Test drive: Jaguar's 495 hp F-type V8 S serves up near open-aired perfection
I’d been in Jaguar’s new F-type V8 S roadster for less than ten minutes when I realized this was the true heir and successor to the company's legendary E-type. The new go-fast kitty, with its 495 hp V8 and melodramatic exhaust emanations not only looked marvelous but now had the underpinnings to hopefully put the British marque back in the game.
My relationship with Jaguar in the past has been what you could call contentious. In the 80’s a 1967 E-type coupe tried to do me in by hydro-planing at 60 mph (96 km/h) on a rainy night on the prairie. This happened several times and subsequent underwear changes were necessary, but fortunately both myself and the 4.2 liter red coupe managed to stay out of the ditch.
Another run in with an, as it turned out, dubiously re-wired E-Type in the '80's left me stranded on one of LA’s finer freeways, further tainting my relationship with the Jaguar brand. So what would the company's new critically acclaimed F-type V8 S offer to appease one so wrongly treated in the past?
Let’s get the styling out of the way. The F-type is quite simply drop dead gorgeous. Although it doesn’t possess the iconic lines of the legendary E-type, the new F-type with its aggressive design, bulging haunches and pouncy proportions, does indeed communicate what Jaguar calls a “muscular yet sensual presence.” Our convertible tester, a brilliant Firesand metallic orange beasty, was stunning from most any angle as you can see in the photo gallery. The aluminum body flows effortlessly from tip to tail and the active spoiler, front splitter and gaping intakes only add to the car’s performance-minded appearance. As far as head-turnability goes, the big kitty had absolutely no problems attracting gawks and stares from a wide variety of onlookers.
Inside the open-aired F-type Jaguar has done a commendable job at presenting a cockpit that is both sporty and luxurious. The instrument panel features clear white on black analog gauging, easy to reach paddle shifters and well organized seat controls on the door panels. Seating was comfortable yet supportive with enough lateral support to keep you in place. Wind noise with the top down was, well windy, but not unruly or problematic. With the lid up, the wind, engine and street noise are obviously reduced significantly ... though when you have a Jaguar roadster one does not drive with the top up. It’s just not cricket.
Yes yes, the interior’s nice, the exterior is nice, but what’s not polite is that 495 hp supercharged V8 they stuffed under the bonnet. Displacing 5.0 liters, the V8 has enough torque to keep you happy at any speed. Tied into the right brilliant 8-speed ZF auto-box, the engine produces trailer pulling amounts of torque to the tune of 460 lb.ft (624 Nm) right in the sweet range of 2,500 – 5,500 rpm.
This makes the F-type V8 S capable (on paper) of hitting 100 km/h (62 mph) from a standing start in 4.3 seconds and reaching a limited top speed of 300 km/h (186 mph). I can attest to the big cat’s quickness and pulling power as we experimented on both highways, rural and abandoned industrial roadways. The power curve for the most part presents drivers with a highly intoxicating shot with a simple blip of the throttle.
The back end does tend to slip out under heavy acceleration, even with traction control on. With traction control off, all kinds of mayhem is thus made possible as can be seen by in this Chris Harris video.
The gearbox also deserves kudos. It enables the car to relax at highway speeds in eighth gear, but gets downright feisty when pushed in paddle shift mode. The QuickShift automatic gearbox constantly monitors driver inputs and a variety of other information to provide optimal shifting, though I must admit I was having too much fun on the paddles to really assess the car in auto mode.
The F-type’s performance mode, or Dynamic Mode, definitely tightens everything up. Throttle response is faster, shifts are faster, and throttle tip-in is definitely improved as was handling, thanks to tighter dampers.
Weighing in at 1,614 kg (3,558 lb) the F-type V8 S roadster isn’t exactly trim. Although its weight is comparable with a Porsche 911, the Jaguar still feels slightly heavy when asked to transition quickly. Mind you, given the car is more of a big GT device meant for open roads, I can forgive it for its less than Miata-like handling. The suspension does a fantastic job of smoothing out the ride on imperfect road surfaces as it assesses body motion and pitch, adjusting each damper or corner accordingly in order to provide optimal control.
Steering feel is excellent, providing quality feedback and response across the full gamut of driving scenarios. The big kitty’s brakes also played out nicely to stop or reduce speed as needed with good peddle feel and modulation.
Another outstanding feature is the one awesome, dual-personality Active Sport Exhaust system – it's the auditory device that every kid should have. When activated via a switch on the console, this clever bit of kit allows exhaust gasses to exit the F-type’s twin tailpipes more directly. It delivers a sound that harkens back the days of Jackie Stewart and Stirling Moss as it burbles, pops, barks and bites at the air. Unfortunately the aural excitement that the exhaust brings to the game also draws law enforcement out from beneath their caffeine induced trances like bees to honey.
My experience in Jaguar’s F-type V8 S roadster served to erase most of the memories of my '80s E-Type tribulations and gave me new faith that the old British marque is well and truly back on its game.
The F-type V8 S roadster sells for around US$100,000.
Step on through to our photo gallery for a closer look at this gorgeous piece of automotive engineering.