Richard Wiley was invited to Barcelona, Spain to drive the all-new Jaguar F-Type Coupe.
My only association with the F-Type Jaguar was on the international launch of the soft-top version in Spain last year. With 5.0-litre power in particular, the convertible was just a touch lairy when pressed, a characteristic which was entirely in keeping with the hairy-chested exhaust note and all the pops and bangs emanating from those two large diameter pipes.
Whichever model was on the agenda though, all shared restricted boot space which may not be of too much concern to those who primarily want to be seen enjoying wind-in-the-hair motoring.
Jaguar F-Type Coupe designRoll the calendar along by a year and I’m back in the same country - near the city of Lleida some 160 km west of Barcelona - with a new F-Type – the suave and elegant Coupé. Not only has the fixed roof made for an even sweeter looker, it’s added much-needed load space. The load area might be rather shallow, but there’s an unusually-generous 407 litres available and the promise of enough space for two golf bags which suggests that all reasons to leave the wife at home have gone out of the tailgate.
The other advantage conferred by the fixed roof is that of improved stiffness, so stiff in fact that Jaguar claim the aluminium Coupe is the most torsionally rigid of all its production models. We’ll see in due course whether this characteristic has further improved the feel and handling of the Coupe over the Convertible.
DerivativesThree models make up the Coupe range – the 250 kW V6, the 280 kW V6 S and the 405 kW V8 R but the first was not available on the launch. It was the V6S – the anticipated best-seller - that awaited us for our first drive which was conducted on a mix of motorway and sinuous country roads leading away from the airfield at Lleida.
I recall a majority preference for this more powerful of the two supercharged V6 engines - even over the V8 - when installed in the convertible because it provided the best overall balance in terms of handling and performance and the early impressions of this installation in the altogether more rigid coupe, were even better.
The beautifully weighted steering, so linear in feel from lock to lock, felt even sharper and responses to direction changes even quicker. The fixed top did little to muffle the simply glorious wail emanating from the rear but it did ensure that extraneous noises, in particular those generated by a stiff wind, were kept at bay more effectively, notwithstanding that the wing mirrors did generate some rustle.
Gearbox and rideAs we’ve come to expect, the 8-speed ZF auto gearbox remains peerless in terms of smoothness, responsiveness and speed of shifts, not to mention the fact that it can be set up to suit your mood, especially in dynamic mode with paddle shifters in use.
Most significantly, the chassis felt even more planted, especially when mid-corner undulations and surface imperfections were encountered. Jaguars have always been noted for ride comfort but this is a sports coupe and not a limo. Nonetheless, the underlying firmness is cushioned to a surprising extent by a well-judged dose of pliancy which ensures that overall ride comfort, even in dynamic mode, is most acceptable. Just what’s needed in a grand tourer, I’d say.
Jaguar F-Type Coupe on trackOur destination was the Motorland Aragon circuit, best known as the home of Moto GP in Spain. Here we were assigned the range-topping 300 km/h 405 kW F-Type R, a configuration unique to the Coupe, which was extended on the main circuit and on a nearby handling track.
This supercharged 5.0-litre V8 comes with a number of 'aids' designed to keep all those horses in check, most notable of which are Torque Vectoring and an Electronic Differential. Importantly, all the test cars were equipped with optional ceramic brakes which are known for fade resistance and durability.
On the main circuit, the extra power and torque of the R were quickly apparent and in dynamic mode, the throttle and steering responses were razor sharp. At what seemed like break-neck speeds to those of us unfamiliar with track driving, the Jag demonstrated uncanny levels of grip and beautifully accurate steering responses, but most of all, those powerful and progressive ceramic brakes never showed a trace of fade.
Out on the road on day two, we traversed the most testing mountain roads I’ve ever seen, in the powerhouse F-Type R. If ever a car’s agility and stability were put to the test, this was it. And at the end of a breathless journey of sweeps, gradients, descents, ascents, unveven surfaces and narrow village roads, we were all amazed by the composure of this elegantly-proportioned fixed head coupe.
It combined the dual roles of grand tourer and out-and-out sports car with aplomb, partly because of the extra stiffness conferred by the industry-leading aluminium structure and partly because Jaguar’s engineers have got the underpinnings honed to an extraordinary degree.
The extra grunt of the V8 was very evident, especially from lower engine revolutions and when instant overtaking was required and the intoxicating exhaust note never failed to induce the broadest of grins.
Happily though, and in common with the sweet-spinning V6, all those lovely noises can be dialled out at the flick of a switch if a quiet and comfortable cruising mode is the order of the day.
And all this can be enjoyed from a cabin swathed in the finest leathers available in a wide range of hues and from seats that that offer good support and comfort without being over restrictive.
Jaguar F-Type Coupe summaryFor sure the Jaguar F-Type Coupe, regardless of power unit, represents a formidable challenger and raises the levels of driver enjoyment and involvement to even higher levels than those offered by the brilliant convertible which will still find favour with those who love wind in the hair motoring.
Give your Jag dealer a shout for an update on delivery lead times but expect to pay from R855 000 for the privilege of owning a seductive Grand Tourer which allows you to bring your baggage with you.
Jaguar F-Type Coupe price in South AfricaThe Jaguar F-Type Coupe range starts at R855 100, with the S retailing for R994 100. Finally, the fearsome V8 R will cost R1 550 400. This breathtaking coupe will arrive on South Africa shores in June 2014.
WRITTEN BY - RICHARD WILEY