Addiction. It's a word most commonly attached to some fairly negative connotations. From narcotics and alcohol, to gambling and food. It's even loosely defined as: the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma. But sitting squat and sexy at the other end of the scale is the Jaguar F-Type V8 S Convertible. And we can’t get enough…
Snuggle your bum deep into the comfortable and supportive driver’s seat, push the Ignis gold engine start button, go for one brief drive and include a few solid stabs of the sharp and responsive throttle pedal, and that’s it. You’re hooked. You want more, and you want it again. You are completely and utterly addicted.
And, to be fair, it’s little wonder. Teaming a supercharged 5.0-litre V8 engine with a sleek two-door design – roofless upon your choosing – the flagship Jaguar F-Type Convertible not only looks the business, it’s also a genuinely brilliant piece of kit. On most fronts anyway.
Pictured here in Italian Racing Red, the $201,475 F-Type V8 S has been upsetting neighbours since launching locally in July 2013.
Delivering 364kW at 6500rpm and 625Nm between 2500-5500rpm, the most powerful F-Type drop-top sits $30,900 above the 280kW/460Nm V6 S Convertible and $17,655 below the 404kW/680Nm big daddy F-Type R (exclusively available as a Coupe).
The V8 S’s list price also places the British muscle car between the top-spec Porsche Boxster GTS and entry-level 911 Carrera convertible. But while both six-cylinder Germans are available with manual transmissions, the feisty Brit is offered exclusively with a super slick eight-speed paddle-shifted automatic transmission (until a new manual option arrives, albeit reserved for six-cylinder F-Type models only).
It’s faster to 100km/h, too, with the V8 S hitting triple figures in a claimed 4.3 seconds – 0.5sec quicker than the Stuttgart twins. A 300km/h top speed is available if irrevelant in Australia.
Less good is the convertible Jag’s 196.2-litre boot capacity – far below the Coupe’s much more palatable 315L – and at least 77-choices-long options list.
Standard equipment does include automatic bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, rain-sensing wipers, rear parking sensors, electric sports seats, single-zone automatic climate control, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with navigation, and a 380W 10-speaker Meridian stereo.
Adaptive sports suspension is also thrown into the mix, along with an electronic active rear differential, 20-inch Turbine alloy wheels and Jaguar’s ‘Super Performance Braking System’ with red-painted calipers.
Helping to push our test car’s value beyond $230K are ‘race-inspired’ paint ($5620), performance seats ($2730), 20-inch ‘Blade’ wheels ($5100) and a variety of packs - Convenience ($4950), Parking ($1725) and Seat Memory ($2040) – that together add adaptive headlights with high beam assist, front parking sensors, a reversing camera, dual-zone climate control, 14-way power adjustable seats with memory, tyre pressure monitoring and a wind deflector.
Heated seats will set you back a further $1410 as part of a Climate pack and blind spot monitoring can be had for $1500, or $8440 if bundled with reverse traffic detection and an uprated 770W 12-speaker Meridian sound system.
Whatever boxes you tick, though, set aside a (relatively) meagre $260 for what is possibly the best option you can select: the F-Type’s electronically switchable active exhaust…
Operated easily via a transmission tunnel-mounted button, the function gives you manual control over the thumping Jag’s exhaust silencer baffles. This means you can choose to allow a measured and refined burble to exit the V8’s unique quad outboard exhaust pipes when tootling around town and then, at the press of a button, let all hell break loose when at the track (read: still tootling around town).
Fair warning, though: brush aside the baffles and the result is an unimpeded supercharged V8 explosion that is as raucous as it is glorious. Combining a guttural full-throttle note with racecar-like cracks and bangs on lift-off, the waste gas audio track is unavoidably giggle inducing.
You can drive the Jaguar F-Type V8 S normally, of course. Presenting a relatively docile, gentlemanly image, the comfort-biased ‘Normal’ mode ensures the F-Type can deliver classic luxury British motoring in a highly driveable and comfortable package.
On smooth roads, the ride is supple and compliant and teams well with light steering – aided by a quick 14.6:1 steering rack ratio and 10.7-metre turning circle – and present but restrained throttle response. Things can get a little busy over corrugations or sequential ruts, such as along Melbourne’s tramlines, but the situation is far from poor.
Shifts from the ZF gearbox are relatively seamless and unobtrusive and power delivery is so smooth and laid-back that accidental speeding becomes a proper concern (in Victoria anyway).
There’s loads of lazy low-end torque accessible from as little as 1200rpm, with a gentle coast accompanied by the subtlest of exhaust growls. Over its week in the CarAdvice Melbourne garage – though it didn’t actually spend much time in there – the V8 S also averaged 14.6 litres per 100km. Higher than its 11.1L/100km claim, we did see numbers drop to 8.2L/100km on a more sedate run that included highway miles.
Add in good noise vibration and harshness (NVH) levels and a mostly quiet cabin – top up more so but wind and/or road noise aren’t excessive even when driving lidless – and everything gels nicely together to make the F-Type a natural GT or long-distance grand tourer.
That is, of course, with the exception of its utterly terrible or non-existent storage areas and the occasional dash rattle and speaker buzz experienced in our test car.
Engage ‘Dynamic’ mode, though, and as the instrument and ambient lighting turns from blue to red the English sports car’s true potential is immediately revealed.
The suspension becomes stiffer and not quite as forgiving, but is no less impressive in its overall compliance. Steering weight and sharpness increases, but not to the detriment of the hydraulic system’s brilliant feedback and response. Throttle response is also heightened and, most importantly, that phenomenal exhaust symphony is liberated from the back end.
Far more than a one-trick cat, though, at 4470mm long – the same as the now discontinued Mazda RX-8 – the Jaguar F-Type V8 S Convertible is dynamically exceptional.
With similar poise and balance to the exquisite V8-powered slideways machine of old, the E92 BMW M3, the 1665kg Jag provides drivers with equal amounts of entertainment and seat-of-the-pants communication.
Not just some slightly loopy English hot-rod, the F-Type – with the exception of its squeaky and slightly doughy brakes – is a genuinely talented sports car. But it does have clear shortfalls that can’t be ignored.
As premium as its high-end interior materials and lovely touch points are, cabin quality is no match for its Porsche rivals. The standard audio system is adequate but not excellent and can start to distort if you dare attempt to drown out the open exhaust. There’s also little to no room behind the seats to put anything, the door pockets are too slim and limiting and a mesh wind deflector seems borderline insulting given an almost five-year-old Nissan 370Z Roadster gets a glass one.
Twin cup holders aft of the gear selector do aid interior practicality, however, and are ideal for keys and phones. The climate, stereo and navigation controls too are all easy to learn and use and, along with a decently-sized glove box, there are two handy rubber hooks behind each seat – at least pretending to give you somewhere to hang a suit jacket or some shopping.
So you might want to save thirty-odd grand and go for the V6 S that will give you some spare cash for the second car you're going to need to balance the immense impracticalities of the F-Type convertible.
Just don't expect to get the same high.
Click on the Photos tab for more images by Tom Fraser.