Talk to anyone who has driven the 2015 Jaguar F-Type and without a doubt one of the first things they will mention is the sound. Whether powered by the 3.0L supercharged V-6 or the bonkers 5.0L supercharged V-8, Jaguar's sports car attacks the world with a relentless aural assault. The rest of it ain't too bad, either. I've driven both powertrain versions in coupe and convertible extensively. While I love every one of the 550 horses under the hood of the F-Type R Coupe, we're now looking at the middle child - the S Coupe - with 380 hp and a base price of $77,895.
For context, a 350hp Porsche 911 Carrera starts at $85,295, while a 315hp BMW 640i costs $77,050. The Jaguar offers the biggest power bang for the buck and will likely be the most exotic at the local mall.
Of the three, the 911 is closest to a pure sports car; the BMW more luxurious. The Jaguar falls right in between, with the ability to offer a rawer experience, but-with adaptive suspension, fantastic eight-speed automatic transmission, and active exhaust-can also be quite sedate. This cat has a bit of chameleon to it.
In normal cruising, the F-Type is as comfortable as any Jaguar sedan. The steering is on the lighter side, the engine hums away in the background, gearshifts are smooth, and ride quality is as soft as desired in a small coupe.
Our tester comes with the optional Performance Pack S. It includes larger brakes, active exhaust, configurable driving modes, and a few interior upgrades. Sitting to the left of the shifter is a toggle switch. Forward is for Snow Mode. I assume it works, but it would have been a long drive from our Los Angeles office to test it.
Tipping the rocker back activates Dynamic Mode. The suspension stiffens, the steering gets heavier, throttle response sharpens, and the transmission becomes more eager to hold gears. You can still slide the shifter into Sport Mode, but press the button on the center console marked with two exhaust tips and this mild-mannered coupe suddenly turns into a raucous street brawler.
The sound shooting out of the two centrally mounted pipes will have people wondering what's under the hood. It doesn't sound like a muscle-car V-8, yet it sounds like no other V-6. It probably pulls better than any other V-6 as well.
At our test track, the F-Type S runs from standstill to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. Admittedly, the Porsche matches that time, but the exact 911 we are comparing weighs a lithe 3,156 pounds, while our F-Type is 3,809 pounds. That marked difference also helps explain how the less powerful Porsche runs the quarter-mile in 12.7 seconds at 112.8 mph. The Jag is ever so slightly behind at 12.9 seconds, showing 107.4 mph through the speed trap. It's worth pointing out that the Jag is 4.5 inches wider than the 911 and has almost 7 more inches in wheelbase.
From 60 mph, the F-Type comes to a halt in a highly respectable 109 feet. Normally this would be great, but the Porsche uses that mass hanging out back to better utilize all four tires and stops in just 98 feet. Both cars offer great feel and travel in the brake pedal. Around town, the Jaguar is never grabby. Running hard at our test track, it never feels like the brakes are going away.
Around the figure-8 is where the 911 really shows its sports-car stuff. Up against the F, it's just a more serious machine. It puts down power, stops, and corners harder. And it does the figure-8 in 24 seconds flat, which, let's face it, is absolutely phenomenal and within spitting distance of supercars. The F-Type turns in a 25.4-second lap-still respectable, but how the car does it is the thing that matters most.
There is a lot of classic sports car DNA working in the British car. On the skidpad sections of the figure-8, it's possible to use the throttle and easily adjust the car's attitude. Kick it and the back slews out. But balancing the car on the throttle is just as easy. It will put on a drift clinic that would be the envy of many a Japanese import.
If driven smoothly, it will reward by applying power to the ground in a way an XK simply cannot manage. At the limits, the car is controllable and predictable. The XK is predictable only in its uncontrollability.
The supercharged V-8 F-Type is trickier to drive. It has so much torque at any given moment that takes incredible skill and patience to get it down to the tarmac. Even then, it never really feels like you can use all of it, despite the smallest of steering inputs.
The F-Type S is (in my opinion, at least) the sweet spot of the lineup. It's comfortable, luxurious, and still fast. Flipping a rocker switch, pushing a button, and sliding a lever transforms it from a tuxedoed Hugh Grant to a shirtless Jason Statham. The price for performance, exclusivity, and level of equipment is almost impossible to beat. Jaguar will offer this car with a manual transmission, and there will also be an all-wheel-drive version. With the way the range is filling out, the F-Type might start making bigger inroads. Until then, it remains the hidden gem of the segment.