Screw those vegetable juice-drinking morons.
Story by: Will Sabel Courtney
Back in the 1970s, some mad men came up with the idea of guilting people into drinking virgin Bloody Marys from a can using the tagline, “I coulda had a V8!” Not surprisingly, the automotive community latched onto this tagline like a harpoon onto a right whale. If you had a nickel for every time car writers alone used that phrase in the last 40 years, you’d probably be able to buy a big-block crate motor.
Here to disprove that slogan-turned-joke-turned-cliche: The Jaguar F-Type S.
Jaguar will very, very happily sell you an F-Type with a V8 engine. It displaces five liters, comes with a supercharger on top, and cranks out 550 horsepower—this in a car roughly the size of my wallet. It sounds like God gargling. It sends an F-Type coupe from 0-60 in 3.5 seconds, and will smoke-cure the car’s rump with vaporized rubber at the whim of your right ankle. (At least until the 2016 model year, when all V8 F-Types sold here in the States switch to all-wheel-drive.)
But you shouldn’t buy it.
If you want an F-Type, you should buy the V6 S model.
Coupe or roadster, buyer’s choice. Doesn’t matter to me—they’re both excellent.
See, the S is the Goldlocks model in Jaguar’s F-Type model. The base car? Too cold. The R? Too hot. But the S…you get the picture.
Now, I’m usually not the guy to pass on more power—I was once caught saying in complete seriousness that “every car should have at least 500 horsepower”—but when it comes to the F-Type, opting for the mid-level S over the top-dog R means choosing a much more balanced car in more ways than one. A smaller engine in the nose makes the S a bit better in the twisties than the R—there’s less of a sense of fighting the mass inside that Dirk Diggler-esque hood. Granted, being down 170 horsepower makes the S a wee bit slower, but at everyday speeds, the traction control limits the V8’s power so much, S and R are about equal most of the time.
Of course, that changes this year, when the F-Type R gets that AWD system. But as that happens, though, the F-Type S will pick up a new six-speed manual transmission—and while AWD adds a few grand to the price of every F-Type R, the stick will actually save you money compared to the automatic S.
Which brings up the other big advantage of the F-Type S over its eight-cylinder brother: price, price, baby. A 2015 F-Type R Coupe will set you back a minimum of $99,925. The F-Type S Coupe starts at $77,925. Granted, the R comes with a few standard go-fast bits and luxury accouterments that are options on the S, but even if you option an S to parity with its big brother, you’re still looking at more than ten grand in savings.
You don’t lose anything in visual bombast, either; the S and R coupes are more or less identical, apart from a few very, very minor differences…like badging. (Which you could probably correct with five minutes on eBay, a screwdriver and some KrazyGlue, if you’re that insecure.) No matter what spec you pick, the F-Type Coupe sucks in gazes with that rare power reserved solely for beautiful women and sultry sports cars. During my drive back from Vermont, I found myself playing traffic tag with an Acura MDX carrying a family of Massachusetts ski bunnies; the two boys in the back seat were hanging out of the side window like golden labs trying to get a better look at the Jag every time I passed. The final time, they held up a hastily-scribbled sign: I WILL TRADE MY HOUSE FOR YOUR CAR. I declined, though I was surprised to learn they held the deed instead of their parents.
And yeah, I drove the F-Type to Vermont in the middle of winter. I’d say read my lips if you actually could see them right now: You do not need all-wheel-drive to deal with winter. A nice set of snow tires, like the F-Type wore, is all it takes to deal with the blustery months—even in Vermont. The F-Type R’s de rigeur AWD system will be an option on the F-Type S (but only if you opt for the automatic tranny, because reasons). Do not choose it. Take the $7,500 you’ll save, drop a grand on high-quality winter rubber, and spend the rest on lift tickets, hot cocoa and whiskey.
Okay, take a little of it and buy a ski rack for the Jag, because you sure as hell ain’t fitting them inside. The F-Type’s interior is the closest thing it has to an Achilles’ Heel. Cramped is a nice way of describing it; spend four straight hours behind the wheel, and you’ll start coming up with far less polite words. I like to think Jaguar’s engineers built the car that way on purpose, to encourage drivers to stop every so often and stretch because they’re super-concerned about deep vein thrombosis. Either that, or everyone who worked on the car is less than six feet tall.
But if you can deal with the size constraints, the Jaguar F-Type S makes one hell of a case for itself. Save extreme AWD thrust for GT-R fanatics; 380 horsepower, a balanced rear-wheel-drive chassis, and dead-sexy looks make for a pretty ideal sports car in my book.
Plus, if you get desperate, I hear you can trade it for a house in Massachusetts.
0-60: 4.5 secs.
Power: 380 hp, 339 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 19 city, 27 why
Miles Driven: 850