Car reviews - Jaguar - F-Type - R Coupe
Knee-weakening looks, savage acceleration, intuitive transmission, vocal exhaust
Room for improvement
Expensive options, no standard reverse camera, some interior squeaks and rattles, no supercharger soundtrack
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14 Nov 2014
LET'S start with the F-Type Coupe's most obvious difference over the year-old Convertible – its roof.
By taking away the fabric folding top and associated mechanism, the hard-top F-Type brings with it a few notable advantages.
Both aluminium and glass panel roof options are bonded into place, which combines with the single-piece aluminium side-panels and pillars to produce the most torsionally rigid Jaguar to date.
The solid metal option is snug but the expansive panoramic glass top gives a generous view of the heavens from the inside, and from the outside creates a gorgeous unbroken strip of glass from the windscreen through to the bootlid.
Optioning the glass roof with blind adds $2000 to the price, but it's a must-have for us.
By replacing the rag-top with a fixed metal roof, the Coupe has also freed-up a sizable chunk of space that the stowed roof occupied, and combined with a higher boot profile, the F-Type, at last has a respectable luggage area.
A spare wheel is provided as standard, which robs 92 litres of volume, but a mobility kit is also supplied, so owners needing the full 407 litres of space can remove it without fear of being stranded by a puncture.
The boot is an irregular shape and creative packing is required to make use of the full capacity, but the boot is more than enough for two overnight bags and more.
Convertible versions can only offer 196 litres with the spare-wheel removed which makes a weekend getaway challenging, but with the new boot-boosted Coupe opens up more possibilities for two people.
Our test-car was fitted with the $1100 optional powered tailgate, which on such a tiny and lightweight door seemed an unnecessary indulgence.
A bigger boot certainly makes this F-Type a more practical proposition and easier to live with day to day, but it's what lies at the other end of the new R Coupe that was of most interest to us.
Starting with the 364kW 5.0-litre V8 of the F-Type S Convertible, Jaguar slapped on a bigger supercharger and fiddled the engine management to produce a delicious 404kW and 380Nm in the R Coupe.
Unsurprisingly then, the F-Type flagship is fast and a full-noise pull-away revealed the Jag's savage acceleration, which continues unhindered to dizzying speeds.
You would be forgiven for thinking the large-capacity supercharged V8 is all about low-down grunt and torque but unusually, peak torque appears around the middle of the rev-range.
Couple to that the free-revving nature of the R Coupe and you have a recipe for unrelenting pace.
Bashful stabbing of the throttle around the 3500rpm mark could unsettle the rear wheels with ease, but with more care the Jaguar's ultra-stiff chassis could handle every single kilowatt admirably.
Flicking the Dynamic toggle switch has a comprehensive effect, stiffening the dampers and increasing the weight of the steering, while throttle and gearshift sensitivity are increased.
With 20-inch wheels and a taut chassis, the R Coupe has a firm ride which was forgivably jittery on less than perfect surfaces, but when powering through corners the F-Type was direct and obedient.
Changes in surface conditions didn't phase its poise and pushing the forgiving coupe was effortless.
A customisable mode unique to the R Coupe allowed us to decide which of the elements are controlled by the dynamic mode and to compare the effect.
We loved the F-Type's ability to get somewhere effortlessly, but tangible performance comes in a close second place to the V8's aural performance.
Pressing the active sport exhaust button allows the four tailpipes to make themselves more noticeable, and the result is a frivolous rasping scream that verges on antisocial.
Passing through tunnels was an irresistible temptation and the sensational noise on acceleration was followed by a loud series of whip-cracks and snapping on overrun.
As the chiming V8 approaches its 6500rpm redline, the note takes on a final louder and more urgent roar adding to the whole rewarding theatre of this car.
Jaguar sportscars throughout the ages have been known for their charismatic engine notes and we are pleased to say the newest arrival continues and perhaps even surpasses the tradition.
Its Roots-type twin-screw supercharger has the potential to add another exciting audible element to the F-Type so we were a bit disappointed that it is completely silent in this application.
