What is it?
The Jaguar F-type R coupé – on home soil. Previous to this, we’ve only had the chance to sample the range-topping new model abroad, and mostly on track; now it must live up to the promise of those previews on somewhat less glamorous surfacing.
It’s fair to say the omens are good. Alongside glowing praise from Messrs Sutcliffe and Cropley, the R has had Jaguar’s chest puffed out for months. In case you missed the fanfare, the manufacturer has repeatedly described it as its most performance-focused production car ever.
Big words, backed, it must be said, by some fairly big numbers. The coupé inherits Jaguar’s all-aluminium 5.0-litre supercharged V8 in its XFR-S spec – meaning a car some 300kg or so lighter than the aforementioned saloon yet with the same 542bhp and 502lb ft. Or, put another way, more than you’d get from an Audi R8 V10.
Significantly more than you’d get in the open-top F-type V8, too. Yet – as we’ve repeatedly been told – that’s okay because the aluminium roof has made it a very different prospect. The most torsionally rigid production Jaguar ever built, in fact. And one with the second generation of the firm's E-diff and, for the first time for a Jaguar, torque vectoring.
What's it like?
Heavenly. Bonkers as well, of course – when you want it to be. But also comfortable, usable and never less than memorable. Which is a special and particularly thrilling mix for a road car and one we haven’t seen Jaguar properly resolve since the original XFR.
First, because it’s what you’ll notice immediately, the bonkers bit. The R is fast. Frantically, spankingly fast. The data box will tell you it’s half a second tardier to the national speed limit than a 911 Turbo, but it doesn’t feel it. What if feels, courtesy of the V8’s relentlessness, is just this side of anti-social. Click the adaptive exhaust button, however, and it’ll merrily cross that line, too.
Crucially, however – and here the stiffness starts to show – there is no incongruity lurking in the huge performance. Where the roadster’s chassis could seem overawed by the supercharger’s drawl, the R squats and grips and goes with a newfound oneness. The pyrotechnics and associated noise of a floored throttle can be appreciated from the get-go – and that’s important both to driver confidence and a wider appreciation of the better balance both Steves have already alluded to.
That same poise, magnified by a Surrey B-road, is what makes the pace doubly compelling. The overall dynamic picture is recognisable as the same understeer-immune, pliably agile and rear-end-adjustable package already successfully established as ‘F-type’ in nature, but its limits, precision and manageability have all been moved up a notch. What seemed precarious in the roadster is now brilliantly practicable.
Second – and possibly better still – is the ease and convenience with which it can all be packed away. In the R there is clearer definition now between the button-activated Dynamic mode and its mild-mannered counterpart; selecting the latter frees the dampers to take greater advantage of their more rigid setting and lets the chassis properly breathe. The jostle of 20-inch wheels isn’t completely eradicated, but with the superb eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox back in D, the car manages a supercruise as well as any of its rivals.