It almost seems sacrilegious to be up before six o'clock in the morning on a Saturday.
But, I was. Groggy eyed and a bit worn down from the work week, I showered and did my standard ritual. It was when I was fixing myself in the mirror I perked up a little bit.
"Finally," I sighed. This was the day I'd get my first crack at driving the all-new 2014 Jaguar F-Type.
If you've been following my ramblings/writings for the past 18 months you've probably noticed a theme by now. Since the launch of the Jaguar XJ, Jaguar Land Rover has been on a roll. You've probably heard me reference that FOX story with the Range Rover Evoque at least a handful of times now, and you've probably read about my lust for the E-Type coupe and when one blew past me as a young'n it changed me forever.
Jaguar ALIVE Driving Experience — New York City
The F-Type is not an XK replacement. Essentially it is the E-Type's spiritual successor. At least that's how I am viewing it. I mean, "F" does come after "E," right?
About two weeks ago an extension of Jaguar — a third-party public relations company — reached out to me and invited me out to one of its consumer events dubbed the Jaguar ALIVE Driving experience. Held at the New York Mets' CitiField, it was a good chance to have some open space and give the vehicles a proper wringing. Though the event is intended to give would-be buyers a crack at the entire Jaguar portfolio, I was a man on a mission: drive the F.
After sitting through one of the introductory presentations on the company's sedan offerings, thankfully, two handlers found me and asked exactly what I was looking for. The answer was straightforward: get me into the "F."
Soon I found myself in front of six F-Types with the ignition on and a professional instructor at my side. Interesting to note: the base V6 model was not there to drive.
It was nice to see the F-Type in a variety of color combinations though I have to say the burnt orange color with the black interior is particularly striking. What took me by surprise were the gunmetal wheels with the carbon fiber accents — I didn't realize that little touch made production.
Quickly I was behind the flat-bottomed steering wheel making the proper seat adjustments. Trying to fit a 6'8 giraffe in a two-seater roadster is typically a hassle but only took several moments in the F. Surprisingly, it had more than enough room to fit me comfortably though if I were at the track sporting a helmet it would likely be tight. Roof down, obviously, that's not much of a concern.
Another interesting note: the top isn't one of those loud and clunky hydraulic systems. It must be electric because it silently put itself into place once the button was pushed.
Time was short so I didn't properly inspect the interior. At a quick glance everything appeared straightforward and seemed nice enough; however, the cup holder cover came off rather chintzy for my taste. When you're spending upwards of $69,000 for a vehicle this is not something I want to deal with or see.
There were some pretty nifty attributes though. Take, for example, the infotainment display that can display all the essentials a track rat would want: "G" meter, lap times, etc. In addition, I liked the little touches that kept the interior just a little quirky and British. I love that the interior has a toggle switch and I appreciate how the design team gave the paddles some flair with the copper finish known as "Ignis."
The first vehicle I piloted was the V6 S model. It's equipped with a supercharged V6 good for 380 horsepower and 339 lb.-ft. of torque. And if you know me, you're likely aware I am a bigger fan of sixes than eights. I mean, just listen to it.
I put the car around the tiny autocross for several laps and there were a few things that really stood out to me.
1) It sounds unbelievable. This six sings and the active exhaust should be left open the entire time. There's no other way to drive it.
2) The V6 S MOVES. Though the F-Type weighs in at about 3,500 pounds you have to remember it does have 380 ponies. Zero to 60 comes in a claimed 4.8 seconds but it feels more spritely than that.
3) The V6 S feels nimble, tossable and predictable, which are all good things if you want to drive the vehicle at 10/10ths and have a lot of fun. It doesn't feel scary because there is plenty of grip.
4) With all of the settings dialed up the throttle response is SHARP. In fact, it's a bit too eager and jumpy.
5) I laughed out loud while going around the course. That never happens.
So far, so good. There were no casualties — no cones were toppled — and I was having a blast. Typically I am a bit more relaxed and stern, though with the first series of laps I was smiling like a toddler who had been handed a gigantic ice cream cone.
Now it was time for the V8 S. Given that it has 495 horsepower and 460 lb.-ft. of torque being churned out I knew it was going to be a bit more rambunctious.
1) The V8 S, obviously, has a much more throaty sound with some LOUD pops and bangs on the overrun. This is the aggressive Jaguar note people will be talking about.
2) The V8 actually feels what I'd call "scary fast." It plants you into the seat and if you don't know what you're doing you can/will wind up in serious trouble.
3) That said, if you DO know what you're doing, it's a ton of fun. The F-Type likes to move her hips around turns when you apply the throttle.
4) It seems less darty and zippy than the six, but more confident and planted.
After getting out of the Jag and thanking my instructor, Sam Schultz, I did the lonely walk back to my ride. It was time to go home.
Though I probably had approximately 20 minutes of wheel time at the helm of Jaguar's latest sports car, I can confirm that it blew my doors off. It exceeded my expectations by a mile. While I don't think it's nearly as precise as a Porsche, it provides more smiles and laughs.
And I don't know about you all but I am not looking to shave tenths or hundredths of a second off a lap time. I am looking to enjoy myself when I make an investment. For me the F-Type has a damn good ROI so far, but that's not accounting for daily driving. That's another story for another day.
Jaguar ALIVE Driving Experience — New York City