A year ago, the Jaguar F-Type was introduced to critical acclaim. But, dynamically, it found it difficult to match the venerable Porsche 911. So, Jaguar takes another strike – this time with the coupe. And it could well leave the German bloodied…
I ’m having a bit of a déjà vu moment. And, no, not like in the Matrix – it’s actually perfectly explicable.
I’m at a circuit in Spain, and I’m strapping on a helmet to drive a brand new Jaguar sports car. You see, almost exactly a year ago, I was in virtually the same position – strapping on a helmet to try out the all-new Jaguar F-Type. The first two-seat Jag sports car in 50 years – that was the convertible; this is the coupe. That was the Navarra circuit in Northern Spain; this is Aragon – a couple hours West of Barcelona.
When the F-Type was released last year, it silenced a lot of Jag’s detractors. Yes, Jaguar has been producing some very nice cars for some time now – the XJ, XF, and XKR-S to name just a few – but the F-Type was the all-important one. It was the one that Ian Callum really wanted to design. It was the one that Ratan Tata wanted them to build. It was the all-important successor to the E-Type – it would be their halo car!
Well, it’s that – and more. Jaguar’s sales rose by 42% last year. Sure, models like the XJ got all-wheel drive variants – which helped in the all-important US market – but you have to believe that the F-Type elevated the profile of the leaping cat. It put an evocative and lust-worthy sports car back at the centre of the brand. It took the vision of Sir William Lyons straight into the 21st century.
But, when put head-to-head with the Porsche 911, it was clear that the Teutonic Porsche was the precision instrument while the Jag was the V8 hammer with which to pummel it. But it’s not that easy to strike a machine that’s been honed for 60 years, while you yourself have been in hibernation for half-a-decade. And so, according to Jag engineers, the Jaguar F-Type coupe has a body structure that’s been stiffened by 80% (no less) over the drop-top – it’s all-aluminium monocoque consists of a massively beautiful single piece that stretches from the A-pillar (which starts at the tip of the windshield), all the way to the taillights. Jaguar has over ten years of experience in creating all-aluminium bodies and chassis, and that’s a real competitive advantage for the Indian-owned British automaker. The coupe also has 50 more horses, stiffer springs, and JLR’s incredible torque vectoring technology, which does wonders in the new Range Rover Sport. Plus, our F-Type R test cars were outfitted with optional carbon ceramic brakes.
But the Jag instructors wanted us to start out on the karting track – in a 550 horsepower beast! On top of that, they had wet down half the track. As we got going, the instructor urged me to go fast-and-deep into the first hairpin-left, which had been given the sprinkler treatment. He wanted me to throw it into the corner and then wait for the car to sort it out. I told him I believed it would, but he insisted that I try for myself. So, I did as I was told. I lunged into the first corner, and the electronics did sort it out – but I had been a little too aggressive, and we went beyond just the torque vectoring working on the outside wheels to the entire ESP system intervening to keep us headed in the right direction. The second time, I decided to try it on the power and hoofed the right pedal with the deftness of a baby elephant. Well, the electronics and I both failed to catch the slide and we ended up facing the wrong way. When I inquired as to why the system hadn’t been able to keep us out of trouble, I was reminded about the laws of physics. Point noted! So, I tried again – this time with a little more finesse. And I found the sweet spot of the torque vectoring system. It will simply carry you along as you plough too fast into a corner – and, unlike the ESP, it doesn’t kill your speed in its entirety. The best part, though, was the way the torque vectoring and ESP handled the transition between wet and dry surfaces. Keep in mind that this was an undulating karting track, and we were manhandling a car fitted with a fire-breathing 5.0 litre supercharged V8.
Right, technology effectiveness proven – now, to the main track. This is a 5.3 kilometre, extremely technical circuit that has a 1.7 kilometre straight that would prove to be a fitting test of man-and-machine. Well, let’s just say that the machine passed with flying colours – despite the monkey at the controls. It’s hard to talk about the power delivery from this manic V8 without giggling like a girl. But what really makes you squeal like a ‘Belieber’ (a Bieber fan to the unaccustomed) is the sound – nay the music – from the exhaust. If you thought the convertible sounded good – and I thought it was the best sounding car on the planet – you simply have to listen to the coupe. It’s even more aggressive, and it overwhelms your senses in their entirety. It simply fills the air following a prod of the throttle – including the space between your ears, which means that you lose the ability to drive at reasonable speeds thereafter. The engineers have even positioned the transmission mounts strategically so that you feel the sheer brute force of this machine. On an upshift, they cut off the fuel supply momentarily to three cylinders – which not only helps with the crackle and pop, but also with providing you the sensation of having changed gear.
