Jaguar again is on the prowl, lithe as always, more fierce than ever.
This time it's with the crackling F-Type, the British company's first two-seat sports convertible in 40 years and a modern expression of the revered E-Type of 1961 to 1974.
It joins a small pantheon of purebred sports cars like the Porsche Boxster and 911, as well as the U.S. Chevrolet Corvette and Dodge Viper.
"It is knocking on the door of super car performance," says Richard Ward, the F-Type program manager.
Indeed. There are few cars anywhere with the F-Type's combination of head-turning styling, everyday ride comfort with point and shoot handling, as well as high-speed racetrack performance that sends lasers of excitement down the driver's spine.
Even the price, given the F-Type's level of sophistication, could be argued as reasonable. The base car, which was not available for testing, has a starting price of $69,895 with a 340-horsepower V6 engine.
There are just two other models, designated as the F-Type S. One has a 380 horsepower V6 engine; the other is powered by a 495 horsepower V8. All of the engines are supercharged with direct fuel injection and deliver relatively decent fuel economy. All F-Types have rear drive with engines up front.
The V6 S has a base price of $81,995. With options that included special sport seats and a high line audio system, the test car had a bottom line sticker price of $99,020. The V8 S model starts at $92,995 and tops $104,000 with options.
Both the V6 and V8 S models were driven for this review, on public roads as well as a road-racing track. The preference here is for the V6, which has way more power than any human ought to covet, and was marginally better balanced in feel and on the specification sheet. The V6 has 50-50 front/weight distribution, while the V8 has 52/48, making it a trifle nose heavy.
However, if drag races are your thing, you'd have to opt for the V8, which rips off zero to 60 miles an hour sprints in just 4.2 seconds, according to the factory specifications. The V6 isn't far behind, at 4.9 seconds.
Part of the secret is the F-Type's light weight, thanks to its nearly all-aluminum construction. The V6, for example, checks in at 3,558 pounds. That's with a fair load of options and the standard eight-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control.
No doubt more than a few purists will lament the lack of a manual gearbox. But the fact is that few customers would order one after they experience the eight-speed's capabilities. It shifts intuitively in automatic mode, moving crisply up and down through the gears, and blipping the throttle on downshifts to match the gear to engine revolutions.
After driving in the automatic mode, likely nobody but professional drivers will even mess with the manual mode paddle shifters on the steering wheel, lest they become embarrassed by their lack of skill.
Along with the performance, Jaguar injected a bit of whimsy into the new F-Type. The S models come with what formerly was called an exhaust bypass but here is called an active exhaust. Enabled by the touch of a console button, it activates bypass valves under hard acceleration that allows a crackling free flow of exhaust around the muffler.
But the best part is when the driver hammers the throttle then lifts his foot, which produces a racket, especially in a tunnel, that sounds something like breaking glass or a string of firecrackers exploding. Fun.
The F-Type is a thriller on the racetrack. There's even a special dynamic launch mode that calibrates the traction control to dampen wheel spin for maximum acceleration. A trunk mounted spoiler deploys at 60 mph to depress aerodynamic lift, then lowers below 40 mph. Huge antilock disc brakes deliver fuss free stopping power.
On the street, however, the F-Type is as docile as a Honda Accord. Even the ride is surprisingly supple as the suspension system and comfortable seats, with lumbar and bolster adjustments, soak up road imperfections.
Jaguar resisted any urge to fit the F-Type with a hard top. It has a traditional fabric top that can be raised and lowered in 12 seconds at speeds up to 30 mph. Like the now defunct Toyota MR2, the folded top becomes its own boot cover.
Top up, there's some interior road and engine racket. But, hey, this is a sports car.
Model: 2014 Jaguar F-Type S two-door sports convertible.
Engine: 3.0-liter V6, supercharged, 380 horsepower.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode.
Overall length: 14 feet 8 inches.
EPA trunk volume: Seven cubic feet.
Weight: 3,558 pounds.
EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/27/22 mpg.
Base price, including destination charge: $81,895.
Price as tested: $99,020.