A great line has the ability to render the remarkable immortal. In the case of the new Jaguar F-type Coupe, a great line also happens to offer UV and rollover protection.
Based on the F-type Convertible that reached showrooms in 2013, the F-type Coupe contains a particular line – its roofline – that may prove as timeless as any plucked from literature or film.
Sheets of aluminium are rarely this transformative. The F-type Convertible was already the chiseled power forward in the Jaguar lineup, a natural performer that, particularly in 495-horsepower V8 S guise, could distill summer down to a riotous, wind-raked blur. Inasmuch as a roofless car could, the Convertible appeared complete.
A roof, however, elevates the F-type’s bearing from the merely athletic to the magnetic. Tapered aluminium roof rails trace the side windows in a glossy arc, like hydroformed flying buttresses. Out back, the Convertible’s politely flared hips have swelled into haunches. Big haunches. Feline ones. There are intimations of the $500,000 Aston Martin V12 Zagato in those hindquarters, though Jaguar would prefer that customers glimpse the brand’s definitive coupe, the 1960s E-type.
The F-type Coupe is very much its own animal, however – a truth evident as early as 2011 when Jaguar showed the C-X16, a lightly veiled concept that has informed every curve, kink and flare of the production car.
The Coupe was recently introduced to global media amid the ancient limestone canyonlands of Lleida, Spain. A favourite training ground for elite cyclists, the scrubby Catalonian terrain dips, rolls and climbs with masochistic, metronomic regularity. Up here the F-type Coupe does not affect a tarmac-crushing Thor like the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, or a dispassionate surgeon like the latest Porsche 911. No, the F-type Coupe is a predator, red of tooth and claw.
That impression builds outward from the car’s all-aluminium skeleton. The architecture yields greater torsional rigidity than steel, along with reduced weight – byproducts even Ford has recognised, specifying the light stuff for its new F-150 pickup truck. Jaguar says the Coupe wears the stiffest body of any production car it has ever made, a selling point that could just as easily repel coddled tailbones, particularly those accustomed to plush GTs like Jaguar’s outgoing XK.
Such concerns ultimately prove baseless, in part thanks to the Coupe’s sheer mass. Despite the aluminium diet, the range-topping F-type R Coupe weighs 3,671lbs (1,665kg), almost 100lbs more than a BMW M3 sedan. Torsional rigidity is there, but it never compromises the comfort afforded by a bit of pork. The Coupe’s clever trick – one of many – is making its pork feel meaty, not fatty.
First to tackle the bends above Lleida is the middle child, the S Coupe, which slots between the Coupe and R Coupe. (Jaguar did not make the base Coupe available to drive.) With standard 19in wheels, eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, and 380 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque from its 3-litre supercharged gasoline V6 engine, the S is a lot of car, and tapping the orange Dynamic Mode toggle between the seats renders it a lot of loud. “Dynamic” in Jaguar parlance means tightened suspension, sharpened throttle response and slightly weightier steering, but the dominant takeaway is one of more noise from the twin Howitzers out back masquerading as exhaust pipes.Pressing the gas or pulling upshifts invites deranged cackles from these gaping chrome chasms.
The bluster, mind, is not hollow. The S accelerates with bloodlust, coercing your torso into dialogue with every pore and crease of the leather seatback. If you weren’t so riveted by the simple act of holding third gear – eardrums alive to the Coupe clawing ever higher in its register – you might be moved to shout something vulgar.
For all its drama, however, the S’s most remarkable trait may be how graciously it shoulders its inferiority…
On a rusty plain ringed by low, hardscrabble hills, the F-type R Coupe is fighting crosswinds at Motorland Aragón, a fiendishly technical 3.3-mile circuit located 75 miles from Lleida. The gusts partly explain why the R’s speedometer registers a piddling 245kph (152mph) on the track’s mile-long back straight. A Jaguar technician notes that in more favourable conditions, the car would routinely top 265kph here. Acceleration is certainly massive – Jaguar estimates the R moves from a standstill to 60mph in 4 seconds flat, en route to an electronically limited top speed of 186mph (yes, limited) – but the R feels like the pick of the F-type litter not for what it does in a straight line, but for what it does in a corner.
Carbon ceramic brakes, available for the first time on a volume Jaguar for a downright usurious $12,000, scrub speed admirably enough before the car embarks on a long, sweeping left-hand turn. A novice’s instinct is to maintain a steady Nike on the gas while tracking towards the outer edge of the curve; to cut inwards is to invite all manner of movement, none good. But the Jaguar technician grabs the wheel and forces the R towards the inside of the curve. “It can do it,” he encourages. It does it. Heart returning to chest, a driver has found grip and stability to spare. Credit the Pirelli P-Zero tires, but the lion’s share goes to the R’s electronic active differential, which in conjunction with a torque-vectoring system – which automatically slows the inner rear wheel to aid high-speed turns – makes the process an ego-stoking joy.
Torque-vectoring and electronic differentials facilitate track-day heroics, but the R doesn’t demand bravery down the road. It is difficult to name a two-seat, rear-wheel-drive coupe, let alone one with 550hp and 502lb-ft of torque, that can cruise placidly enough to allow 770 watts of Meridian symphonics to envelop the cabin. The car may shimmy a little over uneven pavement but not disconcertingly so (looking at you, Aston Martin V12 Vantage S). Through it all the R remains a sports car, ready at a wrist-flick’s notice to weave apexes together like an Olympic giant slalom specialist.
The S does all these things, only with commensurately less verve. The R spoils everything it touches. If the Coupe and S Coupe wield an advantage beyond outright price – the Coupe starts at $65,895 in the US, the S at $77,895 and the R at $99,895 – it is the cleanliness of their styling. R models wear perfunctory quad exhaust pipes and a set of black lacquer skirts that compromise the body’s tidy, tucked stance. Jaguar is also a beat behind Porsche where navigation systems are concerned, the Coupe’s screen prone to occasional twitches and glitches.
But is the F-type Coupe behind anyone, really? The E-type looms over all car-dom; not for nothing did Enzo Ferrari call it the most beautiful car ever made. Its torque-vectoring descendant, however, may have just claimed an inside line.