Life, etc

Jaguar F-Type Coupé V6 S: Leaping forward

By Deon Schoeman 28 August 2014

The Leaper – Jaguar’s iconic mascot – has never been as apt a symbol of the marque’s progress as now. And no car epitomises the brand’s fast-forward momentum as succinctly as the F-Type sports car. Launched in convertible form last year, the F-Type has now been joined by the tin-top F-Type Coupé – arguably an even more arresting machine. DEON SCHOEMAN drives the Jaguar F-Type Coupé V6 S.

Of all the new cars launched during 2013, surely one of the most desirable in terms of sheer aesthetic appeal was the Jaguar F-Type Convertible – a two-seater roadster with the kind of sexy lines and muscular proportions that can make grown men drool.

As it turned out, the F-Type was more than just handsome: it’s pretty handy in the dynamic department, too. Enter the F-type Coupe – nominally the tin-top version of the Convertible, but with a personality all its own.

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It always seemed a little strange that Jaguar chose to launch the Convertible ahead of the Coupé. Usually, it’s the other way round, but perhaps Jag felt that the drop-top market was bigger, and should be served first.

But for purists, the coupé promised to be the more focussed, the more dynamically appealing car. Why? Because the hardtop is lighter, stronger and more rigid than it soft-top sibling. And those advantages are expressed in a look that is somewhat more resolute, too.

While the Convertible is film star glamorous, the F-Type Coupe has the stance and the presence of a finely honed athlete. It looks more serious, more purposeful … and faster, too.

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The front end, with its hungry grille, evil-eye headlights and gill-like cooling vents, is as aggressive as the convertible model. But the real visual muscle is at the rear, where the big wheels, flared haunches and short overhangs create an impression of pent-up energy, ready to punch the car towards the waiting horizon.

Of course, the other major styling difference between coupé and convertible is the roof, which swaps foldaway canvas for a fixed metal structure that transforms the entire appearance of the car. The smooth sweep of the roofline from windscreen to rear wheel arch adds both grace and aggression to the F-Type’s silhouette.

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Seen from above, the roof’s curve tapers inwards, allowing those pronounced haunches to embrace the cockpit, and emphasising the coupé’s wind-cheating aerodynamics. Rear on, the slim strips of the LED tail lights and the trumpet-like flare of the twin exhaust tailpipes represent powerful visual signatures.

Less apparent is the all-aluminium construction of the F-Type, and the commensurate savings in weight and unsprung mass it represents. The welded and bonded monocoque is not only light, but also extremely rigid, providing an excellent platform for the car’s suspension, and promising exceptional construction integrity.

Like the ragtop, the coupe is unashamedly a two-seater, although it does provide plenty of room for two. High-backed bucket seats, and the raised centre console, cocoon both driver and passenger in comfort, while the finishes and materials look and feel classy — and crafted. Big, round analogue main dials, and the flat-bottomed steering wheel, underline that this is a driver-focussed cockpit.

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But it’s a high-tech place, too. The centre stack is dominated by a touch-screen display that provides intuitive access to the Jaguar’s audio, Bluetooth telephony, navigation and vehicle set-up systems. The steering wheel features multifunction controls to reduce the conventional switchgear count, and those analogue instruments are augmented by lots of digitally presented information, too.

The rear’s large tailgate is lighter than expected, thanks to its composite construction, and provides access to a boot that, while substantially larger than the Convertible’s shoebox-tiny space, still isn’t exactly generous.

The culprit is a spare wheel, which spoils much of the usable space, and will most likely be removed by most owners. A puncture sealant kit would, frankly, be a more practical option. Even without that spare wheel, the claimed cargo space of 406 litres seems somewhat optimistic – but then, the F-Type Coupé isn’t exactly the kind of car people buy for practical reasons …

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As is the case with the ragtop, the coupé comes in three drivetrain flavours. At the top end, there’s the brutal, 405kW V8 R. By comparison, the most junior model is the 250kW V6.

But occupying the sweet spot in the middle is the V6 S, which runs the same three-litre supercharged V6, but with the wick turned up to deliver 280kW of max power, coupled to a 460Nm torque peak.

In classic sports car fashion, drive is to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox with manual override, shift paddles and a quick shift action. The gearbox might not have the outright percussive precision of the in-vogue dual-clutch devices, but it’s refined and swift in normal use.

Switch the Jaguar to Dynamic mode, which also alters throttle mapping, steering assistance and opens up the exhaust for a rortier soundtrack, and the auto box shifts with a rapid-fire incisiveness that is almost racecar-like. The crackle of the exhausts on trailing throttle, and the throttle blips on downshifts, only add to the experience …

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With 280kW propelling around 1,600 kg of car, for a power to weight ratio of 175kW/ton, you don’t need to be Albert Einstein to realise that this F-Type Coupe is no slouch in the performance stakes.

In straightline terms, it gets to a 100 kays in just under 5 sec, while if anything, the quoted 275km/h top speed seems a little conservative. But that’s only one aspect – perhaps more important is how wieldy, how punchy, the car feels in the cut-and-thrust of everyday driving.

On the move, and set to Dynamic mode (which, in my opinion, should be the default setting), the coupé feels wieldy and settled, with a suspension that’s surprisingly compliant on all but the most compromised surfaces.

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The steering has ample heft (it almost feels too heavy by modern standards) and decent precision, allowing confident turn-in. There’s plenty of direct-line feedback from the chassis, and the power deliver from the crisp throttle allows authoritative overall control.

The Jaguar lacks the outright finesse and surgical precision of a Porsche Cayman S, for instance, partly because the F-Type’s driving position is so much further back, and because the Porsche’s mid-mounted engine configuration creates a different centre of momentum.

But the British two-seater is none the worse for it: it’s a thrilling car to drive, gathering momentum with a fierce intensity, and rushing through fast sweeps with imperious aplomb. Tighter corners require a little more slow-in, fast-out circumspection, with the traction control curbing overexuberance into the tight.

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Switch the stability control to track mode, and the rear will be allowed more leeway, and if you switch all assistance off, you can expect plenty of tail-sliding action, with rear tyre wear to match …

The F-Type is always rewarding to drive, even over long distances, when the two-door’s effortless pace allows it to cover ground with assured ease. In this role, the inherent refinement of the Jaguar shines through: noise levels are acceptable if not completely muted, and you get to savour the advantages of niceties such as the efficient climate control system and the cruise control.

In V6 S guise, the Jaguar F-Type Coupe is everything one would expect of a modern sports car costing close on a million bucks: it’s head-turningly handsome, quicksilver rapid, luxuriously equipped, and truly entertaining in the twisties.

It’s docile and user-friendly around town, challenging at the limit, and effortless in cruise mode. In short, this Jaguar is as refined, or as hard-core, as you allow it to be. And that makes it a sports car for all seasons. DM

 

Jaguar F-Type Coupé V6S

Engine

2,995cc V6, supercharged

Power

280kW @ 6,500rpm

Torque

460Nm @ 3,500rpm

Gearbox

Eight-speed automatic

0-100 km/h

4.9sec

Top speed

275km/h

Fuel consumption

9.5 litres/100 km (combined cycle)

CO2 emissions

226g/km

Retail price

R982,404

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