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BOTB Road Test: Jaguar F-Type R Coupe {{favouriteCount}} Quantity of Likes

13 Jul 2015

Check list: 1. Wrestle a crocodile 2. Try to ride a bear through a river 3. BASE jump from the Petronas Towers. There, that should do. You see, after spending a week with the Jaguar F-Type R Coupe, ‘normal’ everyday things just seem boring. Such is the level of excitement that it brings to every journey, every moment you’re behind the wheel, that you miss that adrenaline rush when you’re not with it. It’s like a drug.

There are plenty of cars in the £80-90,000 sports coupe market. There’s the techno-wizzkid Nissan GT-R (Review coming in February), the old dinosaur Aston V8 Vantage and the stalwart Porsche 911. Jaguar has decided to place a spread bet with the F-Type Coupe, a range spanning the top end of the Porsche Cayman right up to a 911 GTS, and we’ve tested both ends of the spectrum. But here we’re talking about the range-topper first, the daddy, the R Coupe. What makes this car stand out to us is that it is just as impressive standing still as it is when moving – and when it looks this good you can tell how good it’s going to be on the road.

There are very very few cars on sale today that literally make you stop and stare; not just because they’re so outrageous like Lamborghinis, but because they are just so achingly beautiful to behold. You can stare at the F-Type Coupe for hours, drinking in all the lines, curves, exquisite details that the genius Ian Callum put into the design. The F-Type convertible is a good looking car, but the transformation to coupe, the simple addition of a fixed roof has elevated it to a simply gorgeous design. The way the rear haunches and the roofline taper down to the rear and its slim lights is both athletic and pure sexiness. We could go on for hours and hours about how the car looks but we’ll let the pictures speak for themselves in this instance.

So once you’ve finished staring and get in, everything else will be a disappointment won’t it? Well no, not really. It was always going to be hard to design an interior to match that exterior and still keep it usable (we’re looking at you, TVR) but what one needs to realise is that the F-Type Coupe is a usable sports car so the interior needs to be so as well. So all the controls fall easily to hand, all the contact surfaces are smooth supple leather and in this car there were a few nice trinkets to play with as well. All is well then, so best see whether it has the firepower to back up the looks.

Foot on the brake, finger on the bronze starter button and BLAMMMMMMMM the 542 bhp Supercharged 5.0 litre V8 fires into life with an angry bark and growl, loud enough to annoy neighbours, startle cattle and give the old lady walking down the road a funny turn. It really does sound very, very angry but with a lovely V8 burble hiding underneath. The whole car vibrates and rocks when you blip the throttle, not that you notice much as when you do that you get another wall of sound erupting from the rear. You get the faint idea that this noise might be ever so slightly addictive…

Time to see what it can do then – there are some nice dry roads waiting out there and an uncharacteristic sunny spell. Nudge the lever back into Drive, then if you’re out to have fun, across into Sport and flick the right paddle into first so you’re in control of the shifting. Auto mode is impressive in Sport, but to really feel in control you need to be in charge of the gears yourself. As you pull away you realise that 1st is too low, such is the power and torque of this engine that it’s constantly trying to surge ahead with even the slightest input, so into second. As you drive through town on the way to the country roads it strikes you how compliant the ride is – even with 20-inch alloy wheels and stiff suspension the V8 R absorbs all the bumps really well, only coming unstuck by some of the truly appalling roads we have in the UK. But such is the price for the composure that comes in the twisty bits. Before that though, we head to our favourite bit of long, straight (private and closed, officer) road and from 2nd gear bury the accelerator into the carpet. Two armfuls of lock later, might try that in 3rd. OK, off we go, press the loud pedal.

What occurred in that period was such ferocious noise and acceleration that you sound like a jabbering ape afterwards. The exhaust blaring a V8 wail, the acceleration trying to make you become one with the sports seats, it’s truly savage. To think that this 542 bhp rocket is priced the same as a 400 bhp 911 makes you wonder if they’re even worth comparing. This feels properly supercar quick, in the realms of a Ferrari 458. But with the power you could always guess it was going to be quick, can it also be a great steer?

