The Jaguar F-Type, which goes from 0-100 mph in just 3.5 seconds, is the unrivalled sexpot of semi-attainable sports cars
If the industry awarded a Best Soundtrack statuette, the 2014 Jaguar F-Type convertible would win handily. For 2015, the F-Type becomes more of a bombshell with the addition of a lithe coupe whose knockout beauty matches the song of its supercharged engine.
Ian Callum, who took his talents from Aston Martin to Jaguar, is among the designers who acknowledge that a well-executed coupe will look better than its convertible counterpart. Taking nothing away from the lovely F-Type convertible, the coupe’s plunging roofline—accentuated by beautifully drawn rear glass—and flared hips give it an unfair advantage.
Fortunately, the F-Type is more than a pretty face. Jaguar says the aluminium-intensive coupe is the most torsionally rigid model in company history, 80% stiffer than its open-roof sibling. To increase the strength of the “pillarless” design, which eliminates a roof support bisecting the side glass, a pair of hydroformed aluminium beams span the entire roof arch.
Compared with the heavier, more pliable convertible, the increased core strength has helped to create a notably more athletic, focused performer.
I tested the pick of the litter, the F-Type R coupe, which starts at $90,925. (A pair of supercharged, 3-litre V6 models, with 340 or 380 horsepower, start at a respective $65,925 and $77,925.)
All three Jaguar models sound intimidating, with pushbutton-controlled active exhaust systems. But the V8 is deliciously, almost indescribably, assaultive. The car sounds as if it’s gargling burned gasoline. Crackling, vrooming and backfiring, the Jaguar may prompt calls to your local neighbourhood watch, though you can switch off the exhaust button to mute the sound.
An optional panoramic roof doesn’t open, but it creates the illusion of a single piece of glass stretching from behind the windshield to the rear deck. Peer through that glass, and you’ll see the integrated air deflector that rises at 70 mph to reduce aerodynamic lift by 265 pounds; it tucks away below 50 mph.
All great so far, including flush-mounted handles that pivot out when you unlock the doors.
But one year into its run, the F-Type’s cabin looks and feels even more like a pretender. Coupe or convertible, the Jaguar is like a star architect’s big-city hotel: The facade is eye-popping, but inside the actual room there are bare walls and a warm Diet Coke in the minibar.
Stitched leather on the dash hits the right luxury note, as do sport seats with integrated headrests and cool, clear-lensed climate-control knobs.
But other materials and switches give off a plasticky, rubbery vibe. Two of a sports car’s most crucial elements seem like compromises: the bland driver’s gauges and the automatic shifter, a stubby rectangle whose touch yields no pleasure.
And while the Corvette and the Porsche 911 offer 7-speed manual transmissions, the Jaguar has only an 8-speed paddle-shifted automatic, though it is smooth and swift in all facets.
And to its credit, the Jaguar is so vivid, aggressive and desirable that I stopped noticing its cabin blemishes.
On a summer day in the horse country of Dutchess County, NY, the F-Type came into its own, hammering and haunting back roads like no Jaguar I’ve driven. Pushed harder at Gingerman Raceway, a charmingly scruffy road course in Western Michigan, the coupe proved it was more than a stylish British fop: Swinging its tail wide under power and using its robust brakes and monumental thrust—almost an unfair advantage—to eke out a lead over a formidable BMW M4 in hot pursuit.
Not surprisingly, the F-Type doesn’t steer as sensitively as a Porsche; few cars do. But history’s most powerful production Jaguar does accelerate more quickly than a 911 S or a Stingray. And with its ability to bomb into curves and howl out again, fully vested in the road-sensing adaptive suspension and brake-based torque vectoring system, the F-Type R would surely claw any rival’s tail on public roads.
Those are things that haven’t been said about a Jaguar since the legendary E-Type of 1961-75.
After 40 years with no two-seater in its lineup—and a long period of corporate slumber—the F-Type R continues Jaguar’s fairy-tale revival. It’s one part beauty, one part beast.