From £90,8609
Excited? You bet. On the evidence of this early track test drive the Jaguar F-type coupe could be the best car Jaguar has ever made
12 January 2014

What is it?

The Jaguar F-type coupé, seen here in top-flight R specification and bulging at the seams with 542bhp of supercharged 5.0-litre V8, a set of 20in wheels and tyres and, for the first time in a production Jaguar, the option of carbon ceramic brakes.

It’s a prototype rather than a full blown production example, and we were only allowed to drive it on a track - around the famous GP Circuit de Catalunya at Barcelona - but even so, just a few brief laps in this car were all it took to twig that it is very much the star of the show within the new F-type coupé line up.

The F-type R coupé is, in Jaguar’s opinion, the model that stands up best beside the Porsche 911, and to the Porsche 911 Turbo in particular. Its all-aluminium bodyshell is an incredible 80 per cent stiffer than that of the roadster, which itself has one of the stiffest structures money can buy. Its power steering is a touch sharper than the soft-top’s and its suspension only a touch stiffer, but Jaguar claims both the handing and ride are significantly improved, all of which stems from having a body that is fundamentally so much more rigid.

The brakes are also bigger, with ventilated steel discs being fitted as standard front and rear with the new carbon-ceramic discs featuring as either £7400 or £8400 options, depending on whether you go for the cast or forged 20in wheels to go with them. For the first time in a Jaguar, there’s also a torque vectoring system that tickles the unloaded inside wheels during hard cornering to help improve traction and reduce understeer. 

And as if that wasn’t enough to distinguish the car technically, the R also gets a new, second-generation electronic differential, new gearbox software that further improves the speed and shift quality of the eight-speed automatic gearbox, plus the option of a bespoke set of super-sticky, but still road-legal, Continental tyres for customers who decide to use their car on circuits.

Jaguar expects almost 60 per cent of all F-type sales to be coupés from the moment this car rumbles on to our streets in late March.

What's it like?

You climb into the F-type coupé, wrap your palms around its thickish but perfectly sized leather steering wheel and think, 'OK, this is proper, this is really rather a serious sports car actually, time to engage the very sharpest areas of your mind, otherwise something terrible might start to happen.'

So you rumble down the pitlane, with the Dynamic Drive program set to its most aggressive mode (dampers, steering, engine, gearbox and exhaust all dialed up to 11) and it doesn’t take long for the good bits, no, the brilliant bits to come flooding out. The performance this thing generates is somewhere between immense and plain hilarious. With the traction control system still engaged, it has so much grunt that it won’t actually allow you full power on the exit of a corner until you’re in fourth gear, sometimes fifth.

Most road cars, even most fast road cars, feel a bit puny along the straight bits of GP circuits. But the R coupé feels worryingly, wonderfully rapid, even along the never-ending main straight at Barcelona. Genuinely, it feels 911 Turbo fast in a straight line – to a point where it actually makes you feel a touch uncomfortable physically to begin with. I can’t imagine how unhinged the R coupé will feel on the B two-seven-whatever.

Back to top

As ever, you need to turn all the systems off (or at least you do on a circuit) to appreciate just how exquisite the rest of the car really is; the chassis, the new E-diff, the steering, the brakes, the whole shebang. Otherwise, with the traction and torque vectoring and all the other stuff that will undoubtedly keep you out of the undergrowth on a wet road switched on, you can’t get to any of the really good stuff. It remains locked away inside an electronic cupboard, never to be appreciated. And with 542bhp in a 1665kg car you absolutely have to provide such protection to prevent your customers from killing themselves.

But switch it off, swallow a brave pill, summon the courage to begin opening the throttle half a second earlier than feels sensible in most corners and...crikey, the R coupé transforms into one of the most fantastically unhinged but, vitally, also one of the most fundamentally well balanced, beautifully resolved sports cars you will ever have the joy of driving. And if you then take it that little bit further it will show you tricks, do things, that you never thought possible from a mere road car.

And with the carbon-ceramic brakes fitted (I tried cars with steel and carbon discs), it also stops like no other Jaguar in history – perhaps not quite in the same league as the Porsche 911 GT3 for pure stopping power but very much a car in the same vein, and with the same capabiities, elsewhere. 

Should I buy one?

On a track, and a track alone for the time being, this is easily the best Jaguar I’ve ever driven.

It’s also one of the best sports cars I’ve come across, period. Without exaggeration, the F-type R coupé is that good to drive on and beyond its heady limits.

Jaguar F-type R coupe

Price £85,000; 0-60mph 4.0sec (claimed); Top speed 186mph (claimed); Economy 32.1mpg (combined) CO2 259g/km; Kerb weight 1665kg; Engine V8, 5000cc, supercharged, petrol; Installation Front, longitudinal, RWD; Power 542bhp at 6500rpm; Torque 502lb ft at 3500rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic

Join the debate

Comments
25
Add a comment…
jonboy4969 14 January 2014

Jersey 64 - I love you so

Jersey 64 - I love you so much...... LOL
bomb 14 January 2014

-

Easily JLR's most desirable product. I'm not a big fan of theirs but this is really nice. I'm curious how they made the V6 S sound better than the V8 S, though..
Fox Terrier 14 January 2014

As a 911 fan and owner I can

As a 911 fan and owner I can say that many of us in the fortunate position to be able to buy this type of car do have one eye on running costs and economy. And that's where the 911 scores so highly. It's a useable and affordable everyday supercar. I love the Jaguar V8 but it's emmissions and economy are starting to lag behind Mercedes and BMW.
On another point, where are all the manual gearbox evangelists this time?