Five things will spin around in your head like a whirlpool after a generous blat in the new Jaguar F-Type Coupe R.
One, the looks. Unless you’ve just thawed out from a long and forgettable hibernation, you'd very much know the F-Type coupe is the lidded version of the F-Type convertible. And, while there’s the eye of the beholder and all that malarkey, if your eyeballs don’t fizz pleasantly as they drink up the F-Type Coupe, particularly that arse, you might just have a disease.
Two, the acceleration. There are three rear-drive F-Type Coupe models – two supercharged V6s, one supercharged V8. The middle-sibling Coupe S, with 280kW and 460Nm, will hit 100km/h in 4.9 seconds. Spritely, except you’ll be dragged off at the lights by a Mercedes A45 AMG, which costs a fair bit less, and that's not really on.
But when we mention the acceleration, we’re really talking about the big one, the 404kW Coupe R, with a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 belting out every one of its 680 newtons from just 2500rpm.
Even 80 per cent throttle will embarrass most other cars. And full throttle is an event you build yourself up to – it’s like the curtains opening and the show starting. It compresses innards and frightens passengers. Able to hit 100km/h in 4.2 seconds, the F-Type Coupe R is legitimately feral.
Three, the sound. Zero to 100km/h in 4.2 seconds is quick, but on paper, it won't rob you of your breath. But the Coupe R feels like it’s doing 0-100km/h in 3.5 seconds simply because of the noise.
Put it this way, there’s an active exhaust button on the centre console and pressing it will become as habitual as putting on your seatbelt. No YouTube video can properly capture the F-Type Coupe R’s exhaust note like a pair of naked ears can. It’s like some sort of carnivorous wild animal being tortured. It’s so loud, it easily drowns out your screams for mummy.
Point number four, the handling. The F-Type Coupe is certainly more jaguar than cheetah: it changes direction like a rugby league winger rather than a ballerina. As the loading of the car swaps across its roll axes, be it cornering or braking, you become aware that all those muscles are hidden under a few love handles.
We’ll explore its rivals later, but for comparison’s sake, the V6 F-Type weighs 244kg more than a PDK Cayman S. The V8 F-Type weighs 265kg more than a PDK 911 Carrera. But more pressingly, at 1.9 metres wide, the F-Type feels physically large – it makes narrow roads feel like footpaths and its corners never seem to fully shrink around you.
And lastly, we finally arrive at point number five: the ESP button. In the F-Type Coupe R you push it as readily as you'd push the ‘eject’ button in a helicopter. At some stage in the future, holding down the ESP button in an F-Type Coupe R will void life insurance and indeed, when pressed, an ‘are you sure?’ prompt should come up in the centre screen simply. It’s not a button to be pushed by the inexperienced.
The first time we sampled the F-Type Coupe R was on a Spanish racetrack perhaps you've never heard of. Motorland Aragon, about 200 kays from Barcelona, is like an inland Phillip Island. At 5.3km it’s long, and it’s probably one of the better tracks designed by polarising circuit architect Herman Tilke. A signature feature is a 1.7km back straight that’s apparently one of the longest in the world.
When we were there, in the V8 F-Type Coupe with the optional carbon ceramic brakes, it was raining like all the world’s oceans had colluded with the sky in an attempt to take over the lands.
You know what it’s like to drive on wet bitumen, but of course there's a rubbery racing line on a racetrack and at Motorland Aragon, in the wet it's like a coating of ghee and ball bearings. Unfortunately, too, the racing line tends to be the safest and quickest way around the circuit.
In the V8 F-Type coupe, with its electronic rear diff that can swap from fully open to fully locked in just 200 milliseconds, it’s hilarious fun. Once you’re comfortable with the car, as you pick up the throttle on corner exit and become familiar with how much rear grip you have, you can start getting cheeky: applying throttle more generously, the F-Type Coupe R will predictably wriggle sideways and it’s always easy to catch thanks to steering that’s pleasantly fast. You never need to move your hands from nine and three.
Funny that, because the F-Type Coupe R is fitted with the quickest steering of any Jaguar, ever. And it’s possibly the one thing we weren’t super impressed with. YouTube celebrity Chris Harris – and occasional MOTOR contributor – said the steering was better than a 911.
We respectfully disagree. The F-Type Coupe’s steering’s weighting feels natural and about right, as its ratio is nicely sharp and well matched to the car’s size, but you just don’t feel anything.
When the big F-Type Coupe starts to understeer, you’ll feel it through your bum as much as your hands. Steering numbness is an affliction particularly peculiar to modern sports cars but it seems a little too far gone in the F-Type Coupe. Jaguar engineers, go drive a Toyota 86.
Of course, it’s interesting that it’s far easier to get the F-Type Coupe to oversteer than it is to understeer. Barrel into a tight corner too fast and in a situation where you’d expect the nose to push, the F-Type, through the electronic wizardry otherwise known as torque vectoring, grabs at the brakes on the inside wheels, tucking the nose back into line.
