2015 Jaguar F-Type Coupe First Drive
If the Guys at Porsche Aren't Worried, They Should Be
“This is the fastest, sportiest Jaguar road car in history.” Ian Hoban, Jaguar Vehicle Line Director and the man responsible for overseeing the development the F-Type R Coupe, doesn’t pull any punches as he shows off his new baby on a misty winter morning at the Circuit de Catalunya, just outside Barcelona, Spain. What? Faster and sportier than the swoopy, mid-engined, hand-built XK220 supercar that hit 217 mph on the giant Nardo test track in 1992? Hoban doesn't miss a beat: “The XJ220 lapped the Nurburgring in 7 min 45 sec with Le Mans winner John Nielsen driving. The R Coupe recorded a 7 min 39 sec lap with one of our regular test drivers.”
OK, point taken.
The R is top cat in an F-Type Coupe lineup that hits the U.S. later this year, joining the F-Type Convertible models that helped make Jaguar the fastest-growing premium brand in the country in 2013. Like the Convertible, the F-Type Coupe will be available with three powertrain options – two V-6s and a V-8. The V-6s are identical to those in the Convertibles, delivering 340 hp in the base car and 380 hp in the S Coupe, enough to push each to 60 mph in a manufacturer-claimed 5.1 sec and 4.8 sec respectively, and to top speeds of 161 mph and 171 mph.
With 550 hp and 502 lb-ft on tap, the supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 Coupe gets 55 more horses and 42 lb-ft more torque, and arrives at 60 mph two-tenths of a second quicker than its soft-top sibling. That explains the R moniker, and a more expensive price tag. While the base Coupe and V-6 S Coupe are $4000 cheaper than their Convertible counterparts, the more muscular R Coupe hits the showroom carrying a $7000 premium over the V-8 S Convertible. And on first impressions, it’s worth every cent. We’ll reserve definitive judgment until we’ve tested both cars back-to-back here in the U.S. on roads and tracks we know intimately, but our brief drive in Spain was enough to convince us the guys in Weissach should be worried. The R Coupe is a serious Porsche 911 Carrera S rival.
Here’s why: Almost identical in size to the latest-generation 911, the R Coupe feels sharper and more responsive on the track than the smooth and deceptively quick Carrera S. There are those who complain Porsche has dialed too much GT into its iconic sports car; that its demeanor is just a touch too reserved and genteel. By contrast, the R Coupe is a bit like a London gangster in a $5000 Savile Row suit; underneath that suave and sophisticated exterior is an explosive personality with a carefully controlled edge. Make no mistake, this Jaguar is a real sports car.
The supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 snarls and crackles and delivers a mountain of mid-range grunt that amply compensates for the fact a torque converter helps funnel the drive to the rear wheels rather than a fully mechanical dual-clutch transmission. Revised spring rates – 4.3 percent stiffer up front and 3.7 percent stiffer at the rear – plus retuned adaptive damping, a body-in-white that is a whopping 80 percent more rigid, a new second-generation electronically controlled differential, and a new torque-vectoring system that uses braking force to improve stability through corners, all make the R Coupe feel way more composed on the track than the less powerful V-8 S Convertible.
“We wanted more linear, precise handling at the limit,” says Jaguar chassis tuning guru Mike Cross. The F-Type R Coupe certainly turns in more crisply than the S Convertible, is less unsettled by mid-corner bumps, and tracks with greater authority through fast sweepers. But it will still easily light up the rear tires if you’re careless with the gas pedal; you have to learn to feed in the power and short-shift on occasion to surf that tidal wave of torque. All the usual electronic nannies will look after you if you goof up, but there’s a definite technique to getting the very best lap time out of an R Coupe.
Making their debut on the R Coupe are carbon-ceramic brakes, likely to be a $10,000 option here in the US. The front rotors are 15.7 inches with six-piston monoblock calipers, and the rears 15 inches with four piston calipers, and deliver a reduction in unsprung mass of 46lb as well as superior wear and performance characteristics. The high-performance brake package also features a speed sensitive “pre-fill” function that automatically increases pressure in the system when the throttle is released, ensuring sharper response when the car is being driven quickly while allowing comfort-biased pedal feel at low speeds. Order the carbon-ceramic brakes (which will also be available as an option on the V-8 S and V-6 S Convertibles as well as the V-6 S Coupe) and your F-Type will also come equipped with 20-in forged alloy wheels.
The F-Type Convertible is a handsome looking car, but the Coupe is a stunner, arguably the best Ian Callum Jaguar yet. The swooping roofline ties the F-Type’s long hood to its sultry haunches with the grace of a Givenchy dress draped around a supermodel. The bodyside is made from a single cold-formed aluminum stamping, and a high-strength hydro-formed aluminum beam links the windshield pillar with the rear pillar. The Coupe is available with either an aluminum or glass roof, and Jaguar engineers say the car is equally rigid regardless.
In many ways, the F-Type Coupe is the car that will define the Jaguar brand in the 21st century. Some 75 percent of F-Type Convertible buyers are new to the Jaguar brand, say insiders, and with convertibles accounting for just 43 percent of the sports car segment, they expect the Coupe to grow that number. With the F-Type Coupe, Jaguar is back in a market segment it hasn’t seriously played in for decades; a market segment the 911 has dominated for decades.
Yep, the guys at Weissach should be worried.
|2015 Jaguar F-Type Coupe|
|Base Price||$66,000 (Coupe); $77,000 (S Coupe); $99,000 (R Coupe)|
|Vehicle Layout||Front engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door coupe|
|Engines||3.0L/340-hp/332-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve supercharged V-6; 3.0L/380-hp/339-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve supercharged V-6; 5.0L/550-hp/502-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve supercharged V-8|
|Curb weight||3477lb (Coupe); 3514lb (S Coupe); 3671lb (R Coupe)|
|L x W x H||176.0in x 75.7in x 52.0in|
|0-60mph (Mfr)||5.1sec (Coupe); 4.8sec (S Coupe); 4.0 (R Coupe)|
|EPA City/Hwy||Not yet rated|
|On sale in US||Fall 2014|
Jaguar F-Type R Coupe vs Porsche 911 Carrera S
The numbers don’t lie: Jaguar’s taken aim at a sports car icon
|Jaguar F-Type R Coupe||Porsche 911 Carrera S|
|Transmission||8sp auto||7sp PDK|
|0-60mph (Mfr)||4.0sec /td>||4.1sec|
|Top Speed (Mfr)||186mph||187mph|