Monday 13th January


JAGUAR F-TYPE COUPE: DRIVEN

Chris Harris bags an early drive with the Jaguar F-Type Coupe, rather likes it...


There is a lurking suspicion that it doesn't really matter what people like me say about this car - it simply looks too good for potential buyers to really care about how it drives because, well, all new sports cars are pretty good at the driving thing aren't they?

On-track pre-launch meant logo'd up cars...
On-track pre-launch meant logo'd up cars...
Mine is not a serious job, and I have long suspected that third party opinions of the type delivered in pieces like this have a limited affect on buying behaviour, but rarely have I felt as professionally impotent as when I saw an Jaguar F-Type Coupe R(or is it R-Coupe?) sitting in the Barcelona sunshine. I say sitting - brooding would be more accurate. There's a smoking menace at work here that will have grown men weeping into the finance papers before they know what's happened.

Sod the way it drives - I just want one. That's what I thought. And I tend to really care how things drive.

Usual disclaimer
I'll repeat my usual message and confirm that I am the least qualified arbiter of what does and doesn't look good. But this car looks flaming fabulous. What is it about the truncated, high-arse, long-snouted coupe format that delivers so consistently? Aston V8 Vantage, BMW M Coupe, Ferrari F12 - all of them are stunners to my warped sense of the aesthetic, and the F-Type Coupe is right up there.

...so here are the press pics sans stickering
...so here are the press pics sans stickering
Jaguar is very keen to stress that this car offers quite a different driving experience to the Convertible. A bodyshell which is now 80 per cent stiffer than the drop-top, mildly increased spring-rates and new damper calibration certainly point towards a more accurate drive. And this is the full-fat version of the company's 5.0-litre supercharged V8: 550hp, 502lb ft and a 186mph top speed. Given the power figure, that vmax looks quite low to me, but then anything over 180mph does seem ample these days.

This was a very brief drive event on the Barcelona F1 circuit. There was no road driving allowed and, rather frustratingly, we couldn't drive a roadster to compare notes.

Teaser
Jaguar insists that any driver should be able to spot that he or she is driving an F-Type Coupe rather than the version with the fabric roof in the first 50 metres of acquaintance. Well, in the new car, if you look up, you'll see that there's a metal panel over your head, so they've had a partial success.

A roof over your head and rather different character
A roof over your head and rather different character
As for a completely different feel? I didn't see it that way. What I felt was a series of small but significant incremental improvements in the car's dynamics, which combine to leave a sharper, faster car than the the V8 S Convertible.

But the R Coupe's character is still very much one of vaguely sanitised hot-rod than Cayman-clone. The steering is light and lacking any great sense of connection and the combination of vast torque, rear drive and short wheelbase mean the traction control light remains on for the majority of the lap. The lowest level of intervention, Track DSC, allows a decent amount of slip and then anyone will be able to feel the way this car wants to be steered post-apex with the right pedal. It's a great feeling and I think confirms that Jaguar was absolutely right opting for a set of dynamics that are far more yobbish than anything wearing a Porsche badge. We already have the 911, we don't need another one. This is something quite new.

Rear-wheel drive
This R version also runs a torque vectoring programme on the DSC system. It's quite similar to many others on sale and to be honest, driving as fast as I could on track I just didn't feel it working.

No tyre smoke; can't be Harris driving this one
No tyre smoke; can't be Harris driving this one
Does it feel faster than the V8 S roadster? On the open expanses of an F1 circuit, not really. The eight-speed ZF 'box does a stunning job of playing the paddle shifter given how good it is in full automatic mode and that electrically operated locking rear differential has been recalibrated for more locking. It suits the torque delivery of the car.

The cabin is identical to the drop-top, save the addition of something called a 'boot'. Yes, there is now the option of carrying luggage for a weekend away behind the driver's head. It's a decent sized space too.

There will be a sticky Continental tyre available as an option, and the car has run a sub 7min 40sec lap of the Nurburgring - which is very, very fast. Miles quicker than the XKR-S which, to my eyes, is now a busted flush. This car is cheaper, better looking, faster and more fun to drive.

Of course you want one, right?
Of course you want one, right?
Want
This is the first time Jaguar has offered a carbon ceramic brake option, and for track work they're a must. We drove the car on steel brakes too - they'll be fine for road use, but after three laps the pedal went long. Pedal feel is remarkable similar between the two. Again, I want to try both at road speeds before deciding which is best because I really don't see this particular F-Type being a track weapon. That's not to say there won't be such a car eventually.

Of course we need to know what it's like to drive in real life, whether that increased rigidity adds a degree of composure to the roadster's sometimes alarmingly lively handling, and whether it has the refinement you'd expect of a sporting GT. I had to wear a crash helmet at all times, so can't tell you much on that front, but the V8 S's frankly silly exhaust noise has been tamed a touch for this car. Fear not though, it's still very, very naughty.

I don't need to drive it next to a Cayman or a 911 to tell you that it's a little less accomplished than both in absolute driving terms, but I just don't think it matters. This is the British sports car I've been dreaming of for years. It's a little brash, very fast and looks so good people will buy it regardless of how it drives.

Luckily for them, it happens to be a riot. I want one.


JAGUAR F-TYPE COUPE
Engine:
 2,995cc, V6, supercharged
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 340hp@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 332lb ft@3,500rpm
0-62mph: 5.3sec
Top speed: 161mph (electronically limited)
Weight: 1,577kg (1,597kg)
MPG: 32.1 (31.4mpg)
CO2: 205g/km (209g/km)
Price: £51,235 (£58,500)

JAGUAR F-TYPE COUPE V6 S
Engine:
 2,995cc, V6, supercharged
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 380hp@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 339lb ft@3,500rpm
0-62mph: 4.9sec
Top speed: 171mph (electronically limited)
Weight: 1,594kg (1,614kg)
MPG: 31.0mpg 
CO2: 213g/km
Price: £60,235 (£67,500)

JAGUAR F-TYPE COUPE V8 R
Engine:
 5,000cc, V8, supercharged
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 550@6,500 (495hp@6,500rpm)
Torque (lb ft): 502@2,500 (460lb ft@3,500rpm)
0-62mph: 4.0sec (4.3sec)
Top speed: 186mph (electronically limited)
Weight: 1,665kg
MPG: 25.5mpg (claimed)
CO2: 259g/km
Price: £85,000 (£79,950)

Figures in brackets for equivalent Convertible; all weights quoted 'from' by Jaguar

Author: Chris Harris
Want more PH news like this daily - then signup for the PH newsletter here!