7 Mar 2014

2014 Jaguar F-Type V8 S Convertible Review

Matt Hubbard reviews the Jaguar F-Type V8 S convertible

2014 Jaguar F-Type V8 S Convertible in Italian Racing Red

The Jaguar F-Type hit dealerships in April 2013.  The most powerful and expensive model is the V8 S which costs £80k.

I tested a V6 S in 2013 and found the chassis to be finely balanced, the power plenty and the exhaust noise sublime.  I was so impressed I put it at number three in my ten best handling cars. The V6 S is super fast and doesn't leave you wanting for more.

But the V8 S has a lot more power.  The V6 S has 380bhp and 338 lb ft of torque whilst the V8 S has 495bhp and 460 lb ft.  At 1,665kg the V8 S is only 51kg heavier than the V6 S.

Does the V8 S have too much power for the chassis?  Does it remain a supremely balanced, well honed sports car with a strapping great V8 up front?

Before we come to that let's take a look at the car.  The shape is now familiar.  The rear is better resolved, and photogenic, than the front and is perhaps one of the best looking automotive rumps in existence.  Ian Callum and his team did a fantastic job.

The colour of the test car was Italian Racing Red which perfectly enhances the flowing lines and overall shape of the car.  It's not a large car, in fact it's about the same size as an Aston Martin Vantage.

It's a two seater, and good job too.  There's not much space to store your accoutrements.  The boot is tiny, enough for a couple of squishy bags, and in the cabin there's small door pockets, a rather petite space under the armrest, another between the seats and the glove box.

The interior is plushly appointed.  The design is described by Jaguar as 'selfish' to the driver.  The controls are laid out around the driver and a leather grab handle for the passenger provides a psychological and visual barrier to the controls on the transmission tunnel.

Every surface in the car looks rather lovely, and much more sporty than in the XF and XJ saloons.  There's honeycomb patterned aluminium, sumptuous leather, a smattering of piano black and the steering wheel is trimmed in the softest hide I've experienced in a car.  There's no question it's a premium vehicle, which goes some way to justifying the price.
2014 Jaguar F-Type V8 S Convertible interior

The automatic gearstick is a forwards and backwards affair, with a nudge to the left for Sports mode.  You can also use the steering wheel mounted paddles to control the 8-speeds in the ZF gearbox.

The seats (made by Lear) are clad in soft leather and feel great to sit in if a little firm.  They are manually adjustable backwards and forwards with electrically operated rake and height controls.  The driving position is typical sports car; legs out, arms just bent.  Ace.

The cabin feels cosy but not cramped with the hood in place. The passengers sit quite far back in the cabin and the A-pillars and mirrors obstruct visibility somewhat.  The trailing edge of the roof is quite low and the rearwards view, when looking over your shoulder, is restricted by the hood and small rear window - although it is glass and has de-mister elements in it.

Operating the hood is simple.  Pull a lever and it opens and closes in a few seconds, and at up to 30mph.  You don't need to pull any clasps or pop any buttons. It does the whole job itself.

The infotainment system, via the standard issue Jaguar screen, contains satnav, audio (DAB, bluetooth and iPod connection are all present and correct), a reversing camera, some climate and some driver information and vehicle set-up controls.  Extra features include changing the colour of the ambient lighting and a lap timer.

The audio system works superbly and sound, clarity and volume is top notch.

The key stays in your pocket and the engine is started by a button.  Goodness it sounds marvellous.  Press the exhaust button on the dash and it sounds even better, and with extra crackle and pop.
2014 Jaguar F-Type V8 S Convertible in Italian Racing Red

Engage drive and press (or pull, I forgot each time I used it) the silly electric handbrake button.  Initially you're taken aback at quite how quick the rear wheels lose traction, and quite how long it takes for the traction control to kick in.  It's a devilishly naughty car, allowing the driver quite a lot of slack before the power-nanny takes over and helps transmit 495bhp through the rear tyres to the road.

Getting used to the power takes a good few miles.  You tickle the throttle from the off, unless you really want to leave twin rubber trails on the road every time you pull away.  It takes longer to judge the amount of power you need to apply whilst coming out of corners.  The traction control will take over if it really has to but like a reluctant teenager it would really rather you did all the work before it gets off the sofa and helps out.

This makes for a hugely engaging, and sometimes scary, experience.

