Brits make the best villains, Jaguar told us this year.
Its A-list-acted ad campaign – intended, of course, to make a splash Stateside during giant, turgid pauses in the Superbowl – appeared a little forced and lacking in self-awareness when it crossed back over the pond.
And then, in The Art of Villainy with Tom Hiddleston, it was almost immediately banned for encouraging irresponsible driving.
Not an auspicious start, but the theme, created by in-house agency Spark44, was absolutely spot on. Having driven the F-type R coupé around the block, there isn’t an ad man in the world who wouldn’t have returned to the office without something like The Art of Villainy taking shape in his head.
That’s because although most expensive sports cars have an element of caddishness about them, this 542bhp coupé is so theatrically loud, so lecherously beautiful and perversely fast that its appeal really does seem to verge on the felonious.
Done by anyone else, such a car would risk being pantomimic and silly – an oafish, look-behind-you V8 baddie to be booed and barracked – but because it’s a Jaguar, it’s not.
It is, in fact, very much more like Tom Hiddleston reciting Shakespeare’s Richard II straight to the camera in a £1000 suit: dark-hearted, devilish and knowingly captivating.
Certainly, it’ll have made a villain of you before you can say ‘blessed plot’. The Advertising Standards Authority was mostly concerned about the commercial’s portrayal of excessive speed. How fortunate that the Vehicle Certification Agency doesn’t take the same view, because, to drive, the R’s eight-cylinder propaganda machine would have your grandma twiddling her moustache and pulling doughnuts.
Managing the supercharged V8 is challenging. Not because it’s particularly hard to drive slowly, but because it is so easy and intoxicating to drive that bit quicker than you should.
Think of it like taking off from Heathrow in an RAF Typhoon: sure, you could ease to 35,000ft like an Airbus, but it would be a helluva lot more fun to go near-vertical the moment you’ve cleared the runway.
It’s this anti-social influence, whirling and throbbing from the quad pipes with spit and fire, that makes a malfeasant of the R coupé – just as it makes it my favourite car of the year by some distance.
Not because I enjoy sliding my licence across the table like a stack of chips every time I get into it, but because I never feel let down or disappointed or unmoved when I get out of it. Ever.
And that’s despite the fact that the car is obviously not perfect. Only Jaguar could tune a dynamic suspension setting that’s more comfortable than the default mode or be quite so dismissive about traction in the wet or fail so conspicuously to eliminate creaks and squeaks from the cabin. But that’s beside the point.