Test Drive: New Jaguar F-Type best new car design in the world

Test Drive: New Jaguar F-Type best new car design in the world

May 25th, 2013 by Mark Kennedy in Business Diary

The new F-type is the first new two-seater from Jaguar in more than 50 years. Staff Photo by Mark Kennedy

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FAST FACTS

Model: 2014 Jaguar F-Type

Exterior color: Status Gray

Interior color: Brogue (dark brown)

Engine: 3.0-liter supercharged, V-6

Horsepower: 380

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Fuel economy: 27 mpg highway, 19 mpg city

Dealer: Jaguar Chattanooga

Price (as tested): $94,470

That headline is a tall order to live up to.

Indeed, the new F-Type, the first new two-seater from Jaguar in over 50 years, was recently named the World Car Design of the Year by an international jury of design experts.

But what do you expect? After all, Jaguar's last two-seater, the E-Type, introduced in 1961, was once described by no less than Enzo Ferrari as "the most beautiful car ever made."

Last week, I got an email notice that the long-anticipated F-Type had arrived in Chattanooga. Indeed, Jaguar Chattanooga plans an unveiling event for the F-Type in coming days. (Call the dealership at 423-424-4000 for more information on time and place if you're interested.)

Remember, while mortal cars are redesigned every five years or so, the Jaguar two-seater gets the treatment only twice a century.

I got to take a spin in the gorgeous new F-Type, which is a bit like being strapped to the world's most fashionable bullet.

STYLING AND FEATURES

Anyone's first encounter with a 2014 Jaguar F-Type involves a slow walk-around as your eyes absorb the intoxicating curves.

The magic of a superior design is that it looks good from every angle. Indeed, the rear of the F-Type, which includes a spoiler that deploys automatically at 60 miles per hour, is a smart confluence of all the horizontal body lines. The joke among car guys is that Jaguar spent so much time designing the rear of its F-Type because that's the angle most other motorists will see it from. (Did I mention our supercharged test car has a top speed of 171 mph?)

The curvaceous exterior panels of the car are made of an aluminum alloy. The exceptionally strong but lightweight material helps both with performance and styling. A rigid body is important for a convertible, which may otherwise groan and rattle on uneven pavement. Less weight also means more speed.

Every inch of the F-Type shows a devotion to aerodynamics. Recessed door handles allow for glass-smooth side panels. An air splitter behind the front grille manages airflow underneath the car. What's more, the aforementioned rear spoiler can produce up to 264 pounds of downward pressure on the rear of the car during high-speed driving.

On a test drive on I-75, the F-Type drew a crowd as I soon found myself surrounded by those ogling for a peek. The sculpted hood and race-car inspired fascia announce the F-Type as special car, as the E-Type must have done in mid-century. Our test car came equipped with 19-inch "propeller" wheels.

One of the most important design elements of the F-Type cannot be photographed. That would be the shape of the exhaust note. Accelerate the supercharged engine and you'd swear there is a trombone band in the trunk. There's even a button on the center stack that allows for an unfiltered exhaust note with pops and crackles like you'd hear at a drag strip. There's something primal and masculine about the F-Type that makes it a true sports car.

Our test car came equipped with an extended leather option (which spreads the dark-brown leather to the dash and interior pillars), rib-hugging performance seats and a flat-bottom steering wheel.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

The F-type comes with two engine variants: a super-charged V-6 (380 horsepower) and a supercharged V-8 (495 horsepower). Our six-cylinder test car is such a rocket it makes you wonder if the V-8 (top speed 186 mph) is not a bit of overkill.

The near-perfect 50-50 front-to-rear weight ratio of the F-Type and short wheel base make it a blast to drive. The mission to get the weight distributed just right was so precise that Jaguar engineers ended up putting the windshield-washer fluid tank in the trunk.

Blast is exactly what the F-Type does when you goose it with your right foot. The car launches like a Porsche 911, and then starts the trombone chorus that signals your brain to release dopamine, the chemical pleasure transmitter.

The F-Type is not available with a pure manual transmission, but pedals mated to an 8-speed automatic give you the option of clutchless shifting. The transmission is tuned with a "dynamic launch mode" that packs maximum torque into the first two gears for rocket starts. Jaguar engineers are expert in supercharging, which allows them to produce ultra-high horsepower engines of compact size.

BOTTOM LINE

Our Status Gray test car stickers for $94,470, which includes about $13,000 in options. Gas mileage is 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway.

The new F-Type is a terrific example of classic design and modern technology. Jaguar is no slave to product cycles, so it's rare new automobiles arrive to market impeccably executed. It's no small trick to design a car with lines that inspire in the moment, but also remain stylish for decades.

With the F-Type, Jaguar has produced an instant classic. Expect the next face-lift in, oh, say, 2065.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.