JAGUAR F-TYPE COUPE REVIEW
What's Hot: A roof, and a criminally insane supercharged 5.0 litre V8.
What's Not: Such is the grunt that to drive it in the rain is to form a close personal relationship with Fear and her ugly sister, Terror.
X-FACTOR: The first proper Jag sports car for more than 50 years; and it makes a noise that will make angels cry big, dirty tears.
Vehicle style: Yes, style in buckets; a two-door coupe courtesy of design genius Ian Callum.
Engine/trans: Supercharged 32-valve alloy 5.0 litre V8 | 8spd auto
Price: $219,600 for the R (but the base model, with a supercharged V6, is only $119,900)
The F-Type has already been a huge success for Jaguar. It cast a halo of wondrousness across the whole brand that saw it become the fastest-growing premium marque in the world last year, with sales up 42 percent.
But the Coupe, which was designed concurrently with the Roadster and thus doesn't just look like it was slapped together as an afterthought, is the car that can really heat things up for the brand and take the fight to Porsche, BMW et al.
Jaguar is predicting a conquest rate for this car of 90 percent, so it has the potential to really make the Indian-owned British company a player in the sports-car market.
On paper, it's got the goods to really frighten the Germans, and even some Italians. Its 0-100km/h time of 4.2 seconds and top speed of 300km/h places it very close to the scary air that super cars occupy.
It's also, almost inarguably, a beautiful machine to look at and a wondrous one to listen to.
While the Roadster is compromised by the fact that its designers favoured form over function so much they forgot to give it a usable boot, the hatch at the back of the Coupe raises to reveal at least enough space for an overnight bag or two, which is all most sports-car buyers expect.
If the first F-Type, launched a year ago, was the car that changed everything for Jaguar, this is the car that will change it all over again.
Quality: Compared to the exterior, the F-Type's interior is a bit of a letdown.
The jet-fighter-style toggle switch for selecting between ‘Normal’, ‘Dynamic’ and ‘Wet’ modes is a cool feature, and the steely expensive-to-the-touch shift-paddles are fantastic as well.
The way the aircon vents rise out of the top of the dash when you start the car creates a sense of occasion, but other than that things feel slightly less special than you'd expect.
This is most typified by the touch screen, which is looking badly dated both in graphics and resolution.
When a Citroen C4 Picasso has more expensive and futuristic looking screens than your top-whack sports car, it's time for an upgrade.
Comfort: The cabin is big, as befits such a big, hulking car, and there's no lack of headroom, nor legroom, for the taller gentleman.
A more traditionalist Jag owner could probably get away with driving in his top hat, or at least a bowler.
The seats are the extra sporty ones that come as an option in other F-Types and they provide proper track-spec bolstering and bucketing, but they are firm and might become a little tiresome over long journeys.
Ride comfort is smooth enough though, at least at cruising speeds on the super-smooth freeways of Spain where it was launched. (Although hitting bumpy roads at higher speeds can cause your rear end to leave the seat.)
Equipment: As you'd expect in the $200k bracket, you get everything imaginable here, and it even still plays CDs.
Stereo is excellent and bassy but sat-nav feels a little dated, even compared to the software you get free on your iPhone.
Storage: The boot could be bigger but there's at least enough room that you can go away overnight without having to buy new clothes, as you do in the Roadster.
Cupholders are nicely placed and there are slim door-bins.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The F-Type Roadster is a super drive, but the Coupe R is something else again. It’s a staggering 80 percent stiffer than the roofless F-Type and turns in and handles better as a result.
The other big jump is in the engine room: the R version pumps out 40kW and 55Nm more than the fastest Roadster S could offer.
That takes it into the dizzying stratosphere of 400kW-plus land.
And that means that it accelerates with staggering ferocity - from any revs, in any gear, and all the way up to the 7000rpm redline.
This is a car in which using full throttle is only for people who hate their tyres and want to see them destroyed.
Using half throttle is frightening enough, and pushing it to three quarters will see the big cat fly past 200km/h the way other cars hit half that speed.
Its mid-range punch and thus its overtaking ability are similarly dumbfounding, and all the while your ears are being assaulted by a kind of percussive violence of brutal beauty.
The noises it makes on overrun can sound like a series of gunshots and have the potential to seriously frighten pedestrians, and motorists.
A full-blooded acceleration in this car is the kind of body-pummeling experience that would only have been possible in Ferraris and Lamborghinis not so long ago.
We tried it on a track and the whites of our eyes nearly fell out.
This was exacerbated by the fact that the track we were on, Motorworld in Spain, was under a few feet of water.
This little fact led us to discover that the Coupe R is so powerful, and delivers its torque so forcefully, that driving it in the rain at any kind of speed is neither for the faint hearted nor for those who don't like going sideways. A lot.
It's a properly scary car.
We also noticed on the steeper, sharper parts of the circuit that the A-pillars are alarmingly thick and can obstruct your vision through corners.
