Like most diehard motoring enthusiasts, I’ve never been big on convertibles. The chassis is never stiff enough and frankly, and they look more like pleasure cruisers than serious sports cars. It’s a resolve I could live by, if it weren't for the Jaguar F-Type R AWD Convertible.
Just the spec sheet for the F-Type R soft top is enough to get your pulse racing: 404kW of power and 680Nm of tyre-frying torque, 0-100km/h in a blistering 4.1 seconds and a top speed of 300km/h.
It’s clear this is no kitten.
At the heart of the F-Type’s huge performance is a supercharged 5.0-litre V8 powerhouse. Thankfully, at least for me, it’s all-wheel-drive because rear-wheel drive versions can be a bit of a handful and a little too eager to step out for my liking, even with traction control firmly in the ‘on’ position.
There’s a few reasons why people choose one sports car make over another, but styling is right up there as a key buying trigger. Either with the top up or down, the F-Type is undoubtedly a stunning bit of kit from Jaguar.
It’s also very loud and brash, and there’s simply no mistaking our test car for anything but the hard-core R version.
You do pay for the privilege. Priced from a cool $260,980 plus on-roads, its almost $16,000 more than the AWD coupe and $19,000 more than the F-Type V8 R rear-wheel drive.
By comparison, you could have a Mercedes-Benz SL500 with a twin-turbo V8 for $312,000, but it’s not as quick as the F-Type, needing 4.7 seconds to reach 100km/h from a standstill.
Apart from R badging, you can’t miss the monster-size carbon-ceramic brakes with bright yellow six-pot calipers. In fact, this brake system is the most powerful ever fitted to a Jaguar road car, hiding behind a set of beautifully forged 20-inch alloy wheels.
Then there’s the extra-wide and sticky 295/30 Pirelli rubber down back, and Jaguar’s quad-cannon approach to exhaust tips conveniently mounted outboard for maximum visual effect.
They’re a sure sign that this is not your average F-Type Jag.
These things sound like cannons too, with enough crackle and pop to ensure you kill the ‘loud’ button on the exhaust system from the very moment you enter the confines of suburbia. We probably should have taken a decibel reading, because I’m genuinely amazed this car is able to pass environmental testing. Thank God it does.
With most of the world’s best known sports car manufacturers including Porsche, Ferrari and McLaren using turbocharging to boost performance, it’s refreshing to drive a proper old-school style sports car that delivers pure lag-free grunt. Give it a boot full, and boom, the F-Type R just hunkers down and takes off like no tomorrow.
Better still, this thing’s got a hair trigger throttle, so acceleration, while brutal, is totally progressive all the way up the rev range. You can dial in any amount of power at any time, even making small adjustments as conditions change.
Putting aside the fact that this is a drop top, the F-Type R AWD is an immensely fast car, which genuinely feels quicker than its claimed 4.1 seconds to 100km/h. So impressed were we by its outright pace, that we ran this same car at the Sydney Dragway recently, and were blown away by its 11.7 second quarter-mile run and 198km/h speed at the mark. That’s astonishing for a luxury convertible road car.
For me though, it’s all about the all-wheel drive with this car. It just feels so much more user friendly than its rear-wheel drive sibling. You can really feel the extra traction and grip at work as you exit the corners, allowing you to get on the power much, much sooner. No longer does it feel like I’m living on the ragged edge and all Hell is about to break loose.
It’s also got torque vectoring, which helps sort out impending understeer by braking the inside rear wheel and applying torque to the outside rear wheel, hopefully eliminating any nasty surprises and keeping the car firmly on the black stuff.
Not once did I ever have any cause for concern, even under extreme loads. It’s very well sorted dynamically for a car that tips the scales at 1745kg.
It might be luxurious, but the F-Type R’s ride is a little too firm for my liking, even in the Normal adaptive drive program. Mind, it’s not crashy. It just lacks some low-speed compliance around the city.
It’s even stiffer in the more focused Dynamic mode, but that also means quicker shift speed. When you’re really moving, the upshifts from this eight-speed ZF auto seem every bit as quick as the best dual-clutch transmissions I’ve experienced.
Steering weight is ideal, despite Jaguar opting for an electric power steering system over a hydraulic unit. It remains light at low speeds but weighs up beautifully as you get going. It’s also reasonably quick, but still not quite at Porsche 911 level.
Given this is a proper power-operated soft top, we timed the roof opening at around 8 seconds, which is quicker than opening the tailgate on a Toyota Kluger.
Inside, there’s plenty of twin-stitched leather and a pair of truly excellent sports seats. It does feel special. Not as smart as the latest Audi interiors, but still very much premium, with Jaguar’s current InControl Infotainment system controlling most of the functionality while minimising switchgear for a cleaner layout.
The F-Type has always been a bit of a squeeze. There’s not a lot of storage space, just a small console bin and a pocket between the two pews. The boot isn’t big either, but it’s enough for a couple of soft bags and a small suitcase.
Make no mistake, at around $285K with all the options on this tester, this is a hugely expensive car. But with supermodel looks, ballistic acceleration and cannon fire for an exhaust note, I’m all in.
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Videography by Christian Barbeitos