The phrase “King of Cats” leaps to mind when trying to describe the new Jaguar F-Type Coupé, thanks to its gracefully aggressive appearance, crouched stance and snarling engine and exhaust sound. There are three models: a 3-litre V6 Coupé, a V6 Coupé S and a 5-litre V8 Coupé R, priced from around R850000 to R1.5-million.
What is it?
The F-Type Coupé is a two-door, two-seater, front-engined, rear-wheel-drive, hard-top sports car. Jaguar says it is the most performance-focused production car it has yet made. Considering the company’s long, rich tradition, that is quite a statement and a rare accomplishment. The all-aluminium body makes it 80% more rigid than the convertible — which makes new claims for rigidity in its own segment anyway.
How does it look?
Simply beautiful, in the sense that its classic lines are enhanced by the simplicity of the design. It is low-slung, long and swoopy, but with a muscular presence.
What’s it like to drive?
You know you are in something special when small boys see and hear you from a long way off and come piling over fences, flowing down embankments to stand at the roadside and whistle with joy as you roar past.
This is a car that does not make you grin in delight under acceleration — you actually laugh out loud. Jaguar says it’s the ultimate sports car and after driving it, you can see why it they makes this boast. There is a button you can press to enhance the exhaust note and when you do this, the F-Type roars, growls, snarls like an angry beast. It is part of the reason you keep getting overtaken by the urge to press the accelerator pedal.
The F-Type R has a top speed limited, incredibly, to 300km/h. It has a claimed 0-100km/h of 4.2sec. The two V6 models are not far behind, with top speeds of 250 and 275km/h respectively, and sprint times of 5.3 and 4.9sec. And the handling is superb. On the launch we spent a couple of hours at the revived Roy Hesketh circuit in Pietermaritzburg, enthusiastically hurling the cars around the twisty, undulating track.
Then we took off on a 320km loop around rural KwaZulu-Natal, through Bulwer and Ixopo and Umlaas Road, ending up at King Shaka International Airport. The lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills twists and turns up to the crests and down into the valleys, making a perfect place to enjoy the F-Type’s power and agility. The car is at its best when driven hard and is quite astonishingly rewarding under these conditions.
The R Coupé is fitted with Jaguar’s Adaptive Dynamics system that actively controls vertical body movement, roll and pitch rates. The system continuously monitors driver inputs and the attitude of the car on the road, adjusting damper rates accordingly up to 500 times a second to optimise stability. It was highly effective on our long drive through Kwa-Zulu-Natal. The lively feeling of being connectedness with the road is quite extraordinary.
Apart from the aural delights of the engine and exhaust notes, the F-Type Coupés are available with two Meridian audio systems, with either 10 or 12 loudspeakers, with outputs of 380W and 770W respectively. On highways at 120km/h the F-Type is purrs ing along at a mere 1500rpm. But you’re obliged, for the sake of admiring onlookers in other vehicles, to stretch the cat’s legs in short bursts of speed and sound.
There is a “space-saver” spare wheel. These were not in the car at the launch, presumably to make the boot look bigger. One Jaguar representative said drivers could decide when they might need the spare — on long trips, perhaps — but while tootling around in the suburbs near home, they might prefer to leave it in the garage.
Any special features?
The Coupé R has Jaguar’s second-generation electronic active differential, which works in parallel with a new “torque vectoring by braking” system which, simply put, places handling and stability on another level. Super-smooth eight-speed Quickshift gearboxes are standard on the F-Types, with manual control available through paddles behind the steering wheel or by using the gear lever.
Ceramic brakes are optional on the R and S models. A panoramic roof and a powered tailgate can be fitted as options. All three models have really comfortable sports seats, something one does not always expect in a performance car. You apparently have almost 150000 variations when it comes to personalising your F-Type but Jaguar says, rather primly, that “in the interests of good taste, certain re-commendations and restrictions apply when it comes to mixing and matching’’.
Should you buy one?
If you have from R850000 to R1.5-million and want an absolutely outstanding sports car, look at an F-Type Coupé. This must be one of the best Jaguars in the company’s history. It has great looks, with power and handling to match. From July 2013 to March this year, 300 F-Type convertibles were sold in South Africa, putting it at the top of this segment, and the coupé is expected to outsell the convertible two to one. With the convertible, the V6 S accounted for 60% of sales, the V8 R for 30% and the “entry-level” V6, about 10%. Good news for Jaguar is that 75% of F-Type convertible buyers were new to the brand. From the exterior, one can spot the R by its four tailpipes. T, while the V6 F-Type has central twin exhausts.