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2014 Jaguar F-Type: Up Close

When a beautiful concept car becomes a gorgeous production reality, it should be applauded. After spending some time in and around Jaguar's new F-Type, I'd argue that this car should get its own parade.

The car debuted at the Paris Motor Show, but I was the first journalist to see the F-Type on U.S. soil at a customer event in suburban Chicago. While I was treated to a thorough walk-around of the car by Jaguar's sports-car product manager Tim Philippo, other attendees at this event were allowed to open the hood, sit in and touch the buttons of this exclusive hand-built showcar, which will be almost exactly the same as what goes on sale in the middle of next year.

Everyone, myself included, had to take a picture of the white F-Type S with their smartphones. Like me, they probably tweeted it, posted it to Facebook or messaged it to their spouses as an early salvo into sweet-talking their way into buying one.

It's just that stunning in person.

While the modern-looking rear with its slivered taillights and shiny center-mounted exhaust ports is probably better executed than the front, that's where most will likely focus their attention. Unlike the current-generation XK's initial rendering, this F-Type has less resemblance to the Aston Martin. Automakers may talk up heritage a bit too much — European ones especially — but with a classic E-Type sitting not 20 feet away, it was easy to see the inspiration for the F-Type.

The combination of that classic's lines along with the need to meet European safety regulations have the grille drooping down, and in the piano-black finish of this showcar, it was probably my only criticism of the design. Otherwise, the line that runs from the back of the car, along the profile and then straight down the headlight and into the lower bumper gives the car some elegance.

Inside, the car strays far from the other cats Jaguar has on sale at the moment and speaks to what this car really is.

The cockpit is driver-oriented with a grab handle to the right of the shifter that serves to both separate the passenger from the controls and give them something to hold onto if the door's grab handle isn't enough.

Overall quality seemed to be about on par with other cars in this price range. Because this is a showcar some things might be slightly different when it hits dealers, but very little looked out of place to me.

There were a few features that did stand out, though.

While more automakers are integrating every control into a touch-screen, Jaguar has returned the climate controls to large analog knobs, though the automaker did put digital readouts in the knobs' center. Want to turn on the seat heaters? Push the knob in and the readout switches from temperature to seat heat level; just turn the knob to adjust.

The other big win is the gearshifter versus the dial we've seen in the rest of the Jaguar lineup. While that dial popping up out of the center console is a trick I love, Philippo said Jaguar sports cars will get a more traditional shift lever going forward — even though the cars have an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The S models — there's a base F-Type, F-Type S and F-Type V-8 S — also feature an orange metallic trim on the push-start button, vehicle dynamic mode switch and shifter paddles. Otherwise, they're black. How can you buy a base model if you're not getting those orange paddles?

Everything about this new F-Type screams that it's unique in the current market.

What about a coupe version like the original concept? Philippo had no comment but his ear-to-ear grin spoke volumes.

Philippo and I also discussed how at a starting price of $69,875, including an $875 destination fee, the F-Type wedges itself between Porsche's Boxster and 911 quite nicely. Especially when you consider Porsche's ability to charge more for most features. The 2013 Boxster I recently reviewed had an as-tested price of $75,000, and that had the base engine. You'll still be able to ratchet up the price of the base F-Type with larger wheels and an upgraded stereo system, but otherwise its standard feature list is better padded.

And with this Jaguar's looks, Porsche may have to worry about its dominance of the European sports-car market.

2014 Jaguar F-Type Starts at $69,875
Jaguar F-Type at the 2012 Paris Motor Show
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