2015 Jaguar F-Type

2015-jaguar-f-type_100462984_hJaguar has its first true sports car in at least a generation with the F-Type. It returns for the 2015 model year, with the roadster gaining a new hardtop coupe companion that impresses us even more, with performance that outshines its sibling and nearly outshines its pedigree.

The F-Type effectively replaces the Jaguar XK grand touring coupe and convertible, which have their final pass at shoppers in the 2015 model year. It may call back to classic Jaguar sportscars with its rear-drive, two-seat layout, but it manages to steer well clear of cliche and of purely retro hooks. The design is pure contemporary, bare and essential, with just a cue here and there drawn from the well–the round taillamps, the fender vents. There’s enough Corvette and Maserati influence to go around, especially at the front end, but it sums itself up best in its curvaceous shoulders and at the rear end–which to our eyes, forms more beautifully on the hardtop.

The cockpit’s a more intensely focused sportscar environment, too. The gauges tuck deeply into binnacles, while the passenger gets a grab handle–a wordless confirmation of its true mission as much as the orange-tinted start button and shift paddles. There’s no wood trim to be found, but carbon fiber and red leather are on the can-have list. Ancillary information is displayed on a big LCD screen; climate controls have prominent positions on the stack as rotary knobs with push functions for seat heating.

All grand-touring bias gets swept away as you climb the F-Type ladder, from standard supercharged V-6 to extraordinary supercharged V-8. The six-cylinders are 3.0-liter units, one tuned to 340 horsepower, another to 380-hp tune. The 0-60 mph estimates for these range from 5.1 seconds and 4.8 seconds, respectively, and top speeds are limited to 161 mph and 171 mph.

The roadster’s V-8 is a 5.0-liter unit, with 495 horsepower, pegged at a 0-60 mph time of 4.2 seconds, with a top speed limited to 186 mph. The Coupe R’s distinctive V-8 nets 550 hp, and the quickest 0-60 mph time of 4.0 seconds. An eight-speed automatic is the only transmission for now, but adaptive controls and shift paddles make it an eager, quick-responding companion to either engine.

Behind the wheel, the F-Type lives up to its sportscar intent, though it still carries a fair amount of weight, which filters off some ultimate steering feel in all models, even the otherwise otherworldly Coupe R. It’s crafted from aluminum like the XK, but it’s shorter, though still bigger than the Boxster and Cayman, its primary competition, and at 3,500 pounds and up, heavier.

In the end, the aluminum is less about weight loss than weight balance. The F-Type’s basic setup is quick and nimble enough, but it’s in the higher-output six and the eight-cylinders, with adaptive dampers, where it truly intrudes on sportscar territory. It lacks the finer precision of a Boxster or Cayman until you opt into the track-able Coupe R–at which point the rorty, yaw-happy F-Type goes fully in on grip and responsiveness. We think it’s more entertaining to drive than just about anything in its class, except the Cayman S and possibly, the Corvette Stingray Z51.

Functionally, the F-Type suffers for being a sportscar, but any more than those worthy competitors. The roadster’s trunk is tiny; the coupe has a better rear cargo area that might hold two golf bags if pressed. The cabin is suitably roomy for two adults, so long as their legs aren’t 99th-percentile. On roadsters, the convertible top is power-operated and folds in such a way that no tonneau cover is needed. It also lowers or rises into place in 12 seconds, at speeds of up to 30 mph. Both it and the coupe are happily quiet on the go, until you trigger their adrenalin-stirring levels of overrun.

Finally, luxury features haven’t been left off the sportscar’s menu just to save a few ounces–not if the well-heeled buyer wants them. The F-Type’s power sport seats have manual fore/aft adjustments to save weight, but upgraded “Performance” seats are an option, as is full power adjustment. Audio systems come from Meridian, with either 10 or 12 speakers, and either 380 or 770 watts of power.

The base 340-hp supercharged V-6 coupe costs $65,925; the roadster is about $4,000 more. The 380-hp supercharged six cars start from around $78,000. The V-8-powered F-Type Coupe R just barely slides in below $100,000. It likes to slide. And so will you, if that number fits inside your wallet.