Almost as commendable as the engine is the transmission that tames it.
When switched to its sportiest mode the eight-speed automatic transmission smashes through gears with a eye-opening aggression, but when cruising it turns silky and innocuous.
Instructions through the steering-wheel paddle shifters are obeyed rapidly and, in automatic mode, we particularly liked how the intuitive transmission wouldn't shift up if the throttle was snapped shut, but would after backing off more gently.
At speeds of more than 114km/h or with the push of a button, the active spoiler rises from the tail-edge of the bootlid providing up to 120kg of downforce and extra stability.
When in place the spoiler does restrict the already limited rear-view, but at speeds of more than 114km/h, what is ahead is probably of greater significance.
Stopping was never a problem in the R Coupe, but if the standard 380mm front and 375mm rear brake discs with red calipers are not tough enough, then Jaguar will fit the F-Type's most expensive option – a carbon ceramic brake kit.
For just over $20,000, replacement lurid yellow six-piston calipers grab whopping 398mm composite material front discs, while four-piston calipers pinch 380mm rear rotors.
Carbon ceramic brakes have received some criticism in the past with many applications feeling spongy and lacking bite before they are warmed up, but the Jaguar system had a good pedal feel, and conversely was a little grabby at low speed.
With a bit of warmth in them and on some twisty roads the brakes scrubbed speed efficiently and without complaint.
But realistically - even though we managed a spirited and prolonged blast through the New South Wales country, on public roads it is almost impossible to give race-derived carbon ceramic brakes the kind of punishment they need to stand-out against standard iron discs.
No doubt after a few laps of an unrestricted circuit, the extraordinary heat-resistance and lightweight properties of the exotic rotors would have become apparent though.
If spending time on the track is something you intend to do a lot of in an F-Type R, then investing around $20,000 to step up to the best road-car brake technology available might be worthwhile.
Spending any time stretching the Jaguars legs was made a pleasure by the standard-fit Performance seats which feel highly supportive in corners, firm but comfortable when cruising and great to look at when not going anywhere at all.
Adding memory function to both seats and folding mirrors bumps the price by $2040.
The rest of the interior follows a similar theme of sharp design and top-quality materials but a few squeaks and rattles over imperfect surfaces were noticeable. An overhead handle for the passenger and a few larger cubbies would have been appreciated too.
Despite the overall good levels of equipment, a reverse camera has to be optioned at a cost of $1725, which is surprising especially as the small rear-window and substantial rear pillars limit the backward view.
Imitation carbon-fibre on the dashboard of a car otherwise so beautifully crafted was a disappointment.
Jaguar insists the centre-console finishing trim is not fake carbon fibre, but bearing an uncanny resemblance to the high-tech material and with the name Dark Technical Weave Aluminium we are not convinced.
But dwelling on a few minor comfort shortcomings in a car that was conceived and now honed for driving pleasure is unfair.
The Jaguar F-Type R Coupe sets out to look good and return an unforgettable driving experience for fans of high-performance rear-drive coupes, and it does exactly that.
At $219,130 it is the most expensive F-Type on offer, but with performance to beat the $243,100 Porsche 911 Carerra S and the $231,000 Aston Martin V8 Vantage, we think it's pretty good value.
Both versions of the F-Type are arrestingly pretty and choosing between Coupe or Convertible looks is a matter of taste, but the R Coupe not only brings a little added practicality, it also delivers a driving experience as exciting as its aesthetics.
MAKE/MODEL: Jaguar F-Type R Coupe
ENGINE: 5.0-litre Supercharged V8
LAYOUT: Front engine, rear drive
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic
TOP SPEED: 300km/h
EMISSIONS: 259g/km CO2
SUSPENSION: Aluminium double wishbone(f)/Aluminium double wishbone(r)
STEERING: Electric power assisted
BRAKES: 380mm disc(f)/ 376mm disc(r)
PRICE: From $219,130 before on-roads
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