The Jaguar E-Type was voted by many as the car of the last century for its looks, its performance and its class. Any successor has its work cut out for it. The XK was probably closer in terms of the overall look but it was no successor. The F-Type… now that is a different story.
I loved the convertible, even with a pathetic boot that, with the spare wheel in place, can barely hold a sandwich. It roars appropriately, is twitchy when it wakes up and heralds the new era of Jaguar which has seen the brand enjoy a massive resurgence.
Then along came the coupe. In our case, the real growler in the form of the V8 R, and boy, does it growl. When it was picked up after our test, I could hear it roaring away from the office through the streets of Rosebank. It has the ability to scare little old ladies as they walk down the street and wake babies slumbering in their homes. Some of the sound might be generated but who cares? It is incredible to hear it roar and burble and you would be forgiven for expecting it to spit fire — lots of it.
Fortunately that sound is also backed up by some pretty impressive performance figures from that super-charged 5l V8 under the bonnet. 0-100km/h in 4.2 seconds and a top speed that comes up faster than a copper can say “you’re nicked”. Try and test those figures without warming the tyres properly though and you will find yourself standing on a piece of tarmac, spinning the rear wheels, or even worse (or better depending on your point of view), trying to avoid being overtaken by the back end. It demands to play and quite honestly, I felt bad that the poor thing was trapped in Joburg for a week. If it was mine I would have sold up immediately and bought a house near the Long Tom or Franschhoek pass.
However, it has none of the airs, graces or class of the E-Type. It shouts, “I am Spartacus!” very loudly before bashing lots of fellow gladiators over the head as it charges through the throng with an evil grin on its face. It would treat a tight and twisty mountain pass like a tunneling machine, wanting to go through the mountain rather than over it. It handles brilliantly but it has none of the scalpel sharp character of the Porsche 911. It is just as involving as the Porker but in a very different way. You wrestle with it, in a good way I have to say, rather than point and shoot like in the 911. You feel way more on the edge in the Jag as the exhausts bellow and the tyres rip through the tarmac.
It is not a car to cruise along Camps Bay boulevard, though. You could do that in an E-Type. It feels as though it is straining at the leash at cruising speed and in stop-start traffic I actually felt a little sorry for it. Except for one thing, it gets looks. In the second glance test, the one where you check the rear view mirror to see if the pedestrians turn their heads to look back at it, it scores very highly. It could be that burble from the tailpipes, but this car gets attention. I even had a guy in a refuse truck leaning out the window to video it on his cellphone. Not the car if you want to be discreet.
That said, it did the urban thing quite well. There was no low speed jerkiness from the gearbox and while the exhausts continued to splutter and burp, it is actually a fairly refined package. The interior is one of the best in today’s automotive world, with a great level of comfort and a superb example of interior design. It is a huge achievement for Jag’s head of design, Ian Callum, and his team. There is not old-school Jaguar gentleman’s club about this one. The design is modern with lots of red and blue lighting that works well with the image of the car.
The bucket seats are comfortableand hold you well in the corners, aided by a superb driving position that really makes you feel as though you are in control. Even the paddles behind the steering wheel are well placed for when you want to feel even more involved. However, leave it in drive or sport and the computers do an excellent job of managing everything and doing their best to flatter your driving. The instrument cluster has not gone all digital as it has in the XJ but elsewhere the centre console manages to blend a modern tech look well.
Climate control buttons also operate the heated seats, which I found got so hot you quickly need to turn them down a notch. Useful though in the current Joburg winter conditions. Then there is the boot, which unlike the convertible’s, could actually hold my laptop bag. There is still a massive full size spare wheel taking up most of the space and my bag pushed up the parcel shelf a little but at least you can get some stuff in there. You would have to take the wheel out if you wanted to accommodate a golf bag or a couple of weekend bags though, which means the F-Type coupe still falls a little short of being called a genuine Gran Turismo (GT) in my opinion.
So here is the big question. If I had the choice between the new F-Type coupe or the original E-Type, which would I take? I put that very question to a neighbour who has a Jag collection, including three E-Types. He and I agreed, it would still be the E-Type. It has so much class about it combined with the ability to give you a big knowing grin if you put your foot down on an open road.
The F-Type coupe is brilliant, but while it might be the spiritual successor to the E, it is in a completely different league. If I had the money I would take both, one to charge along Sandton Drive shouting: “I am Spartacus!” and the other to cruise along the boulevards as people give you that discreet nod of respect that comes with class.
The Facts: 2014 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe
Engine: 5000cc, V8, supercharged, petrol
Power: 405kW at 6500rpm
Torque: 680Nm at 3500rpm
Top speed: 300km/h
0-100km/h: 4.2 seconds
Fuel consumption: 11.9l/100km
Price: R 1 550 400