Here in the big empty spaces far to the west of Barcelona, the 2015 Jaguar F-type coupe is pretty much the only vehicle on the road that isn’t a tractor. As the people in the ancient villages turn and stare, we feel obligated to give a sort of polite, royal wave, as if we were the King of Spain. Ah, yes, we’re on important business, you know.
Only this Jaguar sports car is nothing like the refined GT car that you might imagine it to be. The F-type coupe is tough, fast, and even a little bit angry. It asks whether you measure up, and it’s not inclined to make excuses if you lack the requisite professional skills. And it is not always an altogether pleasant place to be.
As we find our way up a rocky defile on a narrow road, we see the grand house perched on a hillside where Jaguar has arranged for us to stop for lunch. It is actually Ferrer-Bobet, the newest, finest winery in Spain, yet it looks exactly like the lair of some villain in a James Bond movie. Apparently Jaguar isn’t kidding about making itself over by embracing the most glorious expressions of being bad.
Not just the F-type convertible with a hat on
The Jaguar F-type convertible is a nice car, perfect for taking a quick drive for ice cream if you want to get to the ice cream store really, really quickly. The 2015 Jaguar F-type coupe isn’t much different than the convertible in the way that it’s put together, yet it’s more than just an F-Type wearing a hat.
It is, of course, a very nice hat. We love the sweeping arc of the roof, especially when it’s matched with the optional, panoramic moonroof. The hatchback and the swelling rear fenders evoke the spirit of the sensuous Jaguar E-type of the 1960s, and yet this is a modern car, not a retro one. Wayne Burgess, the director of Jaguar’s design studio for production vehicles, points out the distinctive graphic of the side glass in the pillarless coupe and the way the car seems to sit on its rear wheels, as if poised to leap ahead.
The roof increases the torsional rigidity of the all-aluminum chassis by 80 percent, and when you see the naked aluminum, you appreciate just how stout this car’s bones are, notably the big torque boxes beneath the cockpit, the complex cross brace between the B-pillars (if this car had B-pillars, which it doesn’t), and the high-strength, hydro-formed aluminum beam in the roof rails.
Once clothed in its aluminum bodywork, the F-Type coupe looks thick and tough, and there’s nothing sleek about the impression it makes on its 103.4-inch wheelbase. It’s a Jaguar, and yet not the Jaguar you expect.
Obsessed with power in every way
The roads across the western fringes of Catalonia far from Barcelona resemble those in the best parts of California, winding adventurously through dry, narrow valleys and then across ridges marked by naked rock. You pass by olive groves and almond orchards that are struggling to survive the parched climate.
We’re driving the F-type S coupe with its 380-hp, supercharged 3.0-liter V-6, which is a half step up from the standard F-Type coupe with its 340-hp, supercharged 3.0-liter V-6. The car is plenty fast, as you’d expect from a 3514-pound package, and the V-6 has a unique warble as you wind it up. The ZF-built eight-speed automatic transmission delivers crisp, quick shifts. A rear wing deploys at 70 mph.
The rest of the hardware performs with equally muscular intensity. The brakes are big and powerful, with 15.0-inch rotors in front and 14.8-inch rotors in the rear. (Carbon-ceramic rotors are an option.) This S-model’s standard 19-inch wheels carry 245/40R-19 front, 275/35R-19 rear Pirelli PZero tires, and you can feel them hunting their way across changes in road camber. The car rocks from side to side on its suspension as the adaptive dampers and anti-roll bars snub down body roll, and while the ride is compliant, actual suspension travel feels limited. The fast-ratio, electric-assist steering feels awfully aggressive at times; we use the F-Type coupe’s driver-adjustable chassis tuning to dial out the heavy steering effort when the rest of the car is in Dynamic mode.
As a driver, you’re always aware that there’s a lot of power coiled within the F-type coupe, and an undercurrent of sound and vibration keeps you on alert status. The cockpit feels confined, the driver’s sight lines are troubled, and the aggressive, thinly padded sport seats are supportive but not actually comfortable. The F-type coupe is a serious sports car, not just a snappy ride to the airport. (Better pack light, because the cargo capacity of 11.0 cubic feet works out to be smaller than it looks.)
Giving it room to run
We didn’t really get comfortable with the F-type coupe until we got behind the wheel of the F-Type R. This seems crazy, since the F-Type R has a 550-hp supercharged V-8, but we were turning left onto the back straightway at the Motorland Aragon race track at the time, and the pavement ahead was as wide as a runway and almost as long, stretching into the distance a mile away. Finally, there seemed to enough room for this car to run.
It didn’t stay comfortable for long. The F-type R is such a beast that it makes even a racetrack meant to accommodate 200-mph Formula 1 cars seem daunting, and the braking markers on the long, long straightaway come up pretty fast at a little north of 150 mph (top speed is limited to 186 mph).
If you like, you can analyze your driving with information from the R-type’s electronic sensors on the 8-inch video screen on the dash, just as you’d expect in a car that’s seen plenty of development at the Nürburgring Nordschleife. Even so, we knew without looking that when you have so much car at your disposal, you don’t jump on the throttle, lay into the brakes, or yank on the wheel. Instead, you need to work as hard as you can to make smooth, deliberate transitions between inputs. This F-Type R feels heavier than its 3638 pounds, and it’s best not to make it angry.
When the surface is rainswept and slick, you’ll appreciate that a brake-type torque vectoring system helps tug the front end toward the apex of a corner, while an electric-type limited-slip differential puts down the power evenly through the rear wheels as you accelerate away. Altogether, the F-Type R is the kind of car in which you should have some clue about your intended direction of travel when you get into the gas, and a straight path is generally recommended.
This is not your mama’s Jaguar
Here in the U.S., we’ve been working with a certain image of Jaguar that has come down to us from the 1950s, when assorted advertising executives in New York City would park their XK120s on Madison Avenue. But we forget that in England, the Jaguar E-type of the 1960s was a flash car that was the choice of the bad guys who masterminded the Great Train Robbery in 1963.
So maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that the 2015 Jaguar F-type coupe is a sports car, not a grand touring car. While it’s generally civilized, the car always remains a pretty tough proposition -- a little noisy, a little uncomfortable, and a little more than you bargained for.
The miracle here is that you can have your 2015 Jaguar F-type coupe in three different trims: the $65,000 F-type with a V-6, the $77,000 F-type S with a high-performance V-6, or the $99,000 F-type R with a high-performance V-8.
Let us leave you with this thought. You know the Jaguar badge on the front of the F-Type coupe, the one known as the Growler? Well, this should be an indicator that the Jaguar guys aren’t kidding around with this car.
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