Jaguar's F-TYPE Coupe really takes the gloves off in 5.0-litre R guise. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The Jaguar F-TYPE R Coupe brings some big guns to the sports car sector, with a 550PS supercharged 5.0-litre V8 under the bonnet and it's laden with goodies like torque vectoring, carbon ceramic brakes and a 380w Meridien sound system. It'll bludgeon its way to 62mph in just 4.0 seconds and the asking price is £85,000.
Is £85,000 a lot of money to pay for this car? Think carefully about that for a moment because how you answer it will very much depend on how you position this car. Think of the Jaguar F-TYPE R as a small Porsche Cayman-like coupe that's been hopped up on the juice and then that asking price might seem a bit optimistic. If, on the other hand, you see this as a car that offers more talent, presence, power and modernity than something like an Aston Martin V8 Vantage and it can be argued it's something of a bargain. We're tended towards the latter view. We've been impressed by every F-TYPE we've had seat time in and the R is just the ultimate - for now at least - extension of that line. With 542bhp under the bonnet and a fantastic rear-wheel drive chassis, this is the Jaguar sports coupe we've been waiting years for.
There's no other way to put this - the F-TYPE R is a monster. The powerplant is a tweaked version of that we've seen in the V8 S Roadster, but it's now good for 550PS, with drive going to the rear wheels via an excellent ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic gearbox. You'll feel the extra torque being delivered to the rear tyres, the R's 678Nm giving the stability control a lot to consider if you exit corners with a bit too much right foot. The extra rigidity of the coupe body' helps the suspension and steering fine tune their responses. That said, the F-TYPE R is, like every other F-TYPE we've sampled, at its best when rough-housed. Expect the same delicacy and precision of a Porsche 911 and you might come away disappointed. The R rewards a bit of hooliganism behind the wheel and will entertain on track until the rear tyres are cremated. On road, it's better to be smoother with the controls where you can enjoy the huge reserves of torque, the clever torque vectoring system, the beefy carbon ceramic brakes and the smart logic of the gearbox software. What'll it do against the clock? Jaguar reckons 62mph disappears in 4.0 seconds on the way to 186mph. It's been independently tested over a standing kilometre in 21.49 seconds, which makes it quicker than a 997-generation Porsche 911 Turbo or a Lamborghini Gallardo. Those are some serious credentials.
Design and Build
Those of you expecting a much more aggressive shape to go with that hefty power output might come away a little disappointed. As far as styling goes, this isn't a big wing, shouty sort of car. Jaguar has shown that it can and probably will develop more extrovert versions of the R but there's a measured restraint about this one that looks classy and well-judged. It manages to make the Porsche Cayman seem rather hall-of-mirrors in its proportioning, and while it's not as instantly beautiful as an Aston Martin Vantage, it looks as if it would thoroughly work the Vantage over in a bar fight. Spotters will note the R's raised bonnet vents and the gloss side sills. There are some lovely details such as the pop-out door handles and the single flying buttress that swoops down from one side of the centre console, to the neatly styled gear selector, the giant TFT display in the dash and the deep-set driving position. The boot is relatively big, giving the Coupe shape a definite advantage over the tiny boot of the F-TYPE drop top. You'll get 315 litres in up to the parcel shelf and 407 litres to the window line.
Market and Model
In many ways the F-TYPE R Coupe's biggest rival might well be the 380PS F-TYPE 3.0 S Coupe which still packs a concussive punch yet retails for £25,000 less. That's a huge step in price in the range and while the R Coupe can indeed mix it in performance terms with cars costing a good deal more, how badly do you need that added power? It comes very well equipped though, with many of the extras you'd pay thousands for in a typical Porsche 911 being included as standard. Carbon ceramic brakes, 20-inch alloy wheels, a twin-stitched premium leather interior, a ten-speaker Meridien 380w stereo, a switchable sports exhaust, satellite navigation, digital radio and Bluetooth are all standard.
Cost of Ownership
The fuel consumption figures don't make great reading. You just know that if a manufacturer quotes a combined economy figure of 25.5mpg, you'll probably be looking at mid to late teens on a daily basis. The R Coupe does have a 70-litre fuel tank which gives it an effective real world range of around 265 miles. Feather-foot the throttle and you'll do a good deal better on a long run. Emissions are rated at 259g/km. One big driver of custom to the F-TYPE R Coupe is that there's no convertible version in the range and this gives the car a cachet that may well help to prop up residuals. That big step up in price may work the other way. While the entry-level F-TYPE Coupe is cheaper than a Cayman S to run, the R is never going to be anything but a serious investment to keep on the road.
It's hard to see how Jaguar could have done a lot better with this car. If owners had built a wish list of what this car ought to have been, it wouldn't have emerged much differently. Maybe a little lighter, possibly with the option of a manual gearbox but that would have been about it. The F-TYPE R is a masterstroke and one that we should be proud Britain can create. Being proud is one thing, turning that pride into solid orders quite another. The R faces some serious competition, not only from Porsche's evergreen 911 but also from cars like Aston Martin's aged but still alluring V8 Vantage, Maserati's sleek GranTurismo and the modernist Mercedes-Benz AMG GT. If you like your sports cars elegant but with a serious side order of attitude, the Jaguar's elbowed its way into becoming the go-to choice.