Fifty-three years ago, in the afterglow of its 1961 debut, Enzo Ferrari described the Jaguar E-Type as "the most beautiful car ever made." That's right, Mr. Ferrari.
Today, 50 years after I lusted after this sleek and unique Jag, 50 years after Jan and Dean sang of the duel between the XKE and a Corvette Stingray on Sunset Boulevard's "Dead Man's Curve," comes the 2014 Jaguar F-Type.
Amazingly, it is the legendary British company's first new two-seat sports car since the famous E-Type. One can only imagine the smile on Enzo's face somewhere along that racetrack in the heavens.
It is wonderfully sculpted with headlamps that sweep up and over the fenders and a sleek profile with wheel wells that tightly surround the 20-inch wheels.
And while Jaguar folks say the F-Type isn't meant to be a celebration of the E, there are some hints of the old DNA in the rear. Check out the uplifted quad tailpipes, the rounded body panels and the accents on the circular taillights. Eh, Enzo?
Make no mistake, though, the E-Type and F-Type are from different eons. As one might expect with the benefit of today's technology, the F-Type would embarrass the old E with its raw speed and handling.
It is fast and fun – with a reminder from its growling exhaust – and yet it is well behaved on the road for commutes, too.
Even the base F has a supercharged V-6 that puts out 340 horses with 332 pound-feet of torque. The F-Type S bumps up the power to 380 horsepower and gets you to 60 mph under 5 seconds.
But the big bruiser is the F-Type V-8: a 5.0-liter supercharged machine that cranks out 495 ponies and 460 pound-feet of torque. That's sufficient to fly you to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds, Jaguar says.
To let everyone know how many horses you are riding, the engine snorts and belches like a dragon – and that's on the regular setting. Push a little button on the console (the icon looks like a pair of eyeglasses but they're exhausts) and it really gets crazy. The wife doesn't like the racket, so for her, it was a turnoff. But for most, it will elicit a grin and a nod.
An 8-speed automatic is standard on all F-Types, sending the power smoothly and efficiently to the rear wheels. While a manual is not available, the automatic does come with manual levers to take more control, but it's hardly worth it. The automatic is right-on in its decisions.
Out on the road the F-Type is a rewarding experience. Acceleration is brisk, as the numbers indicate, but it also feels tight and true. Shifts are lightning-quick, especially when you turn the dial to the "dynamic" mode. There's also a racing mode for track-like sprints, and the more practical rain/snow mode.
Steering is nicely weighted and offers decent feedback, and the F-Type's cornering is reasonably flat and balanced – perhaps not by Porsche standards, but the Porsche is smaller and notoriously nimble. The Jag, even with its aluminum body, weighs nearly two tons.
This Jag feels tight, too, especially for a roadster, which can be prone to creaks and rattles. The soft top comes down in just 12 seconds and can be accomplished while on the move – up to 30 mph. That's handy for those who live in rainy-season regions, where a shower can come on quick and unexpected.
Inside, adjustable bolsters on the sport seats tuck you in as snugly for the twisty roads. Leather seats are soft and supple, too. Black seats are complemented by bold, red stitching.
Headroom is good; legroom is OK. At 6-foot-1, I was comfortable. Anyone taller might require a fitting before closing the deal.
Ambient lighting, neatly concealed under the door and center console, adds a classy touch. And materials are clearly upscale and rich-feeling.
Unusual – and cool – features include the start button that pulsates red, seemingly showing the cat's impatience to hit the road, and the AC vents that rise from the dash when the engine starts.
A handle flanks the center console so the passenger can hang on with both hands while gasping through the countryside en route to the bed and breakfast.
Oh, better pack light for those weekenders: 6.9 cubic feet of trunk space doesn't go far. Small suitcases maybe, or duffle bags even better due to the odd, angular shape.
Protecting occupants are side air bags and rollover bars – although stability and traction control systems are in place to avoid the need for those rollover bars.
Options include parking sensors with rear cross-traffic warning, blind-spot monitor and adaptive headlights.
The F-Type comes in three trims, and the base is well equipped with bi-xenon headlights, leather and suede upholstery, full power accessories and a manually-deployable rear spoiler.
F-Type S adds a more powerful six-cylinder engine, 19-inch wheels instead of 18-inch, adaptive suspension and selectable driving modes that control throttle, steering and tranny responses.
The top-of-the-line F-Type S gets the V-8 engine, 20-inch wheels, high-performance brakes and 12-way adjustable seats.
Add to all that several premium option packages plus an available performance package that includes the active exhaust control button, top-line brakes and a 14-speaker Meridian audio system.
How well this sports car compares to the likes of Mercedes SL63 or the Porsche 911 is one for the testing teams at the major magazines and websites. But I can tell you can't have more fun than in the F-Sport.
It will draw grins and compliments and thumbs-up. And, yes, I expect Enzo Ferrari would be giving his nod of approval from above.
2014 JAGUAR F-TYPE V-8 S:
–Base price, excluding destination charge: $69,000
–Price as tested: $92,895
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