No one tells you on your first day that working in restaurants will steal your soul, but ask anyone who’s worked as a server for more than six months, and they’ll tell you it’s inevitable. I started as a bus boy at 16, and it wasn’t until 25 that I was finally able to (hopefully) escape the industry for good.
I don’t regret taking the chance and chasing a career as an autos writer; nearly 10 years in the restaurant industry leaves its mark. Despite still having the face of an 18-year-old, I’ve also been gifted with the cynicism of a much older man. My life is going quite swimmingly right now, and I have minimal complaints, but it’s still rare to get as excited about a lot of things as I probably should.
Enter the Jaguar F-Type R convertible.
A few weeks ago, it showed up in my driveway, and it tempted me. Its sensuous sheet metal, quad-exhaust, and supercharged V8 engine tempted me to forget my cynicism and get genuinely excited. You know what, though? It worked.
If you haven’t seen an F-Type in person, let me tell you, it’s gorgeous. It isn’t more attractive than the classic E-Type, but compared to other cars designed to meet modern safety standards, I’m not sure it has an equal. There are certainly some angles it looks better from than others, but even when viewed from less-flattering angles, it’s still stunning.
On the off-chance I hadn’t noticed how beautiful the F-Type was, people on the street were sure to let me know on a regular basis. The reactions it got from children were my favorites, with their bug-eyed looks and unbridled excitement. They would scream and shout, pointing the car out to their friends like they’d caught a glimpse of Santa or something.
You know what? It was actually nice to bring so much joy to all those kids.
They weren’t only reacting to the F-Type’s looks, though. The F-Type R experience also includes one of the best-sounding exhaust notes this side of the Lexus LFA, and even without much throttle, it’s far louder than 99% of cars on the road. There’s the option to push a button and make the exhaust more socially acceptable, but as long as it’s not dark-o-clock, why bother? You’ll still be quieter than a lot of motorcycles, and the sound never gets old.
I didn’t spend all my time driving around town and playing Sports Car Santa Claus for the local children, though. We actually had an Autos Cheat Sheet team retreat that weekend, which meant I was headed for Vermont.
Vermont isn’t far from Massachusetts, but in terms of driving roads, it’s a matter of night and day. I’ll never be able to fully explore the limits of any 500-horsepower car’s performance on public roads, but at least Vermont offered the chance to do something other than sit in traffic and wish I still lived back in Georgia.
Driving to Vermont also offered the opportunity to investigate the least relevant quality of a 550-horsepower convertible – its practicality.
Luckily, I was traveling lightly because the trunk of the F-Type convertible was tiny. You could maybe fit a set of golf clubs back there, but if you’re planning to use it as your family’s grocery-getter, you may end up disappointed. Either that, or you’ll end up sitting next to a massive pile of groceries in the passenger seat every week.
I only needed space for a suitcase the size of a carry-on, though, so the lack of trunk space wasn’t a problem for me. I loaded up my things, closed the trunk lid, and started on my way. Exceptionally-tall drivers might find the F-Type a little cramped, as will exceptionally-overweight drivers, but I was perfectly fine.
As for interior quality, most surfaces were covered in leather thanks to the inclusion of the Extended Leather Pack. The rest of the cabin was a mixed bag, with some pieces feeling less high-quality than you would expect in a car that costs more than $100,000. Like the XJ I tested before, the infotainment system could use an overhaul, but the seats were comfortable the whole time, and any concerns about visibility or material quality were easily drowned out by the snarl of the exhaust.
With Boston well behind me, I finally got a chance to test out the Jag’s acceleration. Even at highway speeds, it was exceptionally quick. Supposedly, it will hit 60 miles per hour in under four seconds, and I absolutely believe that. The craziest part wasn’t how fast it accelerated, though. It was how stable, and even calm, the car felt under full throttle.
Every time I would floor it, the car would lunge forward, the exhaust would sing its hymn of adoration to the car gods, the wind would rush through the cabin, and yet the car never felt scary to drive.
It was a different kind, but much like with the XJ, driving the F-Type felt special. It brought out a joy and a childishness that spends most of its time buried under memories of Outback bus tubs and Steak ‘n Shake aprons. It brought back memories of taping car posters to my wall and anxiously checking the mailbox for that month’s pile of car magazines to arrive. Behind the wheel of the F-Type R convertible, I didn’t have a care in the world except just having fun.
I wasn’t the only one who loved the Jag, either. When I arranged the loan for the weekend, I conveniently forgot to let my senior editor Justin know I’d be bringing it. He figured it out pretty quickly when he got to the house, though, and let me tell you, if you’ve never seen your boss freak out like a 6-year-old who’s just been given a real-life unicorn, you should really try it sometime.
It’s what I like to call “an enjoyable experience.”
The verdict at the end of the weekend wasn’t a whole lot different than the initial reaction. Yeah, it’s a little inconvenient to get in and out of, the cabin is a little cramped for some, and a few of the material choices could have been better, but oh my gosh it’s pretty, oh my gosh it’s fast, and oh my gosh that exhaust note.
If Jaguar is looking for a new tagline, I highly recommend, “The 2016 Jaguar F-Type R Convertible: Filling children’s lives with joy, even the ones who are supposed to be grown up.”
At the end of my far-too-brief stint with the F-Type, I couldn’t help but feel a bit lost. As long as it had a little room to run, it was an absolutely brilliant car, even returning a respectable 25 miles per gallon on the highway. In the city, though, the constant attention and threat of curbs made it a serious liability.
Even worse, once I got home from Vermont, I only managed to go faster than 35 miles per hour maybe once or twice. Knowing how little of its potential I was using was incredibly frustrating after after experiencing so much of what it had to offer.
Mostly, though, I was left unsure of where I’m supposed to go from here. I’ve driven one of the coolest cars you can buy right now, so what’s next? Am I going to be able to top that experience, or have I peaked before 30? There are certainly other cool cars I could drive, but will any of them be able to top the experience of being behind the wheel of the Jaguar F-Type R convertible?
Maybe there’s an Audi R8, a Porsche 911, or even an Aston Martin that will engage my emotions like the F-Type did, but who knows? I’m in unknown territory now, and I’d like to think there’s something to look forward to after this, but I’m not sure what it is. Maybe a Lamborghini Huracan or Ferrari 488 GTB? I don’t know.
What I do know is that if another car is going to give me a more engaging on-road experience, it’s going to have to be one spectacular vehicle. The gorgeous looks, huge power, ungodly exhaust, and stow-able top made for a package that few manufacturers are going to be able to top.
While I (sadly) can’t justify leasing even a base-model coupe, if you have the $100,000 or so to drop on the F-Type R, I highly recommend at least taking one for a spin. Who knows? It might leave you bug-eyed and gushing with enough excitement to be worth the cash.