It’s claimed the fastest Jaguar road car ever built and it only takes a few minutes behind the wheel to realize why. It’s the F-Type R, available as a coupe or convertible and boasting a supercharged V-8 that produces acceleration so impressive it would be a good starting point for astronaut training.
This range-topping F-Type also has all-wheel drive this time around and it does a great job of keeping all that power where it belongs. Although the basic F-Type is a very fine sports car by any standards, the addition of that tiny ‘R’ on the bodywork makes a huge difference, even if it does hike the price when everything is added up.
In recapping the F-Type range, it’s worth mentioning that right from the start, the car was dubbed a ‘Porsche-beater’ by critics and that’s a comment very few new sports cars draw. The F-Type is certainly a worthy successor to the much-loved and widely collected E-Type in that it’s compact and agile and has great looks. It features technology that was only a scientists’ dream back in the 1960s and so far it’s proven way more reliable than the Jags of old. The bigger XK series sports cars, now discontinued, were never intended as ‘E-Type successors’ but they remained in the Jaguar lineup to meet the demands of a different kind of buyer. The original E-Type was amazingly inexpensive in its day and the new F-Type is still reasonably affordable in basic guise by today’s standards - but don’t try and compare sixties prices!
The F-Type R is only available with an 8-speed automatic transmission, albeit with manual paddles behind the steering wheel. Driving the car, I never had the slightest wish for a manual transmission because the torque levels are so high. Jaguar has introduced manual gearboxes on other models in the F-Type range for 2016, but not for the R.
Of course the big story with this car is the engine and it’s a wonderful piece of engineering. It’s a 5-litre V-8 which, with the aid of a supercharger, develops a healthy 550-horsepower. Like so many performance V-8s it makes ‘all the right noises’ and it’s almost worth the money for the engine note alone under full throttle. Exhaust note, by the way, can be changed from “docile” to “loud” with a button in the cockpit. Of course, it’s not just music to the ears of sports car fans. It delivers performance that could only be properly exploited on a racetrack. You’ll see100 km/h on the clock in around four seconds and it’ll keep accelerating beyond 300 km/h or so. It’s a very exciting car to drive and a thrill every time you climb in, even if you don’t drive it to the max.
Despite the car’s amazing performance, it’s very easy to drive around town and has none of the challenges some sportsters in this class pose. It’ll burble along happily in a traffic jam without the slightest problem, but it’s ready to be unleashed at the slightest opportunity. The suspension has been worked over for the R version and it’s very taut and predictable on twisty roads. The 20-inch alloy wheels are fitted with Pirelli P Zero tyres, the best there are for cars like this in my view. The brakes are carbon ceramic and do a fine job of stopping the beast. The coupe has slightly stiffer bodywork than the convertible, but few drivers will notice this. Like just about every other serious car these days, the F-Type has all kinds of electronic stability and braking aids if you do manage to get into trouble.
Expectedly, the interior is a delight - this is a Jaguar after all - and driver and passenger are surrounded by fine leathers and first-rate materials. It has a very high quality feel about it in the cockpit.
The F-Type R takes this range to a higher level altogether and will delight Jaguar fans as well as newcomers to the marque. When it comes to serious sports cars, Jaguar is very much back in business with this one.
SPECS AT A GLANCE…
BODY STYLE: Two-place sports coupe or convertible
ENGINE: 5.0-litre V-8, 550-horsepower
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic only with F-Type R
ACCELERATION: Zero to 100 km/h in around 4-seconds
FUEL ECONOMY: 8.4-litres/100 km combined (base coupe, automatic)
PRICE: Around $120,000 MSRP, as tested.