Every weekday, executive editor Sam Smith chimes in from the magazine front. What's going through his head, what he's driven, the burrito he ate in the car this morning, magazine photo shoots and tests, anything. It's called 500 Words About Cars, it may not go anywhere, and it's all him. Enjoy.
Drove home in a Jaguar F-Type V-6 last night. It prompted thoughts. First of all, I want that car with a manual transmission. Second, like most great automotive designs, the F-type looks great in any color. Third, our tester was essentially brand new, and the bolster leather around the seat belts was discolored. As the proud and long-suffering owner of an older Jag, I take no offense to this fact but really do have to wonder why they can't get the simple things right. Fourth, the engine, a 90-degree V-6, sounds good.
Fifth: Perhaps I'm out of the loop, but there's a rumor going around that this V-6 is simply Jaguar's ubiquitous with two deleted cylinders. This is the first V-6 F-type we've had in—the car we had for last year's Performance Car of the Year test, along with every F-Type tester since, was a V-8—so I got curious and popped the hood.
A V-6 that's a cut-down V-8. Normally, a statement like this would mean the sensible answer: a six-cylinder that shares cylinder geometry and head configuration with a larger eight but is, in fact, a six. That's a common manufacturing trick and nothing special. This one appears to be something different. Lift the plastic engine cover, you see a powerplant that takes up a V-8-size hole. The cylinder heads end several inches forward of the transmission's bellhousing, and there's an odd top-of-engine-block space behind each head. You can stick your hand down in it—it's a couple of inches long, almost enough dead air to hold a can of soda. As if someone had capped off the rearmost pair of cylinders on a V-8 block, put a different crank and shorter heads in, and said, "Voila! V-6!"
There are a handful of reasonable explanations for this: Jaguar did this in order to take advantage of some certification loophole. (That said, I'm not familiar with the specifics of emissions or crash regs as they apply here—perhaps this would be classified as a variant of the V-8, instead of an all-new engine?) Or Jaguar did this because it was a clever move that saved engineering and tooling costs at a time when the brand could use that sort of thing. Or it was done because the company thrives on being different.
The downsides are obvious: You get the power of a V-6 but much of the nose mass/vehicle weight distribution of a V-8; also, idiots who are smart enough to understand what you've done will think you've cheaped out, whether you have or not. In the gray area between good and bad, you have to run the same vee angle (that 90-degree figure) as the marque's V-8, instead of the more common 60-degree V-6 configuration. Generally speaking, with six-cylinders, for reasons of both packaging and vibration.
Press images of the assembled F-type V-6 are notoriously absent from the marque's media archive. The only thing that's easily found is an image of the bare crank and rotating assembly, which seems to corroborate the theory. And press releases mention nothing of this. Which means we'll investigate further.
Footnote: The is now apparently a thing. Since when did factory special-edition Porsches become crass? Martini livery: good. 911: good. Combining the two on a street car is tacky as all hell. Am I the only one who thinks this looks cheap? Why is the Internet going nuts for it? Does it remind anyone else of those terrible Steve McQueen-edition watches and jackets? So many questions. When I first saw it, I hoped it was a joke.
Clarification: The rocker stripes aren't terrible. But the roof lines and massive hood decal are a bit much.
Clarification: A lot much.
Clarification: You will not be able to buy the Martini-package 911 in America. You will, however, be able to buy the stripe decals themselves. This is the only upside to the whole deal, because it means that I can finally live my dream of having authentic Martini stripes on my bathtub.*
*Actual bathtub. As in, the thing in which I take baths. Not a 356.