Flooring it in a 550 horsepower, all-wheel drive Jaguar F-Type R is hard to describe, what with your brain pressing against the inside of your skull, your eyes bumping up against their sockets.
(Full Disclosure: I was put in charge of this $106,450 by Mike Ballaban who had the car on loan from Jaguar for a week but claimed he was “sick.” I wanted to drive it on the emptiest road possible. I wanted to drive it across Montana. I wanted to drive it across the UAE. I drove it across the Bronx instead.)
It’s easy to quantify the acceleration of a modern performance car — every automaker and reviewer publishes a car’s 0-60 time. This particular Jaguar will make the sprint in something less than four seconds. Jaguar claims 3.9, and independent testing has seen as little as 3.5.
Qualifying that acceleration is more of a challenge. It’s hard, even, to find a place where it can be exploited. I had this car for a day, picking it up from my coworker Mike Ballaban, who was otherwise occupied by lying on his couch with some kind of cold or fever or I don’t really care what.
When you have the opportunity to wheel around a 550 horsepower Jaguar, you make some sacrifices.
I ended up taking it to the most deserted, out-of-the way corner of New York City I know: Hunts Point in the Bronx.
By day Hunts Point houses the self-claimed largest food distribution center in the world. It is the point from which the food for NYC fans out, trucks streaming in and out wholesale.
By night it plays host to street racing, illegal dirtbike riding, and eardrum-shattering stereo demonstrations. The only advice I got from one of the few people at work was to watch out with such a nice car. “Especially a convertible,” the guy manning the gate the meat market mused, “they’ll jump right in with you.”
I ended up getting there in the middle of the afternoon on a Sunday.
There were no street racers. There were no junkies. There were no open markets.
There was only a massive, empty quarter of industrial grey perched above the rest of the city. The scale of the place is like nowhere else in town.
This unmarked four-lane avenue, for instance, is a one-way.
I found the most particularly deserted side street, came to a halt, and floored it.
The raw speed was genuinely, physically disorienting.
It lightens my head and lifts my stomach. It takes the nerve endings in my spine to overload. I feel hollow. I feel inhuman. I feel like colors are blurring.
It’s a body high, a not-quite-dizziness.
I think a lot of the experience comes down to the car’s all-wheel drive. It seemed like Jaguar was “cutting the beast’s heart out” when they made F-Type R all-wheel-drive-only here in the US (as well as 8-speed automatic-only) for this year. It seemed like the car would lose its charm. And yeah, it’s annoying that you can’t do burnouts in this F-Type R, but the car has not lost any character.
It only changed.
You are not only being pushed, but also pulled at the same time under full acceleration. I think it’s this aspect of the AWD that gets you.
That feeling you get in a Tesla Model S? That. The Jaguar does that.
But a Tesla is silent, and stealthy if needed. The Jaguar is thunderous. It is possibly illegally loud.
It was not enough for Jaguar to stick a supercharged 5.0 liter V8 into the F-Type. Jag took the extra measure of tuning the F-Type to dump extra fuel into the engine as you lift off the gas pedal, as this SAE paper explains. That’s why the F-Type (this R especially) gets that crackle and bang.
That’s why Jaguar F-Type R is that guy standing on the bar yelling how drunk he is.
And that’s kind of a pain to deal with.
It’s all excessive - the noise, the speed, the cost. The car is so small, the trunk so limiting, the wheels so fragile, the suspension so firm that you’re always making concessions for it, and it’s always blaring its presence to everyone else. The cabbies cracking jokes with you in traffic, the cops hearing you from a dozen blocks away. It’s a $106,450 pair of shoes made out of crystal. It’s a brick in your face.
The F-Type R, its acceleration in particular, is not what you would be quick to call enjoyable. Startling. Disorienting. Troubling. Those all come to mind.
Maybe intoxicating is the right word.
Photo Credits: Raphael Orlove
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