It gives you confidence to carry more entry speed knowing you’re not going to wedge yourself in the outside guardrail. You can even pick up the throttle earlier and more aggressively than you might first think – the nose will stay reasonably gripped up.
But given the chance to flog an F-Type Coupe around Monaco or Monza, you’d head to Italy. For a start, it’s worth noting the F-Type Coupe is the most torsionally rigid Jaguar ever made and it feels tighter and stiffer than the convertible, which can occasionally feel like all its bushes are made of marshmallows.
But at the end of the day, the big Coupe is just too bulky to deftly zip through slow and tight corners, much preferring big, open, fast stuff where it can stretch its Schwarzenegger legs and properly show off all its long, lazy eight gears.
And show them off it will: the gearbox is a sweetheart, delivering with a solid paddle pluck either a loud crack and a new gear on upchange, or on downchange a delicious and accurate throttle blip. It doesn’t feel like it’s made by Tag Heuer like a PDK, but it’s still a great gearbox.
We confess we're fixating on the V8 version a little unfairly (wouldn't you?) but it remains to be seen whether the blown V6, with less of a lump over its front axle, falls more in the handling Goldilocks Zone than the V8 (like the droptops).
We got to spank the V8 in the dry but it was pissing down when we drove the V6. It felt sweet but we'll wait until we've driven them back-to-back in the dry in Australia before we can confidently make a call.
Back to the V8. The standard brakes are more than sufficient, but for those readers wearing straitjackets, you can get it with carbon ceramic items which, with 398mm front discs, and like most carbon brakes, are fairly overkill.
But when you’re hammering down a 1.7km straight on a soaked Spanish racetrack, it’s easier to keep the throttle pinned and kiss 260km/h knowing the second you hit the left pedal, the 'chutes are really going to open.
Track shenanigans over, switch off Dynamic mode and the F-Type purrs as a gentle and comfortable street cruiser. You will indeed feel a terrible road in the F-Type but most of the time the ride is sufficiently pleasant.
It’s a nice car to sit in, even if the cabin isn’t quite as there as some of its rivals. And the whole interior is almost let down by an infuriating user interface for the centre screen entertainment system, which is about as easy to navigate as the Roaring Forties.
So. You want one. Maybe you’re the kind of person who’s always wanted a 911 but there’s just something about them you don’t like. The big Jag finally offers up a worthy alternative and certainly it’s priced to lock horns with Stuttgart's army (see breakout for F-Type Coupe pricing and specs).
Certainly if you had $120K to spend on a two-door sports car with a roof, you’d consider the entry-level F-Type Coupe – and the base PDK Cayman, or maybe you’d stretch to $135K for an Audi S5.
But it becomes murkier with the big boy F-Type Coupe R. Of course, just seven grand separates the lidded V8 Jag from the PDK 911 Carrera, but we’re talking $220K territory here. The Jag has a ferocious power advantage – it has 147kW more than the Porsche – but it also must lug an extra 265kg, meaning it only just beats the Porsche to 100 – 4.2 seconds versus 4.6.
Or you could save yourself 65 grand on both and get an Audi RS5. It's got two doors and a roof, a lot of leather and a cheeky exhaust note, plus it'll do 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds. And all this is ignoring the new M4 and C63 Coupes... Again, if you're willing to compromise on a little style.
But we assume not a lot of people will want to do that, hence why they're considering the F-Type Coupe. It might win silver at the Handling Olympics to the 911's gold, but they'll be getting a sweet car to drive. And a lot of people won't care much when they see the F-Type Coupe in the flesh and feel their eyeballs tingle as they drink it up. Particularly, well, that arse. Look at it.
4 out of 5 stars
Body: 2-door, 2-seat coupe
Engine: 5000cc V8, DOHC, 32v, supercharger
Bore/Stroke: 92.5 x 93.0mm
Power: 405kW @ 6500rpm
Torque: 680Nm @ 2500rpm-3500rpm
0-100km/h: 4.2sec (claimed)
Top Speed: 300km/h (claimed)
Consumption: 11.1L/100km (claimed)
Emissions: 259g/km CO2 (claimed)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Suspension: A-arms, coil springs, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (f) A-arms, coil springs, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (r)
Tracks: 1586/1628mm (f/r)
Steering: electrically assisted rack-and-pinion
Brakes: 380mm ventilated/drilled discs, 6-piston calipers (f); 376mm ventilated/drilled discs, 4-piston calipers (r)
Wheels: 20 x 9.0-inch (f); 20 x 10.5-inch (r)
Tyres: 255/35R20 (f); 295/30R20 (r) Pirelli P-Zero
Positives: Frightening acceleration; delicious exhaust note; look at it
Negatives: Feels big – more bull than ballerina; numb steering; bits of the interior