In terms of automotive beauties, the Jaguar F-Type will most likely go down as one of the most gorgeous cars ever to grace our lowly asphalt. It’s the car that put Jaguar back on the radar for many of us, and I’m sure it’s classed up many a desktop wallpaper, too.
We all have our hero cars, and this one was mine. As soon as I adjusted the seat to as high as it could go, I was all about experiencing the scorching acceleration and the angry, crackling exhaust.
Well, you know what they say about heroes: something something, you should never meet yours, something.
(Full Disclosure: Jaguar dropped a 2016 F-Type R Coupe outside my office for a weekend. For me to do with it whatever I pleased. For free. And then they took it back on Monday morning. It was sad.)
Of all the cars I was most anxious to test when I started this gig, the F-Type topped that list. And because I’m superficial and shallow, it really just came down the looks. The low stance, the pointy little rear and the clean fastback are just the beginning. It’s not a small car, but it still looks compact, somehow. Stocky. Those upward-slanting quad exhaust tailpipes probably have something to do with that.
Smooth lines flow together, broken up neatly in places where your eye needs a break. Underneath the A-pillar, for instance: it seems like that stark and vertical straight line of the door hinge is too aggressive at first, but it works well as a pivot for the two halves of the car.
I’m usually not one for LED running lights, either, but the ones the R Coupe wears, like bold streaks of eyeliner, work. I wasn’t fooling myself into imagining coiled muscles beneath the sleek, silver paint.
The R Coupe has the viciously supercharged 5.0-liter V8 nestled in its hood. It’s a brute of an engine that provides a similar feeling of momentum to falling to the earth because you just jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. Only you’re accelerating forwards, not downwards.
Jaguar claims that the R Coupe will hit 60 in just 3.9 seconds, aided by an AWD system that helps the car sink its claws good and hard into the pavement and put all 550 of its horsepowers to use.
And my god will you know when it’s using the power because the thing is just earth shattering to listen to. Every word on the lips of anyone who talks about the F-Type, every word ever written about it will mention the sound, and the simple reason for that is because you simply cannot ignore it.
Any competitive 911 or Corvette is loud, but not this type of purposely loud. Those beautiful bastards at Jaguar created what they call a “controlled misfire.” And the most beautiful bastard there, Andrew Lowis, the Gasoline Calibration Manager for the car, explained: “Usually you’d cut the fuel to the cylinders, when the driver lifts off the accelerator. We are delaying the point when we do that and igniting later than we might in normal circumstances. It produces a controlled misfire.”
Hearing that filthy exhaust note detonate from the tailpipes every time you push the throttle will send some pretty stupid thoughts through your head. Thoughts like, Hey, I’ve never done 100 mph down this road before, or I wonder if I can set off that car alarm occupy a more-than-okay part of your brain, but good judgment has to kick in somewhere. (For the record, it’s incredibly easy to do both of those things in this car).
Hammer on that throttle if you dare, and the car leaves behind a smear of rubber on the road and a grin on your face. 60 flashes by before your brain catches up. 120 becomes a reality in between heartbeats. And soon, too soon, it’s time to come back down.
So stomp on the other pedal and those massive carbon ceramic brakes—a $12,000 option—bite ferociously into the speed and drags it down almost as quickly as it went up.
The driving experience goes back to its chillingly normal state and it’s a very strange feeling, because seconds ago this car was a creature hell bent on drawing blood. Though, I’m not imagining it: the thing feels more alert, alive and awake than most other grand tourers.
Part of that comes from the excellent ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic gearbox. Upshifts, of course, are fast and snappy, but downshifts also come immediately and smoothly. A dual-clutch ‘box simply isn’t necessary in the R Coupe because it does perfectly well with what it’s got.
Objectively, the F-Type R Coupe has everything going for it that makes it worthy of being someone’s Favorite Car. It has the dazzling beauty, the wracked vocal chords and the lusty power.
Subjectively, with your ass planted in a sculpted chair behind the windshield, some of the hype gets filtered out.
I only needed to spend one weekend with the R Coupe for the little tendrils of guilt to start worming around in my brain. I felt guilty that I was annoyed by how tight the cabin was, that I felt inconvenienced by the tiny trunk, that the noise was starting to grate on my nerves?
This was my favorite car. I wasn’t supposed to be having such mutinous thoughts about it.
I’m sure readers everywhere are spitting in outrage at this, but before you grab your pitchforks, hear me out:
I love the R Coupe’s looks and sound as much as anyone does, but that’s not really something you experience while sitting in it. Not really. On the outside, it’s all about drama and bravado. Of flared fenders, powerful haunches and pure theater. And the driving experience is lovely because it’s a fantastic GT car.
Only a tour in the R Coupe sounds like the opposite of grand to me. The cabin is tiny and suffocating. The seats don’t recline much. You can’t see shit out of it, especially when that rear spoiler deploys. The trunk space is laughably small.
And where are you going to fully use the 550 HP except on a racetrack or some kind of closed course? I suppose it’s nice to know that you have it, but I’m of the opinion that 300 HP or so is plenty adequate for the average American citizen.
No, this is because the F-Type R Coupe is a car For Everyone Else. It’s for wowing your neighbors when it’s in the driveway. It’s for stopping foot traffic on big, sweeping city avenues. It’s for sealing the deal with your date. It’s for driving away from your wedding. It is beautiful—heartbreakingly so, for nearly everyone who lays eyes on it—but not for you.
For you it is an indulgence: a car that requires you to have something else in your garage that meets all the normal requirements for cars so you can enjoy it when life takes a nonexistent back seat.
The F-Type R Coupe is still one of my favorite cars. That much hasn’t changed, and it will stay that way. But now I can also say that I wouldn’t be able to live with one, either. For me, it is a grand spectacle that is best enjoyed from the orchestra section, third row, middle seat.