What you are looking at may be my favorite new car I’ve driven to date: the 2017 Jaguar F-Type S Coupe. It’s luxurious. It’s powerful. It will provide hours of joy trying to nail the perfect downshift, as it comes with three pedals as God intended sports cars to have. Look at it. If that’s not drop-dead gorgeous to you, you need to get your eyes checked.
(Full disclosure: Jaguar dropped this fine example of six-speed wants at my house with a full tank of gas, and even allowed me to take it on track.)
What Is It?
You see, Porsche won’t give us a new 944, but Jaguar did. The idea is right there: a well balanced, front-engine, rear-wheel-drive coupe. I race a 944—a car I called dibs on after giggling through a couple laps on track. Lo and behold, the F-Type elicited the same kinds of giddy giggling the second I started tossing it around.
What the F-Type S Coupe lacks in rear seats, an enormous glass bubble of rear storage space and a transaxle in comparison to my old, beloved 944 it gains in modern amenities, more power and stellar looks.
The F-Type S Coupe’s 380-horsepower, 3.0-liter V6 engine has more than adequate power sent to its rear wheels on demand, without the irritating gutlessness that many turbocharged engines have in low revs. A limited-slip differential helps you make the most of that power. Yes, there are more powerful F-Types, but no, I don’t care—those other trims don’t offer a manual. The manual is pure joy.
The car has several different modes for individually selectable systems: engine, suspension and steering. Dynamic mode is the fun one that makes the car louder, stiffer and the most responsive.
And of course, you can crack open the exhaust on demand as well. I drove around everywhere with the Active Sport Exhaust on full volume because it makes a glorious noise. This is one of those rare V6s that sounds great, as it’s made of deep rumbles and crackle-pops. I don’t care if it wakes people up; they need to hear it.
On track, the F-Type S was a hilarious blast. It’s a car that says, “Hello, good people of the world. Look at my ultra-sophisticated British sports car that is here to make tire-squealy noises before tea.”
You feel it put power down full-steam-ahead with its rear wheels as a fun, small sports car should. The gears are rather long, taking their good, sweet time to bring the engine’s revs to its redline, but the Jag handled well enough that I didn’t really care that my clutch foot wasn’t busy on our relatively short local track. It was easy to just play around with and catch the back end whenever it stepped out, as it was set up for mild, non-threatening tail-happiness.
Traction control is permissive when it’s left on, but you can thankfully turn it all the way off if you want full freedom to slide and spin. The suspension in Dynamic mode was really stiff, though, so if you’re on a bumpy track, you may want to back it off to a softer setting.
The F-Type’s one true weakness is its curb weight of 3,492-pounds, which ultimately limits your fun-time on track through brake fade and hot, greasy-feeling tires.
You’re still going to need some track-oriented brake pads meant for higher heat, or even extra brake cooling ducts cut in the front of the F-Type S Coupe’s standard brakes if you plan on driving it hard for hours at a time. But if you do bring your F-Type to a track day, you should be fine as long as you take the usual track day cool-down breaks.
Before all of its weight-bearing and weight-slowing bits heat up, this F-Type is just pure bliss in car form as that supercharged V6 sings along in its happy zone. You should track it, and make raspberries at the non-manual F-Type SVR owner who is probably faster but surely having less fun.
So Practical There’s Even A Cubbyhole For Purses
Best of all, it’s not just a car you can tolerate because it makes good sounds and gets nods of approval from strangers. For one person, I thought the F-Type was downright practical. The 11-cubic feet of trunk space is adequate for most errands. The nose is high enough that it cleared most parking curbs. There’s enough pull even in sixth gear to pass people on the freeway without downshifting.
Unlike many modern sports cars that adhere to Pontiac’s old adage (remember “wider is better?”) the F-Type’s seriously small, making it easy to park and maneuver.
The interior is a comfy cocoon of leathery luxury and the 14-way adjustable sport seats easily contort into the perfect butt-cradling shape. Above the cabin is a panoramic sunroof that made the relatively small interior feel airy and spacious. There are only two seats, however, there is a bin in between them that’s perfect for purses and other small items that most coupes force you to stick in your passenger’s footwell or in the trunk.
The interior looks appropriately nice for what the F-Type S costs, too. This car came with spectacular looking “Cirrus” cream leather seats that were thankfully cool in the Texas sun, but also looked suspiciously high-maintenance in the event of coffee flying out of its cup over a speed bump, or an impromptu car chase with James Bond.
There is one weirdly James Bond-like feature to this car: the interior lights, which turn on and off with the wave of a finger in front of them. So, uh, where do I wave for the missiles to shoot out of the grille? Is that on a higher trim level?
Missiles or no missiles, the rest of the interior is rather low-tech, for better or for worse. Pros: I could figure out most of the systems without consulting some ridiculous 4,000-page manual, and there’s even configurable mood lighting. Cons: the stereo sounded tinny and lame, and I couldn’t turn off the auto-dimming rear-view mirrors.
One of the few other nitpicks I had with the car was the shift knob. The F-Type’s shifter is sort of springy and rubbery feeling, where I wish it were more precise. Furthermore, its lock-out for reverse gear wasn’t as strong as I wanted.
Fortunately, the center console lights up the rear-view camera as soon as reverse gear is engaged, making it hard to miss if you accidentally grab the wrong one.
No, Really, Give Me The Car Back
I’m willing to look over those small warts if I could just keep the car. I can accept a stereo that could be better when the car itself makes music. Press the car’s loud button, and go drive. To sit there and row through the gears on your own leaves you just giddy.
Jalopnik chief Patrick likes to say, “Never fall in love with a press car.” He’s right. It’s the worst. But I did here. I could easily see myself living with a nice, small manual coupe that—as tested—sells for $80,095. No other new road car has provided me with the same level of satisfaction as this Jaguar. It’s a car that felt hand-crafted to all of my deepest desires in a street car—and probably many of yours, too.
I need it.
Specifications (per Jaguar)
- Engine: 3.0-liter supercharged V6
- Power: 380 HP at 6,500 RPM / 339 lb-ft at 3,500-5,000 RPM
- Transmission: Six-speed ZF manual
- 0-60 Time: 5.3 seconds
- Top Speed: 171 mph
- Drivetrain: RWD
- Curb Weight: 3,492 lbs
- Seating: 2 people
- MPG: 18 MPG combined, 15 MPG city, 24 MPG highway
- MSRP: $79,100 base MSRP (as tested); $80,095 after destination and delivery