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2014 Jaguar E-Type S: Rebirth of an icon

by: JAGUAR - Styling is one of the 2014 Jaguar F-Type's strongest assets.It's hard to believe the 2014 F-Type is Jaguar's first sports car in 40 years. Hard to believe because Jaguar is so well known for the F-Type's predecessor, the iconic E-Type, which was manufactured from 1961 to 1974. And hard to believe because Jaguar has consistently manufactured a series of very sporty cars, including the XK series, which is still in production. But those other cars had and have very small back seats, which qualify them as grand touring cars, not two-seater sports cars.

But anyone expecting the F-Type to be a two-seat version of the XK is in for a shock. The all-new F-Type is nothing like anything in the XK line, although the top-of-the-line F-Type S V8 shares a supercharged 5.0-liter V8 with it. While all versions of the XK are fast, they feel heavy and stable. In dramatic contrast, my test F-Type S was high strung and twitchy, much more like a Ferrari than any previous Jaguar.

Don't get me wrong. The 2014 Jaguar F-Type S is a blast to drive. It also looks stunning and attracts attention everywhere it goes. The interior is both functional and luxurious. Driving fast on long, winding roads is a dream come true.

But unlike the XK, the F-Type is a challenge to drive smoothly on downtown streets. The exhaust snaps and snarls at anything above idle. It lunges forward at the slightest provocation. The suspension transmits every imperfection in the asphalt into the cabin. The steering is so precise it seems to go where the driver looks, even if that isn't intended.

And that's without turning on the Dynamic Mode that amps up the reactions even more.

In other words, the 2014 Jaguar F-Type is a genuine, uncompromising sports car — like the E-Type was in its day.

My test car was the F-Type S, which came with a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 that produced 380 horsepower and 339 foot pounds of torque. That a big bump up from the base supercharged 3.0-liter in the non-S F-Type, which produces 340 horsepower and 322 foot pounds of torque. But it's well below the F-Type V8 S, which features a supercharged 5.0-liter V8 that cranks out 496 horsepower and 450 foot pounds of torque.

Although some enthusiasts will always want the most powerful version of any car, the V6 engine is well-suited for the F-Type S, in large part because of its transmission, an eight-speed automated manual called a QuickShift Transmission by Jaguar. As the name says, it ran through the gears very quickly, resulting in impressive acceleration and satisfying downshifts. Two manual shift modes are available, including the stubby lever on the console and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Both are among the best I've ever tested, but with eight gears, they demand a lot of attention. Just imagine shifting an eight-speed manual transmission.

Styling is one of the E-Types strongest assets. It only comes as a convertible and looks nothing like any previous Jaguar sports or grand touring car. The lines are sharp and angular, with a pointy nose, huge rear end and adjustable rear wing. The oval grill is still there, but the tail lights are mere angular splits. One service station attendant guessed the E-Type was a new Maserati. If only they looked this good.

Compared to other Jaguars, the interior is cramped but not uncomfortable, thanks to the generously padded bucket seats. Getting in and out requires a few dips and twists, especially getting under the steering wheel. Rear visibility with the top up is very restricted, and mine didn't have a rear back up camera. That makes downtown driving and parking even more challenging. The $87,000-plus price tag was constantly on mine mind.

That may sound like a lot of money (well, yes, it is a lot of money), but the base F-Type starts at around $70,000, which is less than most other genuine luxury sports cars on the market. It's undercut by the Chevy Corvette and Porsche Cayman, but cheaper than a Porsche 911 and anything Italian.

Forty years is a long time between sport cars, but anyone who drives the 2014 E-Type will admit it was worth the wait.

Facts and figures (all models)

• Model tested: 2014 F-Type S.

• Manufacturer: Jaguar.

• Class: Sports car.

• Layout: Front engine, rear-wheel-drive.

• Style: Two-door convertible.

• Engines: Supercharged 3.0-liter V6 (340 hp, 322 ft-lbs); Supercharged 3.0-liter V6 (380 hp, 339 lbs - as tested); Supercharged 5.0-liter V8 (495 hp, 460).

• Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift modes.

• Fuel Economy: 19/27/22 - as tested.

• Price: Starting at around $69,000 ($87,096 as tested).