The road from Ixopo in the KZN Midlands back to the N3 is a great driving road. And luckily for us journos on this week’s Jaguar F-Type Coupe launch, it formed the final scenic part of the route on our run back to the King Shaka International Airport in mid-afternoon, before the traffic picked up.
A mix of fast sweeping corners, swooping downhill runs, tight twists through mountain cuttings that never decrease on radius after you’ve committed yourself to a reasonably sane entry speed – this is the place for a blast in a car with a first-class chassis and an engine to curl your toes back.
One of the best cars on the planet right nowAnd believe me, the F-Type Coupe is possibly one of the best cars on the planet right now for such a run. There are three models launched, as with the convertible model which has proved to be the most popular-selling sports car in South Africa in the past 12 months.
You get the basic Coupe with the 250 kW version of the supercharged V6, the S which has a 280 kW version of the same engine, and then there’s the Jaguar F-Type R Coupe, all 405 kW of it, with the most exuberant of supercharged V8s you are likely to encounter this side of a race track spectator fence.
And yes, I was lucky enough to score the V8-powered Jaguar F-Type R coupe for that run back to the boring old freeway, having nevertheless revelled in the sweet balance and soul-searing engine-audio of the V6 S earlier in the afternoon.
The trick with the Jaguar F-Type R Coupe was to hit the exhaust-loudness button on the console, then wind down the windows as we entered stretches of this road that cut through the mountains, and rejoice in that V8 noise as it bounced of the rock-face. Then back off and laugh as the four-tailpipes backfired and popped.
Ride and handling of the Jaguar F-Type R CoupeYou can feel the rigidity of the coupe’s aluminium roofed body structure the moment you drive it, as its is immediately less reactive over little potholes and speed bumps. And when we put the F-Type Coupe through its paces on the wonderfully nostalgic Roy Hesketh race track outside Pietermaritzburg, you could feel the added precision that the chassis rigidity has imparted to the car.
Turn in for the apex and it simply darts in, perfect as long as you are precise on the thick-rimmed leather steering wheel. The chassis remains biased towards oversteer, and with the stonking 405 kW on tap with the V8, you had better be careful in your throttle inputs, as the rear tyres can start losing grip even on half throttle as you power out of a bend.
Jaguar has added electronic controls to the limited slip diff, making it much more reactive to grip sensing on the rear wheels. And torque vectoring makes the car extremely reactive to steering inputs and throttle usage, detecting any sign of slippage on both the front and rear wheels and acting accordingly.
What made the car so delightful for me out on the road was this new precision in placing it exactly where I wanted to. But always, always with this car, respect is needed with that throttle. Did I mention that apart from 405 kW, there is some 680 Nm of torque on tap? You can turn off traction control if you must, but be warned, the car will become a handful...
Options and customisation choicesThere are various options for the car, including a panoramic glass roof, which I feel is not at all necessary for South African sun-blessed dwellers. But the cool thing about Jaguars is that they come virtually fully equipped inclusive of the list price. Nevertheless, there are some 70 000 ordering combinations you can choose between, and Hastie reckons you should have your personally-specced F-Type in your garage some three months after placing your order, if you elect to not merely order one off the showroom floor.
One of the best things about the coupe is that it rectifies the luggage capacity issue which its convertible sibling suffered greatly from. Essentially, there was no boot space for anything larger than a laptop bag.
PricingPricing for the Coupe starts at an ultra-competitive R843 404, with R982 404 buying you the excellent 280 kW V6-engined S, and R1 534 189 securing the monster Jaguar F-Type R Coupe, which has, it has to be said, not mere sports-car, but supercar levels of go. Look at a 0-100 km/h time of 4.2 seconds and a top speed of 300 kph for the top of the range. What a bargain!
SummaryIt is heartening to realise that Jaguar as a brand has doubled its sales volumes in South Africa since 2011, and that since introducing the F-Type convertible, some 300 examples of this fine sports car have been sold.
The achievement of the new F-Type Coupe is that, even more so than convertible, this British-built sports car is able to be compared with the world’s benchmark in sportscar, Porsche. Considering that the F-Type is in effect the first uncompromised sports car that Jaguar has made since 1948 that is no mean achievement, as Porsche (which also launched its first sport car in ’48), has been focussing on sports cars for the past six decades.