2016 Jaguar F-Type S Review – Row Your Own Kitty [w/ Video]

2016 Jaguar F-Type S 6-Speed Manual

3.0-liter AJ126 DOHC V-6, supercharged (380 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm; 339 lbs-ft @ 3,500-5,000 rpm)

6-speed ZF Manual

16 city / 24 highway / 19 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

20.1 (Observed, MPG)

Base Price:
As Tested:

* Prices include $995 destination charge.

Jaguar has long occupied an interesting niche in the luxury segment due to not being a full-line brand. With a few exceptions, the English brand’s primary targets have been the E-Class/5-Series, the S-Class/7-Series and whatever high-end coupe and convertible the Germans are selling at the moment. That is changing now that Jaguar has decided to expand their portfolio with the 3-Series fighting XE and the brand’s first crossover, the F-Pace. (Yes, I know that Jaguar has had SUVs for decades called Land Rovers, but I digress.)

Part of Jaguar’s renaissance has been product based, and part has been returning to Jaguar’s sporting roots. While many folks still think of Jaguar as the brand that makes the “English Town Car” (yes, that is a Lincoln reference) like the 2005 Super V8 that sits in my driveway, my “stuffily” styled Jag was actually the start of the modern Jaguar we’re seeing today. You see, the X350 generation XJ was all-aluminium and as a result it could actually be described as “light and nimble” compared to an S-Class of the era. The F-Type harkens back to the old E-Type Jaguars of yesteryear, but this time Jag skipped ye olde styling and created one of the sexiest looking Jags ever. For 2016, Jaguar has re-tweaked the coupé and convertible adding AWD and a manual transmission.

You heard that right manual lovers: this kitty has a stick.

Jaguar’s homage to the E-Type is obvious in the tear drop shaped rear profile, although this Jag’s hatchback opens in a more traditional and practical manner than the classic Jag. If the hatch out back strikes you as odd, Jaguar will happily lop it off and sell you a convertible with a flat rear deck for just $3,100 more. Unlike the 1990s and 2000s Jaguars, the F-Type has just the right amount of retro style without being kitschy.

The muscular haunches and long hood recall the E-Type but don’t mimic it. Instead, we get crisp lines, a large and angry grille and massive tailpipes in the back. Similar to the Tesla Model S, the F-Type’s door handles pop out when you unlock the car and then retreat to a flush position when locked for better aerodynamics. There’s a functional electric spoiler integrated into the rear hatch and the aluminium intensive body has been specifically designed to accommodate insanely large tires, even on our mid-range F-Type S tester.

I’ll be honest, the Jaguar I knew and loved is dead. You see, I am that guy that loves the style of the mid-2000s Jaguar XJ — the bubble headlamps, acres of wood trim, “old man styling” and the J-gate shifter. Sadly for me, we don’t find any of those things inside the F-Type. Our model contained no dead tree and nothing that could be described as “quirky” or “quaint.” This interior is “all business.” That’s not to say Jaguar has lost their flair for the dramatic. The center HVAC vents rise when cooling is required and descend to the depths of the dash when your royal personage is done with them. Fit and finish is excellent in all F-Type models, but the expanded leather package on our tester had stitched leather glued to just about every interior surface, including the ceiling.

While the front seat proved comfortable for my frame, taller passengers complained that the optional sport seats and their fixed headrest hit them in an odd place in their back. Also on the down side, the F-Type has a cramped footwell in width and height. This doesn’t present much of a problem in the two-pedal version, but toss a clutch in there and things get cramped. For my size 12s, there was nowhere to put my left foot and my right foot rubbed against the transmission tunnel and the brake pedal while driving. Thankfully, there is a little more room between the brake and clutch, but folks with larger feet may have troubles with the manual.

Jaguar and Land Rover have lagged behind other luxury entries when it comes to snazzy in-vehicle infotainment systems. Like the rest of JLR’s lineup, the F-Type uses a touchscreen LCD instead of a rotary knob/joystick input method. The 8-inch LCD is bright, but positioned somewhat low in the dashboard, which means your eyes are farther from the road when using the system. That’s an important consideration since this system offers no voice command of the traditional features including navigation destination entry. Although 2016 didn’t bring Apple CarPlay, the In Control software goes half way there with smartphone integrated apps and smartphone-based navigation that does support voice control.

Jaguar makes up for a lack of voice command love by allowing you to enter a navigation address in the system while in motion. Also compensating for the older software is an incredible sounding — and completely standard on all models — 12 speaker, 770-watt Meridian surround sound speaker system.

