Jaguar's 2014 F-Type: Now With Geek Cred
You can’t really call yourself a geek if you're not a fan of Star Wars, right? Surely you remember the Galactic Empire's TIE fighter. This iconic starfighter was terrifying for its agility. And what does that have to do with the sport car's headlight you see pictured?
During the development of Jaguar's 2014 F-Type, company employees put up a poster of the TIE fighter for inspiration, culminating in this car's headlamp. If you look closely, you can see the HID projector as the fighter's body, while chrome wings come out to complete the TIE fighter look (perhaps more accurately, Vader's TIE Advanced x1). It's a subtle nod to Star Wars, giving this gorgeous ride a little bit of superficial geek cred. Jaguar finishes the headlamp with a strip of LED running lights that form the letter J, too.
One Sexy Cat
Roughly 40 years have passed since Jaguar's last sports car. So, the company knew it had a tough battle ahead in Audi's R8, Porsche's 911 Carrera, and Aston Martin's V8 Vantage. While those are great cars, Jaguar is aiming lower at the uncontested space between roadsters like Mercedes-Benz's SLK, BMW's Z4, Porsche's Boxster and the market favorites mentioned above.
Designed by Ian Callum, design director at Jaguar, the new F-Type is simply stunning. A car should look fast, even when it's standing still, according to Mr. Callum’s philosophy. Needless to say, this car's body is clearly built for speed. Clean, smooth lines channel predatory felines of years past.
Jaguar's F-Type Media Event
To launch its brand new F-Type, Jaguar flew automotive press to the beautiful Pacific Northwest for a fun-filled day of driving. Fortunately for us, we were already in the area. A one-hour drive got us to the hotel in Seattle where the festivities began.
Why bother with Washington to introduce a topless car when it's raining most of the year? Contrary to popular belief, summers here are gorgeous. I don't even remember the last time it rained. That weather, coupled with amazing new mountain roads leading up to Mt. Rainier and The Ridge Motorsports Park, made this the perfect destination. During our time with the F-Type, we only saw the slightest little drizzle. That wasn't enough for us to put the top up, though...
The Infotainment System
The F-Type's driver-focused interior sports the company’s standard eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system. It's a pretty simple system that does the job we expect it to. There's nothing explicitly wrong with touchscreen infotainment systems per se, but we prefer more physical control. To Jaguar's credit, there are a couple of buttons for direct access to functions like navigation, music, and phone control. There’s even a volume knob next to the shifter.
This is going to sound funny, but the climate control knobs are the coolest part of the center stack. Jaguar employs rotary knobs with a rubber coating that feels really well-built. However, each knob also has its own OLED display that shows the automatic climate control temperature, seat heater setting, and fan adjustments. The feature is subtle, but reminds me of the Optimus Maximus OLED keyboard and its individual display keys.
Below the control knobs are toggle switches for other HVAC features. Jaguar claims that inspiration for the toggle switches comes from military jets, though we'd still prefer to think we're in the cockpit of that TIE fighter.
Old-School Gauges And An LCD
Jaguar employs standard analog gauges for its main speedometer and tachometer, as proper sports cars should. Between the instruments is a five-inch LCD that shows coolant temperature, fuel level, a digital speedometer, vehicle warnings, and fuel economy information. The sandwiched display is useful because it ties in with the navigation system and conveys upcoming directions. Kudos to Jaguar for unifying both information centers, which some companies still don't do.
Hidden Air Vents
The F-Type is a driver’s car, which is why Jaguar designed the interior for maximum visibility. High-mounted vents are typically an eyesore in cars with low dashboards, particularly when the LCD is kept at head level for quick, safe glances. This conundrum is addressed by Jaguar with active center air vents. They hide stealthily when the car or its climate control system are off. When the air conditioning or heater get turned on, they pop up automatically. As far as novelty goes, this rivals the rising shift knob in Jaguar's sedans.
Adaptive Dynamics System
Adaptive suspension systems are great for making dynamic adjustments on the fly as road conditions change. Jaguar's high-end S models get its Adaptive Dynamics technology, which monitors the suspension 100 times every second, while polling the steering input 500 times a second. The result is a vehicle that tracks beautifully in a straight line and turns into curves confidently, as I discovered in the V8S model around The Ridge Motorsports Park.
You're also able to manually adjust other aspects of the car through its infotainment system, including the transmission, engine, steering, and suspension. Track-focused drivers even have access to an integrated stop watch and G-meter.
Back-up cameras are pretty standard nowadays. The F-Type doesn’t really need one, especially with its top down, but Jaguar integrates on anyways. It's stealthily installed in the sheet metal below the license plate. Mounted flush, this is at least one of the cleanest back-up camera installations we've come across.
Blind Spot Monitor
Jaguar arms the F-Type with a blind spot monitoring system too, which simply flashes an icon in the side mirrors if a vehicle is in your blind spot. Although we appreciate this functionality in larger, unwieldy vehicles, it's more of a checklist option in the F-Type. Blind spots aren't really a problem in a car you're going to be driving with its top down.
Increasingly, control over ambient lighting is popular in new cars. Jaguar embraces this as an option, offering five different colors: phosphor blue, pale blue, white, coral, and red. Ambient lighting is adjustable through the infotainment system. We weren't driving the F-Type at night though, so we missed out on the impact of this feature.
Three Motors To Choose From
The F-Type is available with three different motor options, two V6s and a V8. All three have superchargers strapped onto them. Naturally, they make different levels of power. The 3.0 L V6 puts out 340 hp, which propels the car from zero to 60 in 5.1 seconds. Stepping up to the F-Type S bumps power up another 40 hp and cuts the 0-60 MPH sprint to 4.8 seconds. The F-Type V8 S is the flagship, and it comes armed with a 5.0 L V8 that gets to 60 MPH in 4.2 seconds, backed by 495 hp.
All three motors include start/stop technology that shuts the engine off at idle. Frankly, this "feature" is obnoxious. It was very noticeable when the motor started or turned off. This might be something you want on a sub-compact or SUV, but it lacks refinement on a luxury sports car. Fortunately, you can disable the capability altogether by toggling the Eco button, though annoyingly, it re-enables every time the car starts.