Cool coupe from Jaguar

DAVE MOORE
Last updated 06:00 05/07/2014
Jaguar F-type
Simply beautiful: Little flash, but plenty of dash, even in base form.

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Let's get rid of the bad stuff first, eh? The F-type V8 Coupe's throttle is too abrupt - I had to find a less sudden response by fiddling with the R-car's dynamic control button. It didn't take long to get it right.

The "S" and "R" badges are too brash for what is a classic design. The Jaguar F-type Coupe doesn't need chromy add-ons to tell you what it is, so the first thing I'd do when mine's delivered would be to prise off the chrome, red and green badges and stick them, not on another car, but on Trade Me - best place for 'em.

I can just about scratch up a few other complaints: the nose can scrape if you're not careful and the amazing noise the V8 emits - it's switchable from Nuneaton to Nascar via a rocker on the console, changing it from "bloody loud" to "ear-bleeding" - may not please close neighbours much.

That's about all, really, for this achingly beautiful motor car is capable of charming the socks off the harshest non-car enthusiast, in a way the F-type Coupe's roofless Roadster version never could.

In roadster circles you look at the driver, while in fixed-head coupe land, it's always the car.

Boulevardier-types can still be happy that they own one of the sexiest rag-tops available in the form of the F-type Roadster, while those who don't care if they're seen or not can revel in a better-looking car that's up to $15,000 less expensive (and when you look at the Jaguar brochure, there are plenty of things you can spend the difference on. Me, I'd opt for the full-length glass roof, blacked-out chrome window surrounds and some fancy versions of the company's array of hide and carbon-fibre cabin trim options).

Am I REALLY going to own one? Probably not, but if that long-delayed Lotto win does come through, a Jag will certainly be on the shopping list - an XF-Sports Estate as it happens, I might be just getting a little too old for the F-Type Coupe.

It's very much a younger person's car - for someone as fashionable, pretty or handsome as the car itself, which many argue is the best-looking Jag since the E-type. For me, who loved the E-type as much as everyone else when it was launched in 1961, I think the F-type looks even better.

It's a classic two plus zero coupe in the manner of the first Stingray, various eye-wateringly-priced Ferraris, the first Nissan Z-car (and only the first) and the most beautiful close-coupled coupe of all: Aston Martin's DB4 GT Zagato. It's surprising to some that a car as gorgeous as this hasn't been shaped by an Italian salon, but unless Jaguar design director Ian Callum is fibbing about his heritage, a Scot penned the lines of this coupe and if there's a case against Scottish devolution, this man's craft is reason enough.

For the New Zealand market, the F-type Coupe has two choices

of supercharged V6 engine, one with 250kW for $125,000, and another, badged the "S", with an additional 30kW for $140,000. The flagship car for the time being - there's more to come, I'm assured - is the $185,000 V8 R Coupe, which fronts up with 404kW - 40 up on the most powerful F-type Roadster - and it shortens horizons like no other production Jaguar before it.

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You need to have your wits about you, as all those kilowatts - the equivalent of 550 horse power - are controlled by a throttle that reacts quickly (perhaps too quickly) to every twitch of your right foot.

That dynamic control button, which comes with the S-pack, as I found, can transform the Coupe's overall character by delivering firmer damper and steering rates, as well as quicker ratio changes to go with sharper throttle response. Push the chequered-flag switch and the car goes from feline docility to feral cat - just as the engine note suggests.

A second-generation Electronic Active Differential (EAD) conspires nicely with the Coupe's torque vectoring system, applying torque-braking to an inside drive wheel, to turn-in more crisply when drivers tend to understeer, such as when entering a bend too quickly. According to Jaguar, this enables the F-Type R Coupe to carry more speed into apexes and out the other side. I'd like some track-time with the V8 just so I can explore more thoroughly what these Jag chassis bods have done.

Oh, it's great fun, but even with some of the world's most advanced chassis electronics, the car's tail can break traction very easily. I selected the gentler mode and found that grit, gravel, rain and potholes had far less effect on the car, and I could turn into bends with much more confidence.

Then there's the noise. After my driving partner decided to show off when leaving, the restaurant at which I was lunching in rural Waikato received a call from a neighbour some distance away to ask, in no uncertain terms: "Who the heck was that?"

So my advice to anyone looking at the V8 is to take some track time to learn about its noisier, more lurid habits first. Its sound signature is addictive and hackle-raising, with that crackling distant thunder effect when throttlng-off and a fencepost-gargling 32-valve supercharged war cry when accelerating hard that suggests a "good ol' boy" heritage rather than its actual "decent chap" links to Jaguars of old.

So to the sixes. Bearing in mind that Jaguar hadn't made an eight at all until 20 years ago and that its sixes, both of them, have fifty-plus kilowatts more than even the old E-type's ultimate road-going 5.0-litre V12, they are not second-class citizens in the F-type Coupe line-up.

