It was once said that if you give an Englishman a piece of sheet metal, he’ll do something silly with it. While that was once semi-true—there were exquisite D-type Jaguars to go with the amusingly plump 1949 Triumph 2000 Roadster—it no longer applies. Survival of the fittest, however, means no more silly cars from Jolly Olde, only sublime. And there’s no better proof of that than the 2015 Jaguar F-type.
Of course, the Jaguar F-type comes by that honestly, as they say, a spiritual successor to the Jaguar D-type race car, itself the son of the svelte Jaguar C-type racer, and I-am-your-father to the legendary Jaguar E-type. So, to summarize, C-type, D-type, E-type…then F-type, of course.
The C-Type and D-Type were race cars, roadsters all, with spare accommodations even in roadworthy models. The E-type, however, was a road car that was raced on occasion, available in convertible, coupe and even a rather ungainly 2+2 best left disremembered. The E-Type’s reign ran from the early ‘60s to the mid ‘70s when it was replaced by the Jaguar XJS, a two-seater running from 1975 and for the next two decades. Although it was pressed into racing duties, calling the XJS a sports car took some imagination. As a grand tourer, however, the touring was grand.
Although Jaguar grandly pursued the sedan market, it didn’t abandon the two-seater genre, introducing the XK in 1996 to the present. Although on the large size for a sports car, we were willing to call it—whether coupe or convertible—if you were.
Jaguar does not, however, saying “The Jaguar XK is a Grand Tourer with the heart and soul of a sports car.”
The sports car with the soul of a sports car, then, is the F-Type. It’s noticeably more compact than the XK but only an inch longer than the E-Type, which in itself is a mere two inches longer than the classic XK-120. While the XK-120 and E-Type used the—how many ways can you say legendary—XK in-line six-cylinder engine, at least at first, it grew into V-12 which was later adopted by the XJS. The Jaguar XK the first to Jaguar’s AJ-V8 engine.
That’s a library of history compressed into a few paragraphs. It’s mentioned to establish the birthright of the new 2015 Jaguar E-Type. It’s a true sports car from an automaker with a true sporting legacy.
Smaller than the XK, however, it’s still larger than other sports cars on the market, significantly so than of course the Mazda Miata, Alfa Romeo 4C, and the BMW Z4. The latter, for example, is about ten inches shorter overall with a five-inch shorter wheelbase. But then those cars aren’t in the same class under the hood. The base Jaguar F-Type—if a car like the F-Type can have a base model—is Jaguar’s new supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 producing 340 horsepower. In higher tune, the supercharged V-6 makes 380 horses and goes into the Jaguar F-Type S.
It’s a big leap to the next level, and that’s the 2015 Jaguar F-Type V8 S. The “V8” in the model designation is the engine configuration, and the “S” might as well mean “supercharged” because the engine is. It’s rated at a whopping 495 horsepower, and we’re delighted it’s the model we tested.
To say that the 2015 Jaguar F-Type V8 S is quick is like saying the recovery from the Great Recession is slow. With the supercharged V-8, the F-Type charges from naught to sixty in 4.2 seconds. The F-Type S is a relative sluggard at 4.8 seconds and the plain old F-Type takes a snooze-inducing 5.1 seconds to get to 60 mph, according to Jaguar.
The supercharged V-8 is a marvel. The engine isn’t “all-new” but instead entering its third generation. The engine, in this relatively light chassis, slingshots its way through the rev range. Horsepower numbers? Who cares? The F-Type V8 S produces enough motive force to delight the most dedicated G-force junkie.
All models come equipped with an eight-speed “Quickshift” automatic transmission. Unlike Jaguar sedans which have twist-knob gear selectors that rise from the center console, the F-Type has a conventional automatic transmission shifter that is moved to “D” for normal automatic operation. Pull it to the left for manual mode, which allows shifting via moving the shifter fore and aft, or by flipping levers mounted on the steering wheel.
The “quickshift” refers to the electronic control of the shifts, which involves rapid “torque intervention”—it briefly backs off the throttle—for a smooth shift but still firm enough to feel the power flow. It allows the transmission to lock the torque converter from second gear on up for a tauter feel in transmitting power.
The transmission can “read” how the F-Type is being driven—acceleration and braking, cornering forces, throttle and brake activity, road load, kickdown requests as well as whether car is being driven up or downhill—and choose from one of 25 different shift programs. Impressive, but why would anyone want to drive this car, smart as the autobox may be, in full automatic mode?