the same. And at the end of the day, that is what is truly important.

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