Although we try to stay ahead of the curve here in the Toys department at Prestige Towers, we don’t get the opportunity to drive all the cars we’d like to when they’re fresh out of the box. The Jaguar F-Type Coupé, the subject of this month’s road test, arrived on these shores considerably more than a year ago, but as at the time we were preoccupied with all manner of other machinery – Mercedes, Ferrari, Porsche, Bentley, Rolls- Royce and McLaren to name but a few – this most beautiful of all the creations by Jag’s head design honcho Ian Callum (and to my eyes the talented Scotsman has penned some absolute corkers) flew right past us. I don’t, of course, mean that literally.
Realising it was high time we featured a Jaguar in these pages (our last, the XE saloon, was more than a year ago), I recently asked the local JLR team if they had anything suitable for us lurking in their garage. I was thinking more in terms of the XF, Jag’s E-class and 5-Series rival, the second generation of which arrived last year. Or, with the company having bowed to the inevitable by finally succumbing to the insatiable demand for four-by-fours, perhaps they’d offer me the new SUV, the F-Pace.
So I was surprised when they suggested an F-Type S Coupé, though also absolutely delighted. The British marque, after all, has always been about cars that are sleek and sexy, and the F-Type Coupé is as sleek and as sexy as it gets.
A worthy successor to the legendary E-Type of the early 1960s – even if it did take the company 40 years to get around to it – the F’s styling and proportions verge on the sublime. That’s especially the case with the Coupé, whose rakishly swept rear roofline comes close to referencing the perfection, elegance and drama of the original, albeit in a more modern and aggressive form.
While certainly reminiscent of the E’s curvaceous rump, the F-Type’s flared haunches and truncated tail house the massive alloys and low-profile rubber that are nowadays de rigueur on high-performance cars – not to mention a Callum trademark – just as the newer machine’s ferociously gaping air intakes are testimony to the contemporary internal combustion engine’s requirement for cooling, and lots of it. That might not make my brilliant-white test car quite as pretty as an E when viewed from the front, but with its classic silhouette that combines a long bonnet, high and gracefully curved beltline, shallow glasshouse, tapered roof and short rear overhang it’s still a thing of fabulous beauty. Indeed, its only major aesthetic flaw is the retractable rear spoiler that pops up at speeds above 110km/h: though undeniably effective at increasing downforce, it restricts rearward visibility out of the shallow rear window and looks almost crude when raised.
Equally important, the Coupé’s aluminium-alloy monocoque offers almost twice the torsional rigidity of the F-Type convertible. This makes the tin top much stronger and stiffer than the open car, as well as discernibly more resolved and balanced. The downside, however, is that in spite of being rich in aluminium and alloys the S Coupé isn’t especially light, its weight of around 1.7 tonnes (Jaguar doesn’t give an exact figure) comparing unfavourably with Porsche’s 911 Carrera and Cayman, which bracket the British car pricewise and are its most obvious competitors.
Fortunately the supercharged 3-litre V6 of the S model, which many believe to be the power unit of choice for the F-Type, is a peach of an engine – super-responsive thanks to the mechanical blower and with plenty of torque (460Nm at 3,500-5,000rpm) and power (375bhp) to play with. While the recently introduced six-speed manual gearbox is more likely to delight the purists, the standard eight-speed, multi-mode ZF auto is pretty effective too – it’s smooth, offers whip-crack changes with the steering-wheel paddles and, compared to the stick shift, shaves half a second off the 0-100km/h acceleration time, which it manages in 4.8 seconds.
The 275km/h maximum for the S Coupé, which is the same for either transmission, is of largely academic interest, though it’s nice to know it’s there – and if you’re desperate to hustle your F-Type even quicker there’s an SVR version that hits 100 in just 3.5 and carries on to a top speed in excess of 320. That kind of performance, however, will dig a hole in your bank account almost twice as deep.
Rapid though it is, as is so often the case the appeal of the S Coupé lies less in exploring the outer limits of its straight-line abilities than in extracting the maximum from its chassis. And though the F-Type may not quite match the balance and precision of a Porsche Cayman, it’s nonetheless hugely agile with gloriously quick, direct and communicative steering, loads of grip and almost zero body flex and roll. I’d venture the V6 S is more forgiving than more powerful V8 F-Types, too, as it exhibits both poise and fluidity in situations that, with a bigger engine and a heavy foot on the accelerator, are likely to get a wee bit lairy.
Nonetheless this is a thrilling machine to drive, brimming with old-school brawn and character, yet possessing the composure, handling and body control of a properly fettled, modern sports car – and though the trade-off is ride that errs on the firmer side, on smoother surfaces and with the Dynamic ride setting switched off it’s comfort personified. Carbon-ceramic brakes, recognisable by the bright yellow callipers, are an option but I find the regular steel-rotor set-up to be fade-free and eminently reliable.
Flick a console-mounted switch and the pair of fat central exhaust pipes emit an appropriately dramatic soundtrack that, when Sport mode is engaged, is intensified to artillery-barrage levels. You’ll never be wanting for attention when driving an F-Type, that’s for sure.
While the cabin isn’t of quite the same fabulosity as the exterior, it’s still an agreeable place in which to be ensconced, and for several hours on end. Thanks to the panoramic roof, an optional extra that really ought be standard, the interior is far brighter than expected, giving the illusion of roominess in a space that’s actually on the cramped side of cosy. The leather-trimmed sports seats are superb, however, as are the nicely sized steering wheel, the general absence of clutter and the air of sporting purpose, though it’s rather let down by an infotainment display that’s at least one generation behind the times. Compared with the convertible and its laughably tiny boot, the Coupé is far less challenged storage-wise, though I’d still reckon that packing sufficient essentials for two people and several days on the road is likely to cause headaches.
Not that that should be any kind of deterrent. Me, I’d chuck T-shirts and underwear into a rucksack, jump into the driving seat and tear off towards the horizon without a second thought. Because the Jaguar F-Type S Coupé is the genuine article, a beautiful-looking machine that not only delivers one of the purest and most involving driving experiences that money can buy, but is also a worthy successor in every way to the sports car that many claim to be the greatest ever.
And as recommendations go, I don’t think it gets much better than that.