The 250kW V6 makes 100kmh in 5.3 seconds, with the 30kW more-powerful "S" ducking under five seconds, which is not that far off the 4.2 seconds of the V8 "R".

With the lighter V6 engines sprouting from the same firewall as the V8, it doesn't take a chassis engineer to understand that handling will be a tad more pleasant with the engine weight that little bit closer to the centre of the car.

And thus it proves, the initial reticence a driver might find from the thunderous V8 when turning into a bend is gone, understeer is far less evident and when it's time to accelerate again, all is sweetness and light. And while the S model has a similar sound-track switch as the V8's on its console, the note is far more mellifluous and less likely to upset or disturb the neighbours.

The truth is, that by throwing those naff badges away, there's only the two-pipe rear of the V6 to tell anyone you're not in the four-piped V8 anyway. That, and the soundtrack, of course.

All three Coupes are rewarding to drive. With a huge 80 per cent increase in torsional rigidity by having a fixed roof, instead of a by-definition more wobbly ragtop, the suspension has less to do than it does in the roadster. Thus its damping is able to do its job without helping out in terms of steadying the car, so ride quality is better than the Roadster's and the Coupe is far more forgiving over bumps.

The company's engineers have used the new rigidity to build even more dynamic capability into the Coupe, raising spring rates by 4.3 per cent at the front and 3.7 per cent behind to tighten body control and improve agility and steering precision because the car's stiffer core structure allows it.

Inside the F-type Coupe, there's more room for you and for your luggage, though the load area, despite being vastly better than the Roadster's, will require golfers to be creative in terms of equipment stowage.

Even with the special roof, the car's headroom is excellent, and with similar basic dash architecture to that of the Roadster, the Coupe cossets the driver in as much or as little hide, alcantara and faux carbon fibre as you'd like, with contrasting seating panels working well with the style of the exterior, where one box I'd tick is the one that replaces chrome with gloss black. Let's hope it's next to the S and R badge delete box - if there is one.

With a specification list that could easily add $10k to your car, there are technical and cosmetic options to beat the band for the F-type Coupe, and the ceramic brakes look good, as do the choices of wheels.

But even in the $125,000 V6 base car, Jaguar has everything pretty well-sorted, and with a hotter $140,000 V6 S and the earth-twisting V8 R at $185,000, potential Porsche Boxster and Cayman owners have for the first time a genuine alternative to consider, one that doesn't have to apologise to anyone. Unless you picked the V8 R that is, which could have you sending flowers to the neighbours if you switch on the thunder too often.

It's a wonderfully effective car that Jaguar couldn't have hoped to have built before new owners Tata of India loosened the purse strings.

Next up on the Jaguar development list is a 3-series sized XE sedan and Jaguar's first SUV, both made from aluminium like the XJ, XK and F-type and both likely to put some shock and awe into their market slots.

AT A GLANCE

Jaguar F-Type Coupe

Drivetrains: Front-mounted RWD supercharged, 4V per cylinder quad-cam 5000cc V8 and 2996cc V6 engines with eight-speed automatic Quickshift. transmissions.

Outputs:
Coupe V6
– 250 kW at 6500rpm, 450Nm at 3500-5000 rpm, max 260 kmh, 0-100 kmh 5.3 sec, 9.0L/100km, 209g/km.
Coupe V6 S – 280 kW at 6500 rpm, 460 Nm at 3500-5000 rpm, max 275 kmh, 0-100 kmh 4.9 sec, 9.1L/100km, 213g/km.
Coupe V8 R – 404 kW at 6500 rpm, 680 Nm at 2500-5000rpm, max 300 kmh, 0-100 kmh 4.2 sec, 11.1L/100 kmh, 259g/km.

Chassis: Adjustable double-wishbone front and rear suspension with adaptive dampers on S and R models. Power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering. Ten choices of alloy wheel of 19in and 20in diameter.

Safety: Front and side airbags, dynamic stability control, ABS, electronic braking assist, pedestrian contact sensing.

Connectivity: Quick, easily linked phone and sound streaming systems; intuitive sat nav, mastered in seconds.

Dimensions: L 4470mm, H 1309-1321mm, W 1923mm, W/base 2622mm, F/track 1586-1597mm, R/track 1628-1649mm, weight 1577-1665kg, fuel 72 litres.

Pricing:
F-type Coupe V6
from $125,000
V6 S from $140,000
V8 R from $185,000.
Roadster V6 from $140,000
V6 S from $155,000
V8 S $180,000.

Hot: Paying less for far better looks; even base six is a sweetheart and quick enough, thanks; brilliant handling of sixes and better ride than Roadster. A truly class act.

Not: We still have to wait for even cheaper manuals and fours; not much cabin stowage; naff ‘S' and ‘R' badges. V8 has abrupt throttle.

Verdict: Every coupe is quick and has its place; with the V6 being the Goldilocks or "just right" model.

- The Press

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