Alborz Fallah samples the new Jaguar F-Type R Coupe to see if the V8 two-door can match its German rivals on Aussie roads.
As beautiful and glamorous as the 2015 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe is, it faces the toughest competition the premium sports car market has ever seen.
For $219,130, the 5.0-litre supercharged V8 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe, to give it its full name, is the absolute fastest of the current F-Type range, out-powering the top-end convertible by a noticeable margin. But in this realm of high-end luxury sports cars, power isn’t everything.
The hard-edged sports car has set the scene for a revolution at the British manufacturer, but while the F-Type Coupe is an amazing vehicle no matter how you look at it (particularly when you just look at it), the competitor set from the likes of Porsche’s Cayman and 911 is extremely fierce.
The V8 pumps out an incredible 404kW of power and 680Nm of torque, allowing the F-Type R Coupe to accelerate from 0-100km/h in just 4.2 seconds. Worthy figures for a car of its calibre, but again, performance isn’t everything.
Apart from having a hard roof, the R Coupe differentiates itself from the V8 S of the roadster with 40kW and 55Nm of additional power and torque.
As with the roadster, the F-Type Coupe is absolutely stunning to look at. It’s a credit to Jaguar head designer, Ian Callum, for being able to create such a masterpiece of automotive design in an age where pedestrian protection has placed so many restrictions on the shapes and forms cars can take.
From the outside the two are pretty similar, though the rear spoiler of the Coupe (which deploys at 113km/h, perfectly setup to let the cops know you're exceeding the freeway limit) tends to look a bit more tacked on, compared to the smooth and longer version found in the roadster.
Not having to store a soft top does allow for additional boot space, which is now just large enough to maybe take one overnight bag – if you’re lucky. During our test drive from Sydney CBD out through Putty Road and back, we had to use another car to bring our carry-on luggage, as it simply would not fit in the F-Type.
So it’s not exactly practical, but that’s hardly an issue for a sports car that will likely spend most of its life within a 20-kilometre radius of its home garage. But if you do intend to go away for weekends, you’ll be using the passenger’s lap as storage space.
On top of that, cabin and storage space is limited. The two central bottle holders tend to be in the way and the ageing and occasionally buggy infotainment system is a generation behind most of its competitors, particularly when it comes to satellite navigation.
Like its roadster sibling, the Jaguar F-Type Coupe suffers from an extensive options list that leaves out items that are standard on a Toyota Corolla, such as a reversing camera. It also misses out on items such as heated seats, somewhat disappointing for a car that Jaguar hopes will reinvent the brand.
But if you’re concerned about your co-driver complaining about the lack of storage space or cold seats, worry not, as they’ll be far more likely to whinge about the exceptionally hard ride.
The Jaguar F-Type Coupe might be splitting the market between the Porsche Cayman and 911, but it falls short of both in terms of ride quality and comfort.
While the Germans seem to employ some sort of voodoo magic that sees their sports car float over any surface while maintaining a sense of dynamic integrity unrivalled by anything on the market, the F-Type Coupe fidgets around the road when surface quality begins to deteriorate.
Whether the adaptive suspension is in Dynamic or Normal mode, the harshness of the F-Type R Coupe can become tiring fairly quickly.
In fairness, when the road is smooth the ride quality is superb and the Jag’s ability to work its way around a tight hairpin at speeds that would make the evening news is Porsche-like at worst. There's phenomenal grip and if you know how to handle the bends, the Jag's electronic aides are basically invisible.
The steering response is reassuring and the car’s exceptional brakes (even without the $20,250 carbon ceramic option) can take a good beating without giving anything away. You'll need the excellent brakes, too, because speed limits become somewhat of a nuisance in the F-Type.
But in my opinion, where the F-Type excels is that it’s not just another Porsche. While a 911 or Cayman may be the more logical choice, their popularity and clinical nature is arguably their undoing.
It helps, of course, that the F-Type R Coupe is seriously quick. Acceleration times don’t tell the whole story because if you keep your right foot flat, the ferocity by which the supercharged V8 moves the car’s 1665-kilogram kerb weight is enthralling.
Accompanying that is the aural soundtrack that makes fully-grown men grin like idiots, particularly in tunnels. Of all the cars that need a decent sound system (which ironically the F-Type R Coupe has, with its fabulous Meridian setup), this isn’t one of them.
The V8’s thralling bark is Aston Martin V8 Vantage-like in its loudness but Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG-like in its brutality. It’s as if the engineers have actually built an orchestra inside the engine bay that blasts out of the four tailpipes.
Simply press the active exhaust button and tap the accelerator pedal and the R Coupe will wake up anyone within a five-kilometre radius. It outdoes both the XFR-S and XKR-S by a substantial margin, and you couldn’t possibly drive it home late at night with the exhaust system on, as your neighbours would likely crucify you at first sight.
All in all though, it’s hard to dismiss the Jaguar F-Type Coupe as anything but the best British sports car for the last few decades. While it may not be as comfortable or well equipped as its German rivals, its looks, driving ability (on smooth roads), power delivery and thrilling soundtrack are exceptional.