Test Drive: Jaguar F-Type R coupe
The rain in Spain, it seems, falls mainly during Jaguar launches. Twelve months ago we were in Pamplona to drive the F-Type convertible and it tipped with rain throughout the two day visit. This year, we’re on a sodden stretch of tarmac at Lleida airport, a two hour drive northwest of Barcelona for the launch of the F-Type R Coupe, and the skies have opened up once again. Never let it be said that we don’t aim for consistency in our test results.
We got a little taste of it during a launch event in Dubai last November but this is the first time we’ve been handed the keys to a final production-ready version of the car and told to go and have fun. Jaguar says both the convertible and the Coupe were designed at the same time, but launched independently a year apart so that the open top car could get a foothold in countries where they’re seen as more important than the tin-top version. Places like the US and England, where drivers will use any excuse to drive alfresco.
The F-Type R Coupe is the most powerful production Jaguar ever and while it shares much of its design and dimensions with the convertible, it’s an entirely different animal altogether. It has a gorgeous sweeping roofline that pays homage to the E-Type of the 1960s and ’70s, and a roof that comes finished in aluminium or panoramic glass.
The E-Type resemblance is more than a passing one: one of the press shots of the car revealed that in low setting sunlight it cast a shadow that looks eerily close to the E-Type’s silhouette. The best view of the car, however, is from the rear three quarter where the shape of the haunches and the rear window better resolve the Coupe’s rump.
Structurally, the car is far stiffer than the convertible thanks to the hydroformed aluminium beams that extend from the A-pillars to the rear of the car. That helps handling, and it also helps the car’s dynamic suspension to adjust to information it receives from the road without the need for stiffer springs or dampers.
The F-Type R comes with a supercharged V-8 that produces 542 bhp, slightly more than the bonkers XJ220 of the early 1990s, and easily far too much for all but the focused driving genius to master. In the F-Type Coupe, that means a sprint to 100 km/h in around 3.5 seconds, a top speed of 300 km/h and a sub-12 second quarter mile dash.
Driving the F-Type R is a visceral experience, especially on a wet track where the car’s dynamic mode gives us a lot to think about. That engine barks orders at the rear wheels, pausing only momentarily to clear its throat as the transmission peels through several of its eight forward ratios. At the Motorland circuit in Spain’s Aragon region, third, fourth and fifth gears are definitely the workhorse ones.
Throttle response is immediate, which means you’re able to exploit the limits of the car’s ability by simply playing with your right foot. The carbon ceramic brakes remain fade-free regardless of however many times you stomp on them or for how long.
But it’s that engine, that noise and that drama that draws you back to the car time and time again. It’s simply one of the best cars we’ve ever driven – no faint praise when you consider the breadth of the machinery we’re lucky enough to test every year.
The supercharged V6 S may be the smarter choice but the V8 R is exceptionally difficult to find fault with. It’s an utterly brilliant two-seat Coupe and one we hope to spend much more time in.
Vehicle type: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 3-door hatchback
Base price: $99,895 (US price only)
Engine type: supercharged and intercooled DOHC 32-valve V-8, aluminium block and heads, direct fuel injection
Power: 550 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 680 Nm @ 2500 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
Wheelbase: 2622 mm
Length: 4470 mm
Width: 1923 mm
Height: 1308 mm
Curb weight: 1665 kg
Zero to 100 kmh: 3.4 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 11.8 sec
Top speed: 300 km/h