First Drive: 2015 Jaguar F-TYPE Coupe
Cars used to be savage.
Cars used to put hair on a man’s chest. They used to rip and roar about with much fury, with no consideration for comfort or polar bears. They used to be evocative and raw and unpredictable. They used to be things of passion.
Now, though, cars are softer.
They whiz about, not with crossness but with coherence, kissing the trees and protecting the ice caps. Cars no longer embolden men; they simply move them from place to place.
Now, though, there’s come a car that harks back to that now-ancient era of masculine motoring. A car that not only tears at your soul but also brings tears to your eye just to look at it.
And – luckily for us – it has a menacing chrome wildcat on the grille; it’s the 2015 Jaguar F-TYPE Coupe.
I am utterly in awe of the bodylines of the Jaguar F-TYPE, both the Convertible and the Coupe form.
The Coupe, though, is my favorite. Not only does it protect my fair, English skin from the sun’s death rays, it also adds a third line to the car’s profile, which – to me – completes the design.
Not to disrupt the swooping line that runs from the A-pillar down to the tail of the car, Jaguar used one single piece of aluminum, the cost of which to repair after a fender-bender must be staggering. The visual payoff, however, is priceless.
The Coupe looks menacing and elegant. And, depending on how you configure the car, it can look either like an innovative design concept or like a classic Jag, inspired by its predecessors.
To experience the 2015 F-TYPE Coupe, Jaguar flew a few of us automotive journalists to Lleida, Spain.
When we deplaned, and we journalists stumbled blurry-eyed toward the awaiting Jags, we were intercepted by several cheery Jaguar representatives. They paired us up, handed us a set of keys, and told us to follow the satellite navigation for 140 miles to the MotorLand Aragón racetrack.
Thankfully, the F-TYPE Coupe’s looks aren’t its only selling point. There’s also the noise. And what a noise it is … The Jaguar F-TYPE Coupe, just like the Convertible, makes a vicious, crackling, and insatiable growl from either of its supercharged engines.
Recalling the sound of 15 of the cars firing and revving all at once, as they departed the rural airport still brings tears to my eyes.
I feared that adding a proper roof to the British sports car would mute some of the Jag’s exuberant exhaust notes. Delightfully, it hasn’t. No, the 380-horsepower supercharged 3.0-liter V6 is just as boisterous as before.
On the way to the track, we journalists danced around the rural roadways, testing the limits of the V6S, both in terms of 0 to 60 time (4.8 seconds) but also top speed (171 mph), creating a chorus of crepitating carbons. Both – I’d say – are both dead-on.
After just over 140 kilometers of hardline acceleration and exhaust exuberance, we arrived at the track. Once there, we traded our V6S keys for a set of V8R keys and told to meet on the starting line.
“More brake pressure! More brake pressure!” my British driving instructor hollered at me, stomping an invisible brake pedal in the passenger wheel well, as the car entered into a sharp right-hander a bit too fast.
“Sorry! Sorry!” I yelled back, stomping harder on the brakes.
In order to demonstrate the track capabilities of the F-TYPE, Jaguar let us journalists loose on the track in the top-of-the-line V8R, each with our own professional instructor riding shotgun.
Jaguar assured us that these men were not riding along to slow us down, but to rather speed us up, giving us guidance on how to more quickly traverse the track. Mine, though, was obviously keen to keep me from pushing past my talent and into a wall.
Each of the track-going Jags we were careening through MotorLand’s corners had been fitted with the optional carbon ceramic brake package, which, thanks to their heat-dissipating properties, always had the same feel, no matter the braking load. To the chagrin of my instructor, I found this out first-hand after some full force braking.
Unlike the F-TYPE Convertible, the Coupe is far more composed on the track – and the ceramic brakes aren’t the only reason why.
Firstly, the Coupe is a staggering 80 percent stiffer than the Convertible. And, secondly, the Coupe features a new system for Jaguar called Torque Vectoring by Braking system (TVBB), which will eventually make its way into all performance-oriented Jags.
Taking into account steering angle, data from an onboard yaw sensor, and throttle position, TVBB will automatically brake the inside wheels in a corner to negate understeer.
Imperceptible to the driver at track speeds, the result is a car that is much less prone to understeer and more tail-happy and controllable than before. Get on the throttle coming out of a corner, and the F-TYPE Coupe R loves to kick its rear end out.
In most cars, this is a frightening prospect. In the R, though, it’s just a larf. The F-TYPE Coupe is quickly corrected and managed at high speed, especially considering the power. And what sensation power it is.
The 2015 Jaguar F-TYPE Coupe R is powered by the same supercharged 5.0-liter V8 as the V8S Convertible. In Coupe R form, it makes 550 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque. Conservative estimates by Jaguar peg the R’s 0 to 60 times at 4.0 seconds. Just from the seat of my pants, I’d wager it down around 3.5.
“Too early! That shift was too early!” My racecar driver hollered at me over the V8’s roaring and popping exhaust note. Surprised, I look down and I’d only let the revs hit 4000 before tapping the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifter of the eight-speed automatic gearbox, which is truly one of the crispest, most confident automatic gearboxes on the planet.
My excuse for the early shifts, though? The noise of the exhaust and acceleration overwhelmed my senses, which forfeited me a couple thousand more revs of torque before the 7500 rpm redline. This isn’t to say driving the F-TYPE Coupe is taxing; it’s not.
Other 500+ horsepower European power coupes leave you feeling sweaty, with your adrenaline pumping, and head spinning at the end of a track session. That’s because these cars, while incredible to drive, require a lot of nerve and attention to operate properly on the edge. The F-TYPE Coupe doesn’t.
Unlike the German competition, the F-TYPE still features hydraulic power steering, which is twitchy, weighted perfection. It might add to the Coupe’s near-4,000-pound curb weight, but it’s well worth the sacrifice.
Eventually the Jaguar reps ripped the V8R keys from our hands and we journalists were sent back out onto the twisty open roads. While very impressive on the speedway, there’s something about the wild unknown of a rural road that fits in perfectly with the F-TYPE Coupe’s spirit.
What few people there are on the roads of rural Spain are mostly farmers. These farmers, as it turns out, don’t obey the lane markers. Come into a 60-kph corner at 120 and you might well find tractor on your side of the road.
Stomp on the brakes, call up a quick downshift, throw the car to the right, and the Jag crackles, and weaves but keeps on rushing. While unnerving, the Jag seems to lap up such drastic maneuvers.
It’s not to say the F-TYPE Coupe is flawless. Like anything worth loving, it has its problems. F-TYPE models fitted with the standard suspension bob and float a bit too much over uneven road surfaces for my taste.
I suspect, in order to counteract the stiffened body and avoid putting buyers into back braces, Jag engineers bolted up softer suspension than one might normally call for in such a coupe. While these cushier coils might soften the blow, it gives the F-TYPE a bit of an irregular feel, especially up against to its chief competitor, the Porsche Cayman S.
I’m pleased to report, though, if you upgrade to the F-TYPE sport suspension, you’ll sort this problem altogether … without bruising your spleen.
The coolest coupe around
Unlike the Porsche Cayman or the 911, the chief competitors of the F-TYPE, the Jag is a complete cad. It’s gorgeous, loud, and enlivening; there’d never be a day when you’d saunter out to your garage and be disappointed to see it.
The Porsches, though brilliant to drive feel a bit too much like an instrument of going fast. It’s a fine feeling but it’s not very engaging. The Porsches just don’t offer that day in, day out feeling of being remarkable. But the Jaguar F-TYPE Coupe … it does.