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Review: Jaguar F-Type R
Driven June 2014
The ‘F’ in this latest Jag’s ‘F-Type’ could mean many things. It could stand for fast, and with that big supercharged V8, it is blistering fast. It could stand for fashion – I’m sure some fashion designer in 2040 will take inspiration from the F-Type to describe the swinging 2020s. ‘F’ could be furious, which it’ll sound like when you hear the car before you see it. But our money is on the fact that it doesn’t give a flying fire truck about the green conscience that every other manufacturer seems to have grown in the last few years.
Jaguar has been trying to produce something that strikes a chord with the masses the way the E-Type did in the ’60s. And every Jaguar that followed the E-Type paid homage to the icon. With the F-Type coupe, Jaguar has gone about things differently. The front is the same as the drop-top’s, and every bit as menacing. The face is raw and aggressive, with those J-shaped daytime running lights and the big gaping grille, sucking air in to feed that huge V8. The roof slopes beautifully at the rear, and what a beautiful rear it is.
Jaguar has avoided the temptation of going retro with the whole design, giving in only for those beautiful tail lights. They’re not exactly retro, but they are E-Type-inspired.
Press the Start button and the engine gives you a sample of the throaty exhaust that you can savour for the rest of the drive, before the needle settles down, burbling over at 1,500rpm. After the throaty welcome note, you’re too distracted to focus on the interior, so you slot the lever into Drive and start working the engine up to speed.
And speaking of engine, this may be a car of the 21st century, but it’s retained some badass arrogance from the past. To begin with, while every other manufacturer is downsizing their engine and using turbocharging to squeeze power out of every last drop of fuel, Jag seems to be in no hurry to join the green brigade with this.
The F-Type uses a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 that makes 542bhp and 680Nm. That power is channelled to the rear wheels via an 8-speed automatic, and the package is good enough to take the car to 100kph in 4.0sec, while top speed is limited to 297kph.
It’s also worth noting here that the V8 doesn’t come with cylinder deactivation. So it makes that melodious music no matter where you are on the rev range. It’s constantly angry and the supercharger ensures there’s no turbo lag. This you’ll noticed as soon as you step on the throttle – the engine piles on revs instantaneously. Before you know it, you’re way over what the fast approaching speed
Like every modern sportscar, the suspension, steering and throttle response on this can be preset to Normal (on-board computer knows best) or Dynamic (gives you the illusion that you know best). There’s also a third setting for slippery conditions like rain or snow (boring). All these settings can be activated using a toggle switch right next to the gear lever.
If max juice is on the agenda, slide the toggle button towards the chequered flag icon for Dynamic. This makes damping much harder and steering feel a lot tighter. The tranny changes gears much faster, and throttle response is way sharper. And when we say sharper, we mean this cat will slide its tail out at the slightest tap on the accelerator.
The engine already sounds notorious in this mode, but if you want something even more heavy metal, just press the button with the exhaust icon, also next to the gear lever: the soundtrack becomes reminiscent of Metallica’s nastier days – in stark contrast with most modern engines, which trumpet mellow as a virtue.
Driving this F-Type with everything set to Dynamic is, as you would expect, a thrilling experience to say the least. The hydraulic steering turns into corners faster, and kicking the tail out is not a problem at all. We didn’t notice any body roll. Jag claims this coupe is twice as rigid as the convertible and we’re inclined to believe them, given how little the body flexes.
Gear changes feel great. Every time you hit the paddle shift, you feel like you’re driving a manual. It does a very good job of replicating the feeling of holding the lever and slotting it into gear.
The hard suspension may plaster a smile on your face every time you take a corner, but it also produces a jarring ride when you’re gunning down a highway. This is a good time to shift to Normal mode – ride becomes a tad softer, but only a tad. It filters out a lot of it, but beyond 150kph, you’ll feel every little bump on the road.
The best part about the F-Type is that you don’t even need to keep it on the boil. It’s good fun to drive and take corners even at average, "everyday" speeds. It will not keep you on the edge, like it does when you drive it hard in Dynamic, but it’ll still give you a good sense of drama. And that heavy exhaust soundtrack is just a click away even in Normal mode.
Having focussed on the road, and the speedo and rpm meter all day long, we finally shift our attention to the interior. And it's a bit disappointing. Sure, it’s covered in fine leather, the central AC vents pop up when you press the Start button, and the dash has generous helpings of carbon fibre. But it doesn’t make you feel as special as you do in an XF or the XJ.
Now, a hard suspension is something you expect from a car like this. But what doesn’t go down very well is steering feel. It’s direct, and it takes the car exactly where you point it, thanks to the torque vectoring (which brakes the inner wheel while taking a corner), but it’s also so over-assisted, that it numbs the steering feedback, but that might also be nit-picking, given that you’ll also find that in a bunch of other new cars, such as the BMW M6, for instance.
The Jaguar F-Type R may not be the fastest car in its segment, or sport the most advanced tech under the hood. But it has the one thing that fewer and fewer sportscars these days do – drama. You don’t need to go really fast to enjoy this car, even though it can. You enjoy how the supercharger keeps things fun even at lower revs. It may be great fun on the track, but it’s lots of fun on the road as well. Most of all, it looks great, especially that beautiful backside. If we could, we’d drive this car in reverse all day long too.
5.0-litre, supercharged V8, 542bhp, 680Nm, 8A, 0-100kph: 4.2sec, top speed: 300kph, fuel tank: 72 litres, 1,650kg, Rs 2.0 crore (estimated)
Fast, stylish and holds its own against the German onslaught. Best of all is the furious exhaust note.