After years of systemic mismanagement, Jaguar is finally back on track. At long last the famed British brand is gaining steam in the crowded luxury market. Revenue, profits and capital investment are all up and as a result the firm is building some of the best vehicles it’s ever offered.
Engine: Three engines are offered in the Jaguar F-Type Coupe, but the R model gets a supercharged 5.0L V8 with 550 hp and 502 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic only.
Fuel Economy: 16 MPG city, 23 highway and 18 MPG combined.
Pricing: The 2015 F-Type Coupe starts around $65,995. The modestly optioned R model we sampled costs $105,875.
Drawing on rich heritage, the company introduced its all-new F-Type last year as a convertible. This open-air car shocked the motoring press with world-class dynamics and a striking design. But that’s not the limit of what the company is capable of; for the 2015 model year Jaguar is introducing an even more engaging variant, one with a solid roof and even stiffer body.
Like its drop-top counterpart, three different variants of the coupe are available. There’s a “base” version that brandishes a 340 hp supercharged V6; stepping up from there is a more powerful S, which squeezes 380 ponies out of the same 3.0-liter engine and then there’s the range-topping F-Type R Coupe, which we focused on like a drug dog tracking a duffle bag full of dope.
As it stands this new two-door is designed to compete with cars like the Porsche Cayman, BMW Z4 and perhaps even the Chevrolet Corvette. On paper the Jag offers an intoxicating blend of heritage, style and raw performance that’s quite unlike anything from its primary rivals.
Don’t Build Your House on Sand
If you want something to last it’s got to have a solid foundation. This is as true of suburban bungalows as it is of skyscrapers, not to mention automobiles. Paying major dividends to ride and handling, the new F-Type Coupe features a structure that’s about as rigid as the prow of a battleship.
According to Jaguar sports car product manager Kevin Richardson, this is the stiffest Jaguar ever.
The so-called body-in-white, the naked vehicle structure with all of its private parts on display, looks like something from the aerospace industry. It’s comprised of a dizzying array of brackets and braces, castings and extrusions. To deliver the best performance and lightest weight three types of aluminum are used in the body and none of it is held together by welds.
Instead of literally melting components together, engineers took a different approach with the F-Type. The car is held together with some 300 feet of super strong adhesive tape and about 2,200 rivets. In many ways its built like an aircraft, which is an interesting little factoid because the car is assembled at Jaguar’s Castle Bromwich Assembly plant, which among other things used to build Spitfire fighter planes during the Second World War.
Thanks to its cutting-edge aluminum structure the V8 version weighs a little less than 3,700 pounds. Unfortunately that makes it quite a bit heavier than a Cayman S, which clocks in under 3,000 pounds; it’s also porkier than a Corvette coupe by nearly 400 pounds. While still chunky, six-cylinder versions of the F-Type compare more favorably with these two cars.
R Coupe F-Types are powered by a proper V8. Displacing an even five liters, this high-performance two-by-four delivers copious amounts of power and torque with an exhaust sound that pops and crackles like bacon in a skillet.
Thanks to a supercharger, variable valve timing and direct injection – features shared with the other two engines offered in the coupe – this powerplant puts out a walloping 550 ponies with 502 lb-ft of torque. These figures are a good bit more than what the convertible’s V8 delivers.
An eight-speed automatic transmission is the only gearbox on the menu… for now. Provided by German firm ZF, it’s a perfect dance partner for the torque-rich V8 and makes the most of the engine’s ample power while delivering the best fuel economy possible.
Around town the R Coupe should sticker at 16 MPG. On the highway the figure grows to 23; combined it ought to return 18 miles per gallon. Regrettably these efficiency figures are appreciably less than what six-cylinder models are capable of delivering.
Jaguar designers are proud of the new F-Type and they should be. The car has presence on the street, garnering looks by the bushel full. There’s a subtlety to the big cat’s body that few manufacturers can match, it’s like the stylists knew when enough was enough and stepped away from their sketchbooks before adding any superfluous swoops or unwarranted cladding.