The sheer force of power in the V8 S is astonishing.  It pulls like a train right up to, and beyond, the legal limit.  In the wet it can still spin the rear wheels at up to 50mph but generally, above the inevitable initial wheelspin, it sticks to the road like glue.  And the scenery starts to pass by like the Millennium Falcon when its hyperdrive unit kicks in.

The steering is precise and sharp, no worse than in the V6 S.  The grip at the front is tremendous, if you're brave enough to drive it fast enough to find out.  The F-Type has an aluminium chassis which makes it very stiff, and allowed Jaguar's engineers to fine tune the suspension - which is double wishbone with adaptive dampers front and rear.

Handling is excellent in the F-Type V8 S, to the extent it hasn't lost anything over the V6 S.  Corners are taken with confidence and feedback from the steering, and through the chassis, is amongst the best in class.  Powering out of corners requires more learning and confidence if you are to use much of the V8's capabilities - but it's hugely rewarding when you do learn how to tame it.

One of the F-Type's attractions is that as well as looking good and sounding good, it handles like a sports car should.  It feels alive, unlike a BMW Z4 or Mercedes SLK which are more show than go.  The F-Type V8 S is in Porsche territory.  OK a 911 or Boxster S would probably be faster round a track but in the real world the F-Type is a dream to drive on the road.
2014 Jaguar F-Type V8 S Convertible in Italian Racing Red

The downside to this is that the ride is firm.  Undulations and corrugations in the road are transmitted into the cabin to a certain extent, although it doesn't crash through pot holes as much as I would have expected.

It's a great motorway cruiser.  The seats are comfortable, it has cruise control, the audio system is simple to use and there are two cupholders.  The F-Type can munch miles with the best of them, although the slightly stiff steering means you need to grasp to the wheel more than in a 'normal' car.

As a day to day car the Jaguar F-Type V8 S has almost no imperfections.  It is extremely refined.  The cabin is quiet with the hood up and even with it down, and the windows up, it's not too noisy.  At 70mph the wind tickles the top of your head but you can hold a conversation with the passenger.  The climate system knows when the roof is down and blasts extra heat out of the vents if required.

Over the course of a week and hundreds of miles of quite varied driving I averaged 21.5mpg.  On a  motorway run it will return 32mpg.  The official combined figure is 25.5mpg.

After a week with the F-Type I was left with the feeling that it was probably the most more-ish car I've tested.  Sure, others have been more practical, cheaper to run and faster but the F-Type makes the best noise, has such immense power, and uses that power so well, and is one of, if not the best looking car I've ever driven.

The V6 S engine in the F-Type makes for the more pure driving experience in terms of balance, speed and finesse but the V8's brutal power delivery turns a sports car into the only muscle car on the planet that actually handles.  You would never be unhappy with your F-Type V6 S but if you drove a V8 S, and could afford the extra £15k, you'd probably go for the extra power, and soundtrack of the V8.

In terms of the competition all Audi, Mercedes and BMW convertibles can be dismissed as being uglier than the F-Type.  I parked next to a 645i convertible which looked like Quasimodo next to the little Jag.

The F-Type V8 S is priced so high it's only £5k less than a V8 Vantage.  I also parked next to one of those.  The Vantage shape is pretty gorgeous but it is looking a bit old next to the F-Type's bang up to date styling.

Porsche's 911 is the F-Type V8's only real competition in terms of refinement, speed, handling and the desire it puts in you to just want to drive the car for the sake of it.  Trouble is the Carrera S 3.8 cabriolet is the nearest open top 911 in terms of price but falls short on power, although 0-60mph times are almost identical - probably due to the 911's extra weight over the rear wheels which gives it more grip away from the line.

The Jaguar F-Type V8 S is an immensely capable and likeable car.  I'd recommend it, a lot.

For a more emotive look at the F-Type V8 S check out my first drive review


Price - £79,985
Engine - 5 litre, V8, supercharged, petrol
Transmission - 8 speed ZF automatic
0-60mph - 4.2 seconds
Top Speed - 186mph
Power - 495bhp
Torque - 460 lb ft
Economy - 25.5mpg
CO2 - 259 g/km
Kerb weight - 1,665 kg
2014 Jaguar F-Type V8 S Convertible interior

2014 Jaguar F-Type V8 S Convertible interior

2014 Jaguar F-Type V8 S Convertible in Italian Racing Red

2014 Jaguar F-Type V8 S Convertible in Italian Racing Red

2014 Jaguar F-Type V8 S Convertible in Italian Racing Red

Review by Matt Hubbard