The gearbox is the ZF 8-speed, which is carried over from the convertible. And that’s a good thing because I consider it to be the best gearbox in the world today (I haven’t yet tried the 9-speed). It’s simply as smooth as it is quick. It just responds absolutely instantly every single time – to the extent that you find yourself flipping a paddle just to experience a gearshift and hear the exhaust ape an automatic weapon for a moment, before it reverts to overcoming your senses once again as the needle surges toward the redline. All this while, you cover ground so very fast indeed – you almost wish you didn’t, so that you could sit back and savour the mechanical symphony a bit more as it performs a brilliant quartet for you.
The sheer grip and poise is what surprises you next. The F-Type simply responds in the best way that a front-engined rear-wheel drive coupe can – and that’s to say completely predictably. The slightly scary and raw nature of the V8 powered convertible is replaced with a trueness and fluidity in the coupe. Don’t get me wrong, the power is still savage – and it will still bite if you delve too deeply into the right footwell. You’re always aware of the amount of brute force available under your right foot, and so you make measured inputs – but that just adds to the allure. It rewards you when you get it right, when you treat it with respect – and it whacks you under the ear when you get in over your head.
As we hurtle down the 1.7 kilometre straight, the speeds are rising at an alarming rate. I see 250km/h come up in the digital readout between the two analogue gauges before the braking zone. But, a second after I depress the brake pedal, we’re back down to the desired entry speed of 80km/h for the next corner. The braking performance is staggering – what brake feel! It provides you with so much confidence lap-after-lap-after-lap that you continue to brake later each time. You may have to timeshare your holiday home to pay for the brakes, but if you ever plan to do any track work they’re simply worth every penny.
The whole car, in fact, just feels incredibly solid and beautifully put together. On the inside, unfortunately, it’s not quite as impressive. I love the design of the cabin though – but the material and build quality in a 911, for instance, is on another level. The infotainment and navigation system as well feels a generation old. One prod of the throttle though, and all is forgiven.
We drive the V6 powered F-Type S on the road next, and that’s no less impressive. Bear in mind that it has 380 horses from its supercharged V6 – and, a 0-100km/h sprint takes just 4.8 seconds, so it’s not exactly slow. On the road, it’s all the car you’ll ever need. It doesn’t have torque vectoring, but you just don’t need it with the V6. It feels a little lighter than the V8, the front end is a little more responsive and the steering feel is better. Jag has fitted the F-Type with a hydraulic rack, while all the sports cars of today (sadly) are getting electronic steering systems. These systems, such as in the Porsche, are as good as ever – but they just don’t provide the same tactile feel as a traditional hydraulic setup.
On the road, I actually prefer the F-Type S. The power delivery is more manageable. You can run the engine past 6,000rpm before each gear change, and savour the resulting sound. You can bury the right pedal in the footwell and revel in the grip and poise. This car is clearly built by people who love cars – who love driving. This is an emotive machine. It’s dripping with style. The curves, haunches, and lines are so evocative. They harken back, but look forward – as they’re meant to do. Jaguar has done the unthinkable – it’s built a muscle car with the poise of a proper sports car.
But, does it fly in the face of the age that we’re living in? After all, in the hunt for efficiency, superchargers are out and turbos are in. While Jag engineers claim that turbocharging doesn’t suit the nature of their sports cars because of the lag and surge in power delivery (and they’re right), turbos do appear to be the way forward for the industry. Cars like the 911 are lighter, more efficient, and just as fast – if not quite as brutal in their power delivery. The 911 remains a surgical instrument that’s hard to go toe-to-toe with. But what Jaguar has done is finally provide an alternative – one that’s emotive, individual, and, most of all, capable. Very very capable!
- Jaguar F-TYPE S
- Jaguar F-TYPE R
Engine:2,995CC / 6 CYLINDERS / 24 VALVES / Direct Injection / Supercharged
Transmission: 8-SPEED Quickshift / REAR-WHEEL DRIVE
Power: 375BHP @ 6500RPM
Torque: 460NM @ 3500-5500RPM
Acceleration: 0-100km/h – 4.8 secs
Price: Rs. 1.35 CRORES (ESTIMATED EX-SHOWROOM, Delhi)
Engine:5,000CC / 8 CYLINDERS / 32 VALVES / Direct Injection / Supercharged
Transmission: 8-SPEED Quickshift / REAR-WHEEL DRIVE
Power: 542BHP @ 6500RPM
Torque: 625NM @ 2500-5500RPM
Acceleration: 0-100km/h – 4.2 secs
Price: Rs. 1.8 CRORES (ESTIMATED EX-SHOWROOM, Delhi)