For instance, the exterior door handles are a nifty touch. Normally they’re tucked into the outer skins, providing a totally smooth body surface, but they motor out so you can grab on and get in when the car is unlocked.
The car’s interior is just as nicely crafted. Creamy soft leather and contrast stitching abound, covering the dashboard and door panels. The seats are comfortable and adjustable in numerous directions. While far from atrocious, the touch-screen infotainment system seems a generation behind what’s offered in other cars these days.
Other potential drawbacks include compromised visibility as well as difficult ingress and egress. Rearward sightlines are extremely poor, particularly to the side; even the rear-view mirror has a habit of blocking your forward vision, particularly while traversing curving mountain roads.
Thanks to a low roof and high sills getting into and out of the F-Type’s rather cramped cabin can be a challenge. These issues would be deal-breakers with a family sedan but they’re pretty much par for the course with sports cars. The Jag is no worse than some of its competitors.
Practicality is a mixed bag. Interior storage space is somewhat limited, but the trunk clocks in at a surprisingly generous 11 cubic feet, which is supposedly enough for two golf bags.
As for pricing, the base F-Type Coupe kicks off around $66,000, including destination and delivery fees; for an extra four grand you can snag a convertible model. The up-level S version launches around $78,000, though it’ll take roughly 82 grand will get you drop-top S. Curiously pricing flip flops when it comes to the R; coupe variants are more expensive than their open-air counterparts, starting at just about $100,000; a convertible can be had for about 93 grand.
The range-topping model we evaluated stickered for a skosh less than $106,000. Options like 20-inch wheels, a panoramic glass roof and Italian Racing Red Metallic Paint added to the bottom line.
The Coupe R’s steering wheel has a chunky feel to it with a thick, grippy rim that’s practically as fat as a summer sausage. The wheel forms a superb connection between your hands and the front tires with direct steering ideally weighted with no apparent sloppiness. It gives you the confidence to really push the car, and hard.
Stopping is also a strong point. The F-Type’s binders are extremely capable, especially when equipped with the optional Carbon Ceramic Matrix (CCM) brakes, which eradicate triple-digit speeds without “breaking” a sweat. They also trim 46 pounds of unsprung mass from the vehicle, which is huge.
Not unexpectedly, the F-Type’s ride is firm and you definitely feel bumps and road imperfections, but it’s not overly harsh. Naturally this stiffness contributes to the car’s tremendous handling. The body stays impressively flat and well controlled through corners; tire noise can be pronounced at times, particularly while traversing weather-beaten pavement but for the most part its interior is pretty quiet… except for the screaming exhaust.
Acceleration provided by the fire-breathing V8 is nothing short of astounding. The company claims this car will complete the sprint from zero to 60 miles an hour in four seconds, but that definitely feels like a conservative estimate. It’s astonishingly quick and feels comparable to a 911 Turbo S, but less brutal. The Porsche drop kicks you down the road but the F-Type is much more refined and gentlemanly; its acceleration is smooth and linear.
The eight-speed transmission is a masterpiece on its own. When you nail the accelerator it shifts with nearly the speed of a dual-clutch unit but around town it’s totally civilized.
But perhaps the R Coupe’s most alluring aspect is the sound it makes. Drop it in Dynamic Mode, which sharpens the suspension, tightens the steering and increases throttle response, and the F-Type’s exhaust becomes so loud it’s hard to believe it’s legal. It snorts and pops like a race car; you’ll often find yourself stabbing the accelerator just to enjoy the raucous mechanical symphony its powertrain provides.
So, does the 2015 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe drive as well as a comparable Porsche, the sports-car gold standard? Well, that’s an extremely difficult question to answer, and honestly it’s one that really doesn’t matter. Zuffenhausen builds apex automotive predators with their own praiseworthy virtues, but this Jag has an appeal all its own; it’s similar yet totally different in the best ways possible.
The F-Type is a superb machine that’s pure pleasure to drive. It wins you over with sexy styling, sonorous exhaust sounds and faultless dynamics; it’s every bit as pleasant to pilot as it is to look at, which makes it a more-than-worthy competitor to the world’s finest sports cars.