Yes, let’s get that out of the way straight away. It’s very, very good. Hilarious, scary, bonkers and good all in equal measure. We didn’t take it on track, but Dynamic mode is to be avoided on Britain’s craggy roads, it firms the suspension too much and you end up skipping and bouncing down the road instead of putting the power down, which is a struggle even at the best of times. With so much torque (501 lb/ft of the stuff) the rear tyres really do have to work hard to keep gripping, but don’t for one minute think that it’s not good because of that. The F-Type R Coupe is something that is sorely lacking in many cars these days – fun. Hugely, hilariously fun. The way it fires out of every corner, rear end trying to take over the front but actually just allowing you to steer the car with the throttle, is pure joy. It doesn’t understand the word ‘understeer’; it’s just not in its vocabulary.

Is it as composed as a 911 on a bumpy B-road? Nope, not even close. But across a 10 mile stretch of twisty back roads you’ll have a much broader grin on your face in the F-Type Coupe, that’s a guarantee. The gearbox is astoundingly good as well. We’ve always been proponents of the manual gearbox here at BOTB, but this 8-speed ZF automatic gearbox is so good, so smooth at downshifts and lightning quick at upshifts it makes you wonder why companies bother with the complex dual clutch gearboxes at all.

As with all reviews there must be things we don’t like, and there are just two with this car. Firstly the satnav/infotainment system is very old and slow and really not great to use. But the 2016 F-Type coming in the middle of next year has a new updated system that promises to be up there with the very best. So that’s that then. The only other bad point, is actually a good thing for the first few hours’ hard driving – the pops and crackles from the exhaust in Sport mode. If you’re in 3rd gear, stringing together a nice set of bends as you back off from the throttle there are a load of pops and crackles, hilariously loud ones, from the exhaust which are just enormous fun to hear. But then after a while you realise that they’re engineered in to the experience as they happen at exactly the same time, every time you back off and you can almost predict them happening which removes a bit of the joy. Jaguar just needs to add a randomiser to the program so it’s not so predictable, then all will be well with the world.

As it stands though, the F-Type R Coupe is the most fun, impressive and beautiful car we’ve driven all year, especially at the price point. The rivals are all slow and unexciting by comparison. Next year there will be an AWD version of this car which means it’ll be even quicker across country and probably just as much fun. We can’t wait to try it, but then there’s also the Mercedes-AMG GT to consider…

F-Type V6 Coupe

As a bit of a contrast, Jaguar let us have a base F-Type Coupe V6 to review as well, and it certainly has a different character. Being the base model it has 341 bhp from the supercharged V6, which is 200 bhp down on the V8 R, but that’s still a fair number of ponies even taking the F-Type’s high kerb weight into account. It never feels as feral as the V8, in fact there’s never really that feeling of power that you crave in a car like this. It feels ‘adequate’ which is ok, but it doesn’t excite.

You still get the stunning looks though, even with smaller wheels and less aerodynamic addenda the F-Type is still a truly stunning thing to look at. In fact the simple silver/black colour scheme and smaller wheels may even suit it more than the outrageous red of the V8 R. The interior is the same too, so you get the same enveloping cockpit and great controls, not to mention the same excellent 8-speed ZF gearbox. The V6 gets the gorgeous twin central trumpet-style exhausts instead of the V8’s quad outboard arrangement, but don’t for a second think that it’s lacking in the sound department. It’s different, but when you drive the V6 hard (this car had the switchable sports exhaust) it has a bark to it, a V6 howl that it missing from the V8’s vocabulary.

The power deficit is obviously more noticeable after driving the V8, but we think in everyday driving you’d be best to save up a little more for the V6 S. That extra 35 bhp makes all the difference and could turn it into the pick of the range as a daily sports car. As it stands we couldn’t recommend the base V6 over the similarly priced Porsche Cayman S, but the V6 S is another matter.

With thanks to Jaguar UK for the press car and Steve Hall Photography for the fantastic images.

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