First Drive: 2016 Jaguar F-Type S Convertible

When a journalist borrows a vehicle from an automaker he or she has to sign a form promising to adhere to the rules, which includes an agreed upon return date.

It’s more of a formality than anything, because any auto scribe worth their weight knows that if they want another press car they better return the last one on time.

But driving through the twisting roads of the beautiful Muskoka Lakes in the 2016 Jaguar F-Type S Convertible, the top down and radio off, 3.0-litre supercharged V6 growling and snarling, I had a momentary lapse of judgement.

It was the first time I had ever wondered, however briefly, about the consequences of not returning a vehicle on time.

Maybe I could keep it for another week; another month; forever.

And herein lies the biggest problem with the F-Type: It makes you feel like a sophisticated badass—the kind of person whose grace is only outdone by your bravado.

Everything about this car screams split personality.

From its poshly finished interior that includes what seems like 8,000-way adjustable seats, deployable air vents and a 12-speaker surround sound stereo system, the F-Type is outfitted the way a Jag should be.

But press the start/stop button—and don’t forget to open the exhaust baffles—and the Mr. Hyde to the F-Type’s Dr. Jekyll shines through, roaring to life and begging to be driven.

About that stereo system: It’s great if not pointless.

Allow me to explain.

Much like Graeme Fletcher pointed out in a recent Test Drive featuring the 2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S, with an exhaust system like the one fitted to this car a stereo is a moot point.

Even in S guise, with its supercharged 3.0-litre V6 making 380 horsepower and 339 lb.-ft. of torque, the F-Type sounds like a full blown race car, howling and barking incessantly, egging you on like some sort of mechanical masochist.

The engine comes mated to an eight-speed automatic or a six-speed manual, both built by ZF, with the latter new for 2016.

I know as well as Jaguar does that the majority of F-Types will still be sold with the automatic between the seats, but the manual is simply sublime.

The shifts are smooth and short, and the clutch has the perfect amount of weight behind it to let you know it’s there without making each gear change a chore.

The F-Type is underpinned by a forged aluminum double wishbone suspension, while the F-Type S and R models are fitted with Jaguar’s so-called "Adaptive Dynamics," which adjusts each damper individually to optimize stability.

Jaguar claims the system measures body movement, including pitch and roll rates, 100 times per second, and steering wheel position 500 times per second, allowing the car to predict motion and counteract it before it even happens.

I, of course, have no way of proving this—for all I know the F-Type is filled with tiny little Brits with measuring tapes working away while I drive—but I have no reason to doubt it, with the F-Type always feeling rigid and in control at speed.

Even with the top down, the F-Type’s aluminum body provides coupe-like stiffness, while wind in the cabin in nearly non-existent, much to the delight to my wife, though it can be a bit of a pest at highway speeds, particularly if you’re over 6-foot-3.

A couple pet peeves did crop up in the F-Type's cabin, where the infotainment system proved finicky and frustrating, and the volume nob awkwardly positioned, but they shouldn't be enough to push anyone away from the car.

Getting back to those exhaust baffles, it’s absolutely incredible what the press of a button can do to change the F-Type’s road presence.

Closed at startup each time, the baffle system—Jaguar calls it "Active Exhaust"—keeps the F-Type’s sinister growl to more of a purrr when engaged, sounding more like a mild-mannered house cat than the prowling big cat it is.

Open the baffles and it’s like a completely different vehicle, roaring like a monster above 3,000 rpm, and even popping like a true firebreather when you let off the gas at higher revs.

Traditional Jaguar naming convention says the name bestowed upon the brand's unabashedly beautiful halo car makes perfect sense.

‘F’ does, after all, come after ‘E’ in the alphabet, and this car is the closest thing to a descendant of the legendary E-Type that Jaguar has ever come.

But I have a few suggestions for what the ‘F’ in F-Type may actually stand for: Fast; fantastic; fearless; ferocious; fiery; flamboyant; formidable; furious.

You get the point.

So is the F-Type the real-deal?

Well it is a sports car, and sports cars are meant to be driven, and the F-Type makes you want to drive, and drive, and drive.

Cooler heads prevailed, and I ended up giving the car back.

It was an emotional farewell, but I knew it was the right thing to do.

Besides, if I want to get my hands on that F-Type R Coupe...

Base price: $91,500 (F-Type S Convertible)

As tested: $106,125 (freight included)

Share on Facebook