First drive: Jaguar F-Type Coupe R

Jaguar has treated the F-Type V8 R Coupe to an extra dollop of horsepower over its drop-top sibling
Jaguar has treated the F-Type V8 R Coupe to an extra dollop of horsepower over its drop-top sibling
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IF THE stupendously powerful Jaguar F-Type Coupe R was just a tiny bit more hairy chested, I’m sure I could use it to rip a hole in the fabric of time, nip back 30 years and tell my teenage self to try a bit harder at school.

“Perk your ideas up, younger me. Stop daydreaming. Develop a ruthless streak, climb the career ladder and you’ll be able to retire at 43 with a million in the bank and a couple of these cool cats in your triple garage.”

Sadly, inter-dimensional devilry is not really the Jag’s bag, so the course of my life has been a whimsical meander and, well, you can probably guess the rest. That doesn’t change the fact that the £85,000 F-Type Coupe R is the car of my teenage dreams, the snarling embodiment of the sensuous shapes a bored me Biroed into the margin of my arithmetic jotter, while making vroom-vroom noises under my breath.

It’s a damn sight prettier than my doodles, of course. Jaguar’s design director, Ian Callum, takes the credit for the F-Type’s form, but really he’s just a conduit, channelling the thoughts and dreams of classroom car fantasists the world over, refining their scribbles into shape for 21st-century sports car stardom.

And what a shape. Adding a glass and aluminium top to the taut lines of last year’s F-Type Roadster is a masterstroke. You could spend all day looking for the Jag’s least-flattering angle, poring over its long bonnet, gently raking roofline and broad but perfectly-formed haunches, and come away disappointed and delighted at the same time. It doesn’t have a bad side.

That being so, you’d almost forgive Jaguar’s propulsion people if they stuck a milk-float motor under the long bonnet, knowing that the car would sell on looks alone. Fortunately, they’ve opted for a five-litre supercharged V8 with stats that 13-year-old me would have toiled to comprehend and 43-year-old me can scarcely believe: 0-60 in four seconds and a top speed of 186mph.

And because putting a fixed roof on top instead of a folding one means the body is 80 per cent more resistant to flexing than its already stiff open-topped sibling, Jaguar has gifted the Coupe an extra 50bhp, for a total of 543bhp. They’re confident its chassis will cope with the extra shove.

Teenage me has just fainted. Present-day me is just praying I’ll be able to keep the thing in a straight line. To that end, the suspension’s a bit stiffer than the Roadster’s, which you’ll notice around town, although the car becomes pleasantly pliable as speed builds. Unique to this top-of-the-range R is an electronically-controlled differential, which stops the Jag from lighting up its rear tyres and works in tandem with a torque-vectoring system that brakes the inside wheels on corners and spares the Jag’s smiley face from an unscheduled rhinoplasty
appointment with the cack-handed Dr Crash Barrier.

It also means that, hunkered down low in the Jag’s classy cabin (unchanged from the Roadster, save for the addition of the roof), you can carry oodles of speed into corners and tug on the sweetly-weighted steering wheel, full of confidence that the nose will draw itself towards the apex while the rear tyres cling to the road. Feed in the power, feel the Jag kick you up the backside, and you’re barrelling towards the next bend, revelling in the snappy shifts of the eight-speed gearbox.

Or, if you prefer to exit corners facing in slightly the wrong direction, a flick of the chequered-flag switch beside your left thigh will engage dynamic mode, thereby granting you greater scope for tail-happy tomfoolery. I do confess to giving it a try on a quiet B-road, before reminding myself of the insurance agreement I’d signed.

I was treated to two dry days (a miracle!) with the F-Type but the buzz from my motoring media chums is that this cat clings on surprisingly well in the wet, too. Carbon-ceramic brakes are a £7,400 option, but the standard massive steel discs and purposeful-looking callipers are good enough for all but repeated laps of a race track.

If the F-Type’s looks are the cake and its performance the icing, then the noise it makes is the cherry on top. I spent 48 hours in the company of the F-Type last week, covering all points across Edinburgh and the Lothians. Even if you didn’t see it, there’s every chance you will have heard it, and wondered if the One o’Clock Gun had gone berserk. The Jaguar exhausts – all four of them – eschew any attempts at musicality and instead offer thunder, artillery fire and a firework display with every press and lift-off of the throttle.

It’s not all sweetness, light and explosions, though. Practicality is a weakness. The 315-litre boot is long but narrow and shallow, so golf clubs or smaller items of flat-pack furniture are your only hope. The glovebox is modest at best, and the door pockets too narrow to be useful. But do you care? Waitrose does home delivery, and you can have your luggage sent on ahead if you want to escape to the Côte d’Azur for the weekend.

What might concern you more, especially on a cross-continental jaunt, is the V8’s thirst. Not so much the cost of fuelling it – I assume you’re too loaded to care – but the frequency with which it demands visits to forecourts. Jaguar claims a combined mpg of 25.5, but I couldn’t get the trip computer to register more than 19.8. Single figures are not beyond the realms of possibility.

Costly and time-consuming, then, but well worth the expense and effort. Worth it for the way it made all those who came into close contact with it smile, for the way it turned heads in the Grassmarket, for the thumbs-up it got from the biker on the Calder Road, and for the reaction of the Ferrari driver who slowed for a good look at Fountainbridge. And that was just in the first hour.

And worth it for giving me a new-found sense of purpose. I realised midway through my two-day flirtation with the car that I still have time to knuckle down and bag myself a Jag. It costs £85,000, and I’ve got at least 25 years of career life left. So that’s a monthly payment of…

Curses! I really should have paid more attention in arithmetic class.

With thanks to Pentland Jaguar, Edinburgh

VITAL STATS

Price £85,000

Engine 5l petrol, 8 cyl, supercharged, 543bhp, 502 lb ft

Performance Max speed 186mph; 0-62mph 4.0sec

Economy 25.5mpg combined

CO2 emissions 259g/km