The British Roadster’s Comeback


Once upon a time, the alphabet of sports cars ended at E, as in E-Type. It was in 1961, and as England was still emerging from the dark years of war, British maker Jaguar had been turning out eye-catching luxury saloons at a modest pace until it hit upon the E-Type, a sports car with such a sexy figure that even Enzo Ferrari, presumably in a weak moment, reportedly called it “the most beautiful car ever made.” He was merely joining a global chorus. If it’s possible for an object to have a platonic ideal, the E-Type is it.

Fast-forward 50 or so years, to today. Jaguar is finally adding another letter to its sports car alphabet with the introduction of its lightweight, high-powered F-Type two-seater. It’s fast, sexy, and surprisingly sporty for a Jaguar. Was it worth the wait? Is there any possible way to follow the sports car that made Ferrari himself hitch up his pants? Yes and no. The F-Type is nothing like the E-Type. And comparing them is a fool’s errand, like comparing Cubist painting to Photoshop.

But it’s not as crazy to compare it to the Porsche 911 Carerra or the Audi R8, which is the category in which Jag puts the F-Type. As well it should, since the F-Type starts at a surprisingly low $69,895 for the entry-level 340-horsepower V6; $81,895 adds another 80-hp to the V6. The top-shelf supercharged V8 goes for $92,895 and spins out a fierce 495 hp hits 60mph in just 4.2 seconds. By comparison, the 911 Carrera costs $105,630 and hits basically the same performance specs.

So what’s so special about the F-Type? First of all, it is a thing of beauty. Beefier than the E-Type, it’s not going to make the execs in Modena drool, but it’s still a legitimate sex object. It’s also very much a driver’s car: Aggressive, fast, low-to-the-ground. The V8 S version has quad-pipe exhaust that sounds a savage engine note as you work your way through Jaguar’s 8-gear “Quickshift” transmission. The cockpit is decked out with smart, simple controls designed for a mechanical feel, like toggle switches for the climate controls and the dynamic mode selector, and a meaty, trigger-pull gear shifter that’s comfortingly retro.

Jag has gone deep to make the F-Type lightweight, with a riveted and bonded all-aluminum chassis. But the end result is not a British version of a 911. It’s agile, whiplike, and sporty, but it’s still a Jaguar, so it feels a little meatier than the Porsche. And that’s fine. The F-Type doesn’t need to chase the ghost of the E-Type or match the 911 blow-by-blow. It has its own personality, and that’s something worth waiting for. [from $69,895,]

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