Refinement: You can select your amount of refinement, effectively, by adjusting the suspension, power delivery, steering feel and gear-shift intensity via the touch screen.
In Normal mode the car can cruise like a GT and feel comfortable and suitably expensive.
In Sport modes it's much more of an animal (and will bare its claws in an instant). Overall, though, it has the refinement you'd expect of a top-shelf Jag.
Ride and handling: Most of the roads we drove in Spain were little different from the race track (although the sun was shining, thank God) in terms of smooth surfaces - even the winding mountain tracks are incredible in this EU-paved paradise.
But the few bumpy and corrugated bits we did find suggested that this super-stiff F-Type might not like the rough stuff so much and would tend to be unsettled by mid-corner bumps.
Mostly, though, where we drove it the ride was superb.
With its all-aluminium construction, the Coupe manages to weigh 1650kg, but somehow it feels heavier.
It's a big, bulky and impressive looking car, but it feels hefty on the road and as if there's a lot of bonnet in front of you.
Pair this with steering that's slightly too light, lacking a little in feel and muscularity, and the F-Type can feel a bit remote at times.
But this is merely a matter of feedback; its handling is sensational.
This Jag can handle twisting roads at incredible pace and never feel flustered. Much of that is thanks to a very clever active differential and an equally brilliant ‘Torque Vectoring by Braking’ system, which is new to this car.
Basically, at the point where you would expect the car to oversteer, the computers sense it and the diff quickly apportions torque where it's needed to prevent it (using too much throttle will beat the system, of course, but you have to be ham-fisted).
Similarly, if you get into an understeer situation, the torque vectoring will brake the inside wheels to tuck you back into the apex.
The result is that you quickly realise you can corner a lot faster than you'd have been able to in a car like this in the past.
It's truly quite incredible how well it turns in and handles, and the pace it allows. .
Braking: As you would expect in a car that can hit 300km/h, the brakes are superlative, dragging you down repeatedly from speeds over 200km/h in short time and with no fuss or fade.
If you plan to spend all your time on a track, however, Carbon Ceramic Matrix brakes (a first for Jaguar) are optional, and they provide a serious jump in braking performance. They're also 21kg lighter.
Safety: Four airbags, stability control, traction control, ABS.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year warranty, with unlimited kilometres plus three years free servicing.
HOW IT COMPARES
Jaguar talks a lot about taking on Porsche, and stealing its customers, so it's clear that it sees its competitor as the venerated 911. In terms of price and performance, it goes up against both the base Carrera and the S.
Porsche 911 Carrera - $212,450: It's $7150 cheaper, which looks good, until you see that it's only bringing a 3.4-litre six to this battle, with 257kW and 390Nm.
With a 0-100km/h time of 4.8 seconds, the Carrera will be eating the dust of the Jaguar in a straight-line drag, and, so good is the F-Type's handling and poise, it won't be able to pull much back on a twisty section of road either.
The Porsche is better in some ways, of course. It feels lighter and more nimble and the feedback it gives to the driver through the steering wheel is vastly better than the big Brit can muster.
But what sports car buyer is going to sit around justifying his purchase by talking about steering feel when he's just been left languishing by someone in an F-Type R? (see Porsche reviews)
Porsche 911 Carrera S - $249,050: The Jaguar is winning on price here, and still has a huge power advantage over the 3.8-litre boxer-six powered Porsche, with its 297kW and 440Nm.
The stop watch tells an interesting story though, with this 911 capable of a 4.2 second 100km/h dash. It is also far more likely to achieve it thanks to launch control and less theatrics getting its power to the ground.
At just 1415kg, its lighter weight helps. It can also boast superior handling and beautiful steering (meaning it will probably win every comparison you ever read between the two).
The one area it loses out though, and loses out badly, is in the sound department. A thrashy six from Stuttgart is nice, but you won't even hear it if there's a V8 F-Type in the neighbourhood.
Plus, from a buyer point of view, everyone has a Porsche. The Jag is a bit more special somehow. (see Porsche reviews)
Yes, $219,600 is a lot of money for a car, but what a car this is.
Consider that its performance, its looks and its screaming despotic exhaust all put it at the edge of the supercar envelope (where prices can double and even triple that mark), and it starts to look like a bargain.
The whole F-Type range is an impressive one.
The R however, with its 404.5kW, really does stand head, shoulders and giant hairy testicles above its brothers.
In terms of sheer acceleration, madness and irrepressible smile creation, it delivers spectacularly.
You could argue that it almost has too much power, but what sports-car buyer won't be excited by reading that?
While the Roadster is gorgeous and heaps of fun, the Coupe is a much stiffer, much more serious and faster car. It's also, arguably, even prettier.
The F-Type R Coupe will be a massive success for Jaguar in Australia when it goes on sale in June. Keep your ear out for one.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- F-TYPE - $119,900
- F-TYPE S - $152,300
- F-TYPE R - $219,600