Riding a wave of success following smash hits with the XF and XJ, Jaguar has also rejuvenated their sports cars with the slinky F-Type. The newly-introduced coupé version is expected to double the established Roadster’s sales volumes – a car that has already claimed the biggest market share in its segment, needing only one year to do so.
If anything, this projection might prove to be conservative, because the F-Type Coupé is hard to resist. The addition of a solid roof creates a bodyshell that’s much stiffer than the roadster’s, to the benefit of handling, refinement and ride quality. And because there’s no folding roof to stow behind the seats, it creates enough room to improve on the Roadster’s dismal boot space. It can now apparently hold two golf bags, or 407 litres in metric units.
The F-Type Coupe is available in three variants, with supercharging and direct injection across the range. The V8-R adopts the XJR sports saloon’s engine, squeezing 405kW and 680Nm into the compact, aluminium-bodied sports car. The resulting performance is explosive and theatrical, with the electronically controlled limited slip differential working hard to contain the beast within. A 0-100km/h sprint time of 4.2s puts the F-type R V8 right up against the lower-rung Porsche 911’s.
It’s not averse to winding roads either, for it turns keenly into corners and offers apparently limitless road grip. Its brakes are hugely effective and fade-free, even after a few hot laps around a race track. Even greater stopping power is an optional extra, in the form of carbon-ceramic brakes. All this excitement is underscored by a bassy thrum that gives way to a roar at high revs, punctuated by rowdy pops and bangs from the exhaust. The combined effect is intoxicating.
This intoxication does come at a price, though. The ride quality is a bit unforgiving, courtesy of stiff springs and ultra-wide low-profile tyres. Both of these items are necessary to cope with the V8’s weight and power output, and this is where the V6 versions make their case.
Because the V6 engine weighs a fair bit less the V8, these variants receive more compliant springs, and because they aren’t as quick as the V8-R, they use slightly higher profile tyres on smaller rims – both these changes improving the ride quality. The smaller, lighter engine in the V6’s also sharpen steering response, and the softer springs improve their road-holding over uneven roads.
In spite of the V6-S boasting only 280kW and 460Nm, it’s not that much slower than the V8-R either. Sprinting to 100 km/h in 4.9s and a top speed governed to 275km/h isn’t exactly hanging around, and the beautiful interior is mostly identical across the range, with buttons galore and electric everything. At R 982 400, the V6-S seems like reasonable value against a Porsche Cayman S with enough optional extras to attain specification parity with the Jaguar. But the best part is its soundtrack: a howling exhaust note overlaid with a slight whine from the supercharger is music to any enthusiast’s ears – even if it’s not as audible as it is in the Roadster.
These are genuinely usable sports cars with blistering performance. They’re also extremely pretty, nicely made, comfortable enough on reasonable roads, and they even take some luggage now. But there’s a naughty side to them that charms and amuses their drivers, the same unruliness that used to characterise the Porsche 911 before the Germans tamed them. Be it the fire-breathing V8-R or a balanced, lively V6, the F-Type Coupé delivers a character-filled alternative to the scientifically perfect Porsches, but with added emotion, an ingredient lacking in most modern cars.
Author: Martin Pretorius