Matt Campbell drives the new hard-top version of Jaguar's new sports car hero in Spain.
The new Jaguar F-Type Coupe is more than just a hard-top version of the Roadster. It’s a car the company insists has been designed to change people’s perceptions of the Jaguar brand– its first proper sports car in half a century.
And if the Roadster body is what we'd describe as attractive, then the F-Type Coupe is simply gorgeous – especially from the A-pillars back. You can tell the hardtop wasn't an afterthought and designed simultaneously alongside the convertible.
As with the F-Type Roadster, the Coupe comes in three levels of potency, and all are fitted as standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control and steering wheel paddleshifters, with power sent to the rear wheels.
The entry-level Jaguar F-Type Coupe ($119,900) features a 3.0-litre supercharged six-cylinder engine with 250kW of power at 6500rpm and 450Nm from 3500-5000rpm. It has a claimed sprint time of 5.3 seconds, and fuel use is claimed at 8.8 litres per 100km.
The mid-level F-Type S Coupe ($152,300) boasts a more powerful version of the supercharged six, producing 280kW and 460Nm, which enables it to jump from 0-100km/h in 4.9s, while fuel use is claimed at 9.1L/100km.
The top dollar offering is the F-Type R Coupe ($219,600), which is powered by a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 with 404kW of power at 6500rpm and 680Nm at 3500rpm. The result of all that grunt is a sprint time of 4.2s from 0-100km/h, and a top speed limited to 300km/h. Fuel use jumps to 11.1L/100km, too.
There’s no other way of putting this: the V8 F-Type R is a hoot.
The R’s engine is a raucous, wonderful thing. It revs freely and aggressively from 3500rpm, which is where its peak torque kicks in, and it gathers pace in a blistering fashion. That punch is accompanied by a soundtrack that is both addictive as it is ear-splitting. On full throttle the noise is dramatic and deafening, and it’s just as entertaining when you lift off, with a crackling, popping note from the rear that’s like a nuclear-powered popcorn machine.
The eight-speed automatic offers quick, precise changes, though a thud through the cabin is not unusual under hard acceleration.
With so much power being sent to the rear wheels, you’d expect it to be a handful. In the wet it most certainly is. We spent some time pushing it to its (and our) limits on a wet racetrack and found it would punish the driver at every given opportunity. Touch the throttle when you're still pushing through a corner and the torque will twist the car around you before the traction control system (which our co-driver insisted be left on) snaps you back into line.
In the dry, however, it is more manageable than you’d think.
It's a wide car (1.92m across) and it can be difficult to position on the road, but the R features a number of additional drivability goodies to help out in that regard including a torque vectoring system that works to counteract moments of understeer by braking the inner wheels to pull you back into line that works tremendously well, particularly in the wet.
It also gets an electronic differential that helps keep things in line at the rear of the car, and unique suspension with adaptive dampers that can adjust up to 500 times per second. The ride is better in the R than in the V6 S we also tested, but over rough, bouncy sections of road it can be somewhat uncomfortable.
The R’s steering is direct and offers good weighting at all speeds, and while it is more precise than the V6 S it still lacks the intricately involving feel of the rival Porsche Cayman and 911 models the F-Type sits between.
Perhaps the biggest concern for the F-Type Coupe is its weight. Despite its underpinnings being constructed wholly of lightweight aluminium, the base car is 1577kg, the S weighs 1594kg and the brutal R model tips the scales at 1650kg, compared to the likes of the Cayman (from 1395kg to 1425kg) and 911 (1455kg to 1605kg). You can feel it through the corners, particularly at the nose of the car – come into a corner with too much speed and you'll need to use some muscle to pull it back into line, as the front does tend to want to push on straight. It is a learnable art, though, as we found after a few hundred kilometres of twisting tarmac in Spain.
We also spent some time in the V6 S model. In the Roadster line-up, this is the pick of the pack because the V8 is not as powerful nor is its drive experience as convincing in that car. In the Coupe range, the V6 S still offers a lot to like but it can't match the R for fun.
The engine does rev nicely and push quite hard from 3500rpm upwards, and it offers a similarly enticing soundtrack, though nowhere near as voluminous or dramatic as the R. However, it offers a fantastically linear power delivery, churning towards 7000rpm with plenty of force, while also proving responsive while offering a more relaxed manner at lower speeds.
Jaguar has made a big deal about how stiff and torsionally rigid the Coupe is, though without the trickery of the ultra-fast dampers the F-Type S exhibits a far from perfect ride quality. It lacks compliance, with the rear suspension pogoing over undulations and the front crashing at times over hard bumps.
As is the case with the Roadster, the F-Type Coupe's interior does not quite live up to the rest of the package. In the V6 S we tested, for example, there is a multitude of materials used through the cabin particularly across the doors and dashboard that make it seem a little hodgepodge. Some of the materials simply aren’t premium enough for a car of this price, such as the plastic covering the glovebox and the material along the sides of the transmission tunnel. On the plus side, the media system is simple to use and the graphics are of a high resolution, though the reverse-view camera image is somewhat grainy. The door-mounted seat adjustment controls are neat, and the level of comfort and support is good.
In the F-Type R Coupe, there’s a clear step up in class. The cars we drove were, for the most part, fitted with a black leather-lined interior with red stitching, including a leather head-lining. Others had optional ($6500) “Suedecloth” trim lining the innards of the cabin, which certainly added some extra pizzazz.
Boot space improves from a nearly useless and awkwardly shaped 196 litres of capacity in the Roadster to a more generous 407L in the Coupe (or 315L to the parcel shelf). Jaguar claims the boot, which features an optional electronic tailgate, can swallow two golf bags. They’d have to be small, tailor-made bags, we’d suggest. Loose item storage through the cabin is well taken care of, with two central cupholders, decent sized door pockets, and a stowage bin and coat hooks behind the seats.
The design of the boot may be eye-catching, but it also hampers the driver's vision because the glass tapers towards the bottom. When the retractable rear spoiler pops up into place at speeds above 110km/h, it eats further into what the driver can see behind them. The consensus among the Australian media was that the car looked considerably more attractive with the spoiler down, too.
As with all Jaguar models, the new F-Type Coupe is covered by a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, and buyers also receive three years of free scheduled servicing. It goes on sale locally in June.
The Jaguar F-Type Coupe is an enthralling and entertaining car. While it can’t match clinical prowess of its near-priced Porsche rivals, it's high on emotional pull both in terms of styling and performance. And in top-spec R guise particularly it’s a fast-moving fun factory with a stunning soundtrack that is exciting and entertaining to drive.