Mountain Wheels: Fiendish V8 transforms Jaguar’s F-Type into a wild thing
Ryan Summerlin May 17, 2014
2014 Jaguar F-Type V8 S Convertible
MSRP: $92,000; as tested, $103,820
Powertrain: 495-HP 5.0-liter supercharged V8 engine, eight-speed automatic transmission
EPA figures: 18 mpg combined (16 city, 23 highway)
That noise. Dear goodness, that noise. The sounds produced by the supercharged V8, the top-of-the-heap option in the still-newish Jaguar F-Type convertible, are absolutely the most menacing and juvenile explosions of exhaust I’ve ever heard, this side of one of those impossibly expensive supercars. Think runaway train crashing into a shipping container full of champagne bottles.
That V8, capable of producing 495 horsepower and getting you to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds, as well, is also the wild card in the F-Type’s otherwise sophisticated and adult-oriented package. Sure, you can get nearly as much performance and handling out of the F-Type S’s middleweight package, a 380-HP, supercharged 3.0-liter V6; even the 340-HP supercharged V6, the most basic option, is not so basic.
But if you want to go for the gusto — and immediately be the subject of lawsuits from your homeowners association — the V8 S model is clearly the way to go.
All of that power is not particularly easy to keep on the ground when you put your foot to the floor (traction and 495 horses, in an aluminum-bodied roadster weighing some 3,700 pounds, don’t completely work together). But when you light that firecracker, look out. The cataclysmic howl is just the icing on the cake, especially as it cannonades off of an underpass or a stand of trees on an isolated highway.
The automobile’s fancified and future-retro interior did not set my pants ablaze. Maybe that’s because the actually hand-stitched leather is so leathery that it looks like the composite material you see nowadays in vehicles a third of the price. Or the fact that it’s impossible to read the digital, pop-o-matic temperature gauges in daylight, or that the navigation system (and the nearly pointless mid-instrument electronic readout screen) desperately needs a high-tech update.
I would encourage you to use the wheel-mounted paddles to downshift a lot (this is an eight-speed transmission, quick as blazes) and more frequently delight in the sparkle and actual popping of unburnt fuel as you engine-brake down an incline. Yes, someone is calling the authorities.
Can you really use the extra 115 horsepower in this ungodly V8 goliath, other than in drag-racing applications? I was actually too scared to really check that out. The whole package — bigger engine and a serious suite of options — took the F-Type up to a precarious $104,000 price tag, a fair distance from the $69,000 starting point of the more austere, V6-powered standard model.
And despite its relatively short length, the F-Type is surprisingly wide, especially on those isolated mountain byways.
The car’s ability to swoop and caress a corner is pretty sublime; the supercharged V8 just hurries the gallop along, and occasionally sounds like Satan’s garbage disposal, in the best possible way.
Don’t even bother thinking you might be able to see traffic to the sides or much behind you with that fast-acting top up, either. Even with the top down, the extra-large headrests and a very broad air dam between them do make the forward view the best.
F-Type’s striking body design will have folks asking you if this is a Maserati, or maybe that new Corvette; I would say that is not bad company to keep. I believe the coupe will help address a rear deck that’s almost as flat as a ping-pong table; all F-Types share really, really low front splitter lips and almost flat projector headlamps.
The pop-out door handles are indeed a cool touch; cat-eye rear lamps and the very functional quad exhaust setup help define the car’s character as you motor away, at a high rate of speed.