Sometimes, you just have to say “Fuck it. I’m going for a drive.”
The best kind of car for doing that remains the pure sports car. Case in point: the 2015 Jaguar F-Type R. It’s one of the finest sources of automotive therapy you can find.
A sports car — a true sports car, mind you, the kind with two usable seats at most and ideally a roof that goes away — is inherently a selfish purchase. Contrary to how the word is almost always used, I don’t mean “selfish” in a negative way here. This selfish experience is a good one.
Oh sure, you’ll engage in all sorts of mental gymnastics to justify owning a sports car, to yourself or to whoever else you’re accountable to. You’ll find ways to make this selfish purchase seem less impractical, less selfish. I’ve worked really hard for this. Look, it even has a decent trunk. It has a great safety rating. Sure, it can fit a car seat!
But at the end of the day, buying a sports car is something you’re really only doing for yourself. This is because the true sports car still delivers the best form of automotive therapy available.
This was what weighed on my mind the week I had an F-Type R. The most I can say for its practicality is “the trunk isn’t bad.” That doesn’t matter. I’ll take the supercharged 5.0-liter V8, 550 horsepower, and a convertible roof instead, thanks.
We live in an age when many sedans, crossovers, SUVs and even wagons will shame sports cars of the past in terms of speed, power and dynamics. What was once the sole purview of high-end, dedicated, compromised sports machines is now shared by AMG sport utilities and 640 HP sedans. Porsche makes SUVs these days and they’re very good.
Hell, sports cars are barely even the ideal status symbols anymore for people looking to show off a bit — look at what cash-flush Americans are buying in record numbers every month. It’s big, expensive luxury crossovers. The sports car’s very existence seems in question.
But somehow, some way, it just seems like the dedicated sports car still do those aforementioned driving dynamics better than their sedan and SUV counterparts. A CTS-V is great, a Z06 will always do better. Same with a Cayenne and a 911. Chalk it up to less weight, or a lower center of gravity, or the lack of compromises engineers and designers must imbue when crafting such a purpose-driven vehicle.
For that dwindling segment of the population that looks at driving as an enjoyable activity rather than a way to get around — or show off — the sports car still does it best.
I know the F-Type R delivers a better driving experience than any fast SUV or overpowered luxury sedan I’ve ever driven. It’s certainly prettier, too. When I first drove the F-Type, a supercharged V6 coupe, I called it the best-looking new car you can buy today. The roadster isn’t quite as sharp as the coupe, but that’s true here too. The BMW i8 is a close second, yet for entirely different reasons. (Hey, look. Another sports car.)
It’s hard for me to directly compare this V8 F-Type R to the V6 S, since nearly a year sits between those drives. What I can tell you is the R is a whole order of magnitude faster than the S was, and that thing was no slouch. The R is brutally, abundantly, shockingly fast. Almost excessively so, if you believe in the concept of excess as it applies to power and speed. It’s not supercar fast but it has moments where it feels in the same realm.
The other big news is that now, the V8 F-Type is all-wheel drive only. (There’s a manual version now too, but for the rear-drive V6 models only. I have no complaints about the ZF 8-speed auto but I’m extremely curious what this car is like with a stick. Andrew Collins says it’s more fun, which is not surprising.) I feared that this would somehow diminish the character of a car I came to love last year. It didn’t.
It’s still sublimely agile, even tail-happy at times, delightfully free of the Audi-style understeer I worried would dampen its abilities. Jaguar made this thing behave like a rear-wheel drive car most of the time and god bless them for it.
Notice I said “most of the time.” With all-wheel drive the F-Type now launches without any sort of tire-screeching furor. Put your foot down, and it just… goes. Almost terrifyingly so, like a missile. There’s a little less drama to its acceleration now, and I do miss some of that.
You can get your dramatic fix by hitting the active exhaust button (the “Ear-Splitting Psycho Asshole Mode” button, as I liked to call it) and summoning up all the tremendous aural force the F-Type has to offer.
It doesn’t have an exhaust note, per se, so much as it sounds like you’ve recited an incantation that calls forth a horde of shrieking, howling, cackling demons upon the world to devour the souls of your fellow motorists in horrific fashion. In addition to being one of best-looking cars on the road, it’s also among the best-sounding.
All these things — the noise, the power, the looks, the lack of extra seats except for one other human being if you want — are what make the F-Type so satisfying to drive. This goes back to that concept I mentioned earlier: automotive therapy.
Maybe it’s stress at work, or long-running bullshit with a friend or a family member, or just the generalized irritations that come with everyday life. A good, wide open road free of distractions or other cars or police radar with an F-Type R is better than any pills your doctor can prescribe. Doing it in a fast, two-seat sports car with the top down just makes it happen in ways that a fast sedan or SUV never really can, no matter how hard they try.
Nobody else, no outside interference, just you and the car. Being selfish is good here. Do something for yourself. You’ll live longer, maybe.
The downside is that all that automotive therapy, like most therapy, comes with a hefty price tag. Options like blind spot monitoring (which quit working halfway through every drive — what, you expect a Jag to work right all the time?) brought this car to a staggering $120,395.
You, the astute reader, will note that that’s almost the price of two Corvette Stingrays, a car that’s as good as or better than the F-Type in pretty much every single way. But that’s a loaded F-Type, and similar kicks can easily be had with lesser models. I know this because I’ve done it. And if nothing else, the F-Type makes a case for the relevance of the modern pure sports car.
It may even be the future of human-driven driving. It’s the one thing that doesn’t fit into the world of autonomous taxi-pods the tech world’s thought leaders think we should all be riding around in within a few years, or decades. One can easily see the value in an autonomous sedan, or an autonomous sport utility vehicle, an autonomous minivan… but an autonomous sports car? What’s the point?
The world can have their autonomous pods, but if the future has sports cars like the F-Type in it, I won’t mind much. That’s where I will be.
All photos credit Kurt Bradley
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