The Jaguar F-Type Coupé V8R is sleek, silky smooth and supercharged… the most powerful version of the luxury marque’s new sports car excites Tiff Needell
Just over a year ago this column heralded the arrival of the much-awaited Jaguar F-Type. At long last there was a spiritual successor to the E-Type and no one was disappointed when its elegant lines first came into view. The one niggle was that only open-top models were available. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait long for the eye-catching coupé to arrive.
Convertible versions of cars are always inherently less rigid and the F-Type is no exception. With its aluminium monocoque construction fully formed by the roof, this coupé is the most torsionally rigid Jaguar ever made, and that means more precision in its handling and better feedback for the driver. The car’s fastback sloping roof contrasts with the aggressive rear wheel arches, which are now exaggerated by the upward slope of the back windows.
When the F-Type was launched it was compared to the Porsche 911 as the benchmark car to beat but to be fair, it’s aimed at a market that is less focused on the track. With its race-tuned suspension and manual gearbox, the 911 was never going to be beaten on a flat-out lap