There are only a handful of names that populate the short list of sports car favorites. Typically German- or Italian-made, blurs of British racing green haven't mingled with the familiar white, yellow, red, blue, and silver choices for some time.
Jaguar hopes to change all that with its latest model, the F-type Coupe. A radical departure from its current grand tourer offering, the XKR, the F-type was touted as a more performance-oriented model, stripped of the heft, luxury and frivolities to focus on driving pleasure, much like its popular ancestor, the E-type once did.
As such, Jaguar Cars, Inc. (JCI) recently held its “Jaguar F-Type Experience” at the Clark International Speedway, where media and special guests would get the chance to drive the F-Type Coupé.
It boasts of all-aluminium construction, with styling (long bonnet, sloping rear) that hints of its historic E-Type ancestor, complemented by ample power under the hood, and a menacing exhaust note to match.
The Jaguar F-Type Coupé is built on the design of the C-X16 concept sports Coupé and the F-Type Convertible which won the 2013 World Car Design of the Year award. The choice of aluminium construction was made to create an extremely rigid body with low mass.
Inside, the F-Type features an interior with supportive sporty seats trimmed in soft leather, as well as the latest infotainment and navigation system. The central mound is practically elbow height, also swatched in leather. Its distinctive grab handle practically serves a divider between the driver and passenger side. And while most of the newer Jaguar's have adopted the rotary gear selector, the F-type retains the familiar stick. Track mode is marked by a checkered flag button instead of the usual “S”. Best of all, there's also a interesting selection of options from a panoramic moon roof, red leather upholstery, or power adjustable seat bolsters.
Locally, it is offered in two versions; the F-Type R Coupé, propelled by a 550hp 5-liter supercharged V8 engine; or the F-Type S Coupé, motivated by a 3-liter supercharged V6 engine with 380hp.
With sticky Pirelli P Zero tires bringing the power to the ground, the supercharged V8 will accelerate from 0-100 km/h in a claimed 4.0 seconds, and on to an electronically limited top speed of 300 km/h. The F-Type S is only slower by 0.8 seconds (4.8 seconds claimed), capable of reaching a top speed of 275 kph.
The easiest way to distinguish the two is by the tailpipes. The V8 features four tailpipes shoehorned into the rear diffuser. The V6 features two centrally-mounted pipes. With either choice of engine, the exhaust note is still delightful. The V8, naturally, offers the more spine-tingling chorus, but the V6 is nothing to scoff at, offering a similar roar albeit at a higher pitch.
“We are introducing the Jaguar F-Type to a wider segment, including the younger, more performance-oriented drivers who will appreciate its sportiness, as well as its Jaguar flagship looks,” said Wellington Soong, Chair and President of Jaguar Cars, Inc.
That strategy is evident with a decidedly younger set of clients present. Proof of their confidence in the vehicle, Jaguar prepared a short course for those present, featuring accelerating, braking, emergency avoidance and slalom exercises to show off the F-type’s abilities. There was also a 2.0-liter turbo XE saloon available for test drive for those interested. The lone V8 model was reserved for the acceleration test, easily rocketing to 160 km/h from a standstill with half of Clark Speedway's main straight. Finally, a full track lap with the V6 was granted under the supervision of trained instructors.
Throughout the day, the F-type exhibited itself to be far more agile and grippy than expected — surprising considering it still weights in at around 1,700kg even with an aluminum body — taking in many of the track's turns with speed and confidence. Power from the supercharged V6 was never found wanting. And in spite of its sporty aspirations, is still quite a comfortable and plush cabin to be in.
Jaguar's new F-type is the much needed revival the cat needs in the sports car segment. It's gorgeous, fast, handles well, and still doesn't scrimp on the typical luxuries you'd expect from the British marque. The sound is easily one of the best features of the car, returning a menacing roar be it a V6 or V8. Best of all, it's priced rather competitively, making you think twice before opting for a Porsche or Ferrari.