Jaguar loves superchargers almost as much as they love aluminium chassis. For 2016, every F-Type comes from the factory with a blower under the hood. Things start out with a 3.0-liter V-6 (AJ126) that’s actually related to the Jaguar AJ-V8 family of engines and not the Ford Dutarec V-6s that we saw in Jags of the last decade. The 90-degree bank angle may sound unusual for a V6 (60-degree designs eliminate the need for a balance shaft) but there is some logic behind this. First off, the V6 is made on the same line as their 5.0-liter V-8 engine using common tooling. Second, the wider bank angle allows the supercharger to be pushed lower into the “Vee” of the engine, allowing a lower hood line. This design is similar to Audi’s supercharged V-6 engine. Power comes in at 340 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of twist in base models and the S trim receives a bump to 380 horsepower and 339 lb-ft. If that’s not enough power (and why would it be enough?) there’s always Jaguar’s 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 good for 550 ponies and 502 lb-ft of torque.

The big mechanical changes for 2016 start off with electric power steering (boo-hiss), available AWD to satisfy shoppers up north and a standard manual transmission in base V-6 models. The 6-speed unit is a ZF transmission, but I have to say I was somewhat disappointed by the clutch feel. It wasn’t as linear as I would have liked and the engagement was somewhat vague. The now optional ZF 8-speed automatic would be my transmission of choice since you get better performance and better fuel economy if you let the kitty row the gears for you. The high performance R model gets standard AWD and is available topless for 2016.

The lord giveth and he taketh away, and so it is with the F-Type. The 6-speed manual’s throws are very short and engagement is sheer perfection. However, it is not available with the fire-breathing V-8, nor can it be had with AWD. The clutch pedal isn’t the team player I had hoped it would be and selecting it means giving up both fuel economy and acceleration. Manual transmission F-Type S shoppers (like our tester) should know that the base 340-horsepower F-Type with the automatic transmission at the stop light next to you is faster than you. And he’s getting better fuel economy. Slushboxes have come a long way. Progress has also exacted a toll on the F-Type’s driving dynamics. The 2015 model’s hydraulic power steering was practically the only port in the storm of electric power steering and now it has been swapped for an electric unit that’s more efficient. The high-performance model’s tail happy RWD dynamics have been swapped for an AWD system that can actually apply all the ponies to the tarmac.

On my favorite winding road I have to say that the only change that made me shed a tear was the steering. (Although the clutch came close.) Otherwise, the F-Type’s behavior is sheer perfection. Turn in is sharp as a razor, braking distances were a scant 111 feet, just one foot longer than the carbon fibre Alfa Romeo 4C. Jaguar’s dynamic suspension provides a near perfect balance of a good ride and limited body roll, and the slight rear weight bias (49/51 front-rear) makes sure that neutral handling is just that — neutral.

Manual transmission and infotainment quibbles aside, the F-Type is the kind of car to which you develop an emotional attachment. This is quite different in my mind to the BMW Z4 or the Mercedes SLK, both of which I like but some across as more sterile driving machines. The BMW Z4 is the better value, starting just under $50,000 for the four-cylinder version and just under $58,000 with BMW’s smooth inline 6. However, the BMW’s dual-clutch transmission isn’t as smooth as the ZF 8-speed unit Jaguar uses and the BMW feels less connected and less emotional.

On the flip side, the driving dynamics of rear heavy Porsche models seem a little too emotional for my tastes. At-limit Porsche driving takes more skill and more precision than the Jaguar, something I respect and understand I will never possess. (I’ve spun more times than I care to remember in a RWD 911.) Step up to the F-Type R and comparisons start to get hard to come by. At over $100,000, the R naturally competes with the likes of the 911, the AMG GT S and a scattering of exotics. In this company, the Jaguar seems like a steal being some $20,000-$30,000 less than the German options. Although the F-Type isn’t quite as flashy as the AMG and not quite as polished as the 911, the Jag’s head turning sheet metal gets more looks than either, it’s less expensive than the Mercedes and easier to live with than the 911.

The F-Type isn’t the E-Type reimagined. The F-Type is too comfortable, too isolated, and, despite the manual transmission, it is also too modern. Modernity has made this kitty a little less fun, a little more practical and, at the same time, explains the manual transmission. Journalists like myself long complained about the lack of a stick in the F-Type. We claimed that such an addition would make the perfect sports coupé, but the truth of the matter is we were wrong. Adding the manual to an existing platform caused compromises that include the electric power steering and the cramped footwell. Although the 2016 F-Type is an amazing machine, I am sad that “progress” has intruded here. My advice would be to pick up a 2015 F-Type S for the superior steering feel while you can, or just go with the AWD F-Type S and its smooth automatic transmission. It’s not as emotionally satisfying as the F-Type once was but it still has far more feel than the competition.

Jaguar provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review. 

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.3 Seconds

0-60: 5.5 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.2 Seconds @ 101

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