Jaguar’s new F-type coupé is a story of practical comforts among manic performance
It had been raining for two days in Spain, in the western bit of Catalunya, a mountainous region accessed by delightfully twisty, deserted roads where I was to test Jaguar’s new F-type Coupé. The rain-soaked roads couldn’t dampen our enthusiasm and, if at all, only highlighted how involving the F-type Coupé is to drive.
I am in the R version – the most potent of the range with its 543bhp V8 engine. After two days of working myself up from the F-type S with its relatively docile 375bhp V6, I’m just about used to the monstrous F-type R. It’s not the claimed 0-100kph time of 4.2 seconds or the top speed of 298kph that is staggering. It’s the way the performance is unleashed that blows you away. The immediacy and accuracy with which the F-type Coupé responds to every tiny input makes it feel like it’s hardwired to your brain (and heart), and to drive it hard requires a lot of concentration.
Driving up the narrow, uneven road, I toggle the drive mode to Dynamic, the most aggressive setting. This sharpens the throttle response, gearshift and handling, but best of all, it loosens the traction control to a point which allows you to mildly drift the car before the electronics reign you in. While this makes for some dramatic driving, especially when it’s wet, if the road is too slippery, it can get overwhelming. You quickly learn that it’s best to drive the F-type Coupé with carefully measured throttle and steering inputs.
The coupé has engaging driving dynamics, which certainly feel more precise than the convertible’s. Also, with the hard top, looks improve dramatically.
The F-type has a long bonnet, a sloping roof line and bulging rear haunches which are now even more accentuated in coupé form. An added bonus is a 407-litre boot which offers more luggage space than some compact sedans.
The F-type Coupé’s cabin is similar to the convertible’s, but feels a bit more snug because of the fixed roof. Quality levels are top notch as reflected in the chunky steering, switchgear and finely stitched leather trim and only a few buttons look a bit below parThe fully adjustable front seats (with inflatable side bolsters in the V8) are, by default, set quite low and short drivers have to max out the seat-height adjust to peer over the instrument binnacle which houses twin-hooded dials. Once you’ve found the perfect driving position, everything falls perfectly to hand – the stubby little gear lever is perfectly placed and the grab handle for the passenger also gives the driver a sense of separation.
The trim levels vary a bit depending on the spec of the car, and while the R Coupé has the sportiest interior, the V6 S Coupé has a more subdued theme.
My first acquaintance with the F-type Coupé is made with the S version. In normal driving mode and with the transmission left in D, this coupé is a happy cruiser. However, the pin-sharp steering feels alive in your hand as it transmits every contour of the road.
The 2,995cc supercharged V6, like the V8 mentioned earlier, feels so much quicker than its performance figures suggest. Again, the feeling is heightened by the rev-happy nature of the engine and the delightful soundtrack. Playing no small role is the brilliant ZF-sourced eight-speed gearbox. In Sport mode, the transmission feels more alert and makes sure you’re in the right gear at the right time. Use the paddle shifters and the transmission feels like a manual, allowing you to hammer against the rev limiter and downshift at high revs too.The ride is remarkably compliant for such a full-blown sportscar. However, it remains to be seen how this coupé handles our abysmal roads.
Snaking into the hills, it’s time to enjoy this car to its fullest. Dynamic mode selected, Active Exhaust button pressed, the exhaust note is simply glorious. Under full throttle, the throaty rasp is loud and fierce. However, lifting off the throttle is equally dramatic, with a delightful symphony of crackles, pops and burbles playing out on the overrun. Immense grip from the front tyres and a quick steering make the F-type Coupe quite a ‘pointy’ car. Yet, the overall balance is quite neutral and, unlike the V8, it’s easier to put the power down in the V6. The steering too is a touch sharper than the V8’s, which has a heavier feel, and overall, the F-type S Coupé has sweeter handling. Next, we arrive at Motorland Aragon circuit. This 5.4km track is possibly the best I’ve driven on after the Nürburgring – its variety of corners makes it thrilling.
Here on the track, I take the reins of the explosive V8. Like on the road, the front-end grip is superb, but the rear fidgets about every time I step hard on the throttle and the brakes are absolutely brilliant with eye-popping stopping power.
The Motorland circuit highlighted an utterly involving and engaging driving experience of the F-type Coupé. It sucks you into the action, puts you on your toes and tests your reflexes when driven hard. However, the more manageable V6 S is all you need in India. It costs a substantial Rs 50 lakh less than the V8 R Coupé and that factor should definitely appeal to buyers here.
The coupé has engaging driving dynamics, which certainly feel more precise than the convertible’s.