Capsule Review: Jaguar F-Type – Base Is Best

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
capsule review jaguar f type base is best

How much power is enough? 300 horsepower? 400? 500? Let’s put it another way? How much is enough to impress people you don’t even like?

The vehicle above is identical to the Jaguar F-Type V8S I drove: Sandfire Metallic, Dynamic Mode, cheesy gold-painted plastic paddles (ugh) and an exhaust note that sounds like a 1200cc Harley with the mufflers cut off – with some added popping-and-farting noises programmed in for good measure.

This is a car that impresses other people. It looks like a sports car, or even a junior exotic. It certainly sounds like one. As I recounted in my last review of the F-Type V6S, it is one automobile that really does make you more attractive to the opposite sex. It’s also the worst F-Type variant on the market.

Ok, the soundtrack is intoxicating – to a point. The only way you can enjoy that mechanical orchestra is to accelerate really quickly and then let off the gas, to decelerate to the point where you might get a hefty speeding ticket, but not a roadside impound. Forget flying under the radar (literally) – it’s so bloody loud that every highway patrolman or concerned citizen within a 25 mile radius can hear what you’re doing. The Group B rally-car noises plumbed in to the V8 exhaust note is like spiking Chateauneuf-du-Pape with Grape Kool-Aid.

While you’re doing busy making a scene, you are probably negotiating some bends, and the V8S, with its extra two-cylinders, supercharger and associated plumbing and massive wheels, feels substantially heavier than the other models. The difference coming out of the two cars is drastic, like you’ve just removed a rucksack full of dumbbells from its back…err, front.

The best comparison that can be made is between the various last-gen Mustangs. As you go from a Shelby GT500 to a V8 to a V6, you feel the nose get lighter and lighter progressively. Which shouldn’t matter on a less track-focused car that’s all about excitement and getting attention to make up for a lack of parental love. But it does, especially when you’re getting an indicated 11 mpg, while trying to use the F-Type’s quad pipes to recreate the sounds of the Battle of Britain.

When it was time to return the V8S, I felt satisfied that I had been sufficiently validated by anonymous motorists and pedestrians. It was time for the V6S – or so I thought. Horror of horrors, it turned out that I was incorrect. It was a V6. The base V6. Oh, the indignity of having to drive a base model F-Type, with just 340 horsepower (rather than the 380 ponies of the V6S), a (slightly) quieter exhaust, and smaller wheels without faux-Brembo red calipers.

Well, it turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience. As good as the V6S I raved about last fall? No. But there would be no shame in driving one of these every day, because if nothing else, it’s more exciting than a base Boxster. For starters, the aforementioned front-end liposuction works wonders in everyday situations. The base F-Type actually feels nimble and easy to toss around, to say nothing of maneuvering through traffic. There’s still Dynamic Mode, the active exhaust and a Sport Mode for the transmission, which makes things a fair bit louder and a bit more raw, without sacrificing everyday comfort or drawing the ire of your neighbors when coming home late at night.

Despite being down 40 horsepower compared to the V6S, the base car is still reasonably quick, but adds another level of engagement to the experience. You have to work the car a bit harder to access the still-plentiful power reserves, and in the real word, that’s often more rewarding – meanwhile, fuel economy was an observed 23 mpg, or about double what I recorded during the V8S’ totally unscientific acceleration/efficiency testing. At a base price of $69,000, it’s also about $23,000 less than the V8S.

Ask yourself, can you live with an extra $23,000, while also having to tell people that yes, the V6 models are actually the superior choice? I tried, and my explanations about less weight over the nose, a more exotic soundtrack (the V8 sounds like a cross between a Spitfire aircraft and a Pontiac GTO – the V6 sounds like a cross between a Lancia Stratos and Hendrix’s version of Voodoo Chile ) and, worst of all, less horsepower.

Personally, I gave up, exasperated, but I didn’t care. A lot of people do. They have to be able to tell people that they bought the best, the most powerful, the most expensive, even if its capabilities are so beyond them, it would be like giving a .500 S&W Magnum to somebody who doesn’t know how to fire a .38. It’s all that most F-Type buyers really need, but when does logic ever pop into the sports car purchase decision?

I know this because I’m the kind of person that felt exactly the same way about the V6 Mustang – it’s more nimble and agile, it’s got plenty of power and it’s the better choice for most daily driving situations. But I’m vain, and I’d never buy a V6 Mustang because then, you won’t be impressing strangers and people you don’t actually like. But I’m human, and prone to inconsistencies bordering on the hypocritical. And with the F-Type, I’m making a deviation from my usual logic.

I wish I could close out the article by saying that my girlfriend agrees that the V6 is her choice too, but she just dumped me. All I can think about is how even though the Porsche Boxster is a sharper machine, I’d really like to go for a drive in the F-Type right now. Given the chance, I would take the V6, not the V8, to help me clear my head and get over the fact that my passenger seat is going to be empty for the next little while.

Join the conversation
2 of 46 comments
  • Slowtege Slowtege on Jun 03, 2014

    The V8 does sound raucous, but I do prefer the sound of the V6. Most cylinder counts have their "best X cylinder sound" representatives, but after a while, to me, the new era of high strung cross-plane crank V8s sound too manufactured, too raspy. The lub-lub-lub sound of bigger bore less stressed V8s with deep full tones in that traditional American style is just some of the best stuff. Kudos to Mercedes and their '55' and 6.3' AMG V8s...and to Audi's R and S line 4.2s for achieving such vicious/murderous sounding 8s, too...which I understand undermines my previous statement, but you get the drift. Those sound more natural to me--one has the opportunity to hear the changes in their tones as they rev. For example, a 3rd gen Firebird 305 (TBI in this specific case) 5 speed with Flowmasters--idle vs low rev range rumble versus dual frequency mid to upper range tone. That mid-range sound. Man, you drive the thing just for that! The Jag V6 has that rich snarl--fantastic sound! Really really wish I could hear it with a manual transmission. And hear me out! It's not for the "connectedness" (though it is fun), it's not for the "they're fools for auto-only!" and it's not for some manly factor. It's because that snap and crackle is 'rounded off' at every upshift. Sounds like any garden variety automatic-equipped car sound track. The engine sounds special, it has bite. The 8 speed, as good as it is (and it is very good), blunts that character at that audibly-critical (to me) point. Kinda kills it for me. Would I drive one if given the opportunity? Oh yes. The V8 is easy to love, but I heard that V6 on Top Gear and was hooked.

  • Mrb00st Mrb00st on Jun 04, 2014

    Bummer about the girlfriend - perhaps But cheer up, you get to drive F-Type press cars as your "job" so things could be worse more money for car parts!

  • Tassos What was the last time we had any good news from Ford? (or GM for that matter?)The last one was probably when Alan Mulally was CEO. Were you even born back then?Fields was a total disaster, then they go hire this clown from Toyota's PR department, the current Ford CEO, Fart-ley or something.He claims to be an auto enthusiast too (unlike Mary Barra who is even worse, but of course always forgiven, as she is the proud owner of a set of female genitals.
  • Tassos I know some would want to own a collectible Mustang. (sure as hell not me. This crappy 'secretary's car' (that was exactly its intended buying demo) was as sophisticated (transl. : CRUDE) as the FLintstone's mobile. Solid Real Axle? Are you effing kidding me?There is a huge number of these around, so they are neither expensive nor valuable.WHen it came out, it was $2,000 or so new. A colleague bought a recent one with the stupid Ecoboost which also promised good fuel economy. He drives a hard bargain and spends time shopping and I remember he paid $37k ( the fool only bought domestic crap, but luckily he is good with his hands and can fix lots of stuff on them).He told me that the alleged fuel economy is obtained only if you drive it like a VERY old lady. WHich defeats the purpose, of course, you might as well buy a used Toyota Yaris (not even a Corolla).
  • MRF 95 T-Bird Back when the Corolla consisted of a wide range of body styles. This wagon, both four door and two door sedans, a shooting brake like three door hatch as well as a sports coupe hatchback. All of which were on the popular cars on the road where I resided.
  • Wjtinfwb Jeez... I've got 3 Ford's and have been a defender due to my overall good experiences but this is getting hard to defend. Thinking the product durability testing that used to take months to rack up 100k miles or more is being replaced with computer simulations that just aren't causing these real-world issues to pop up. More time at the proving ground please...
  • Wjtinfwb Looks like Mazda put more effort into sprucing up a moribund product than Chevy did with the soon to be euthanized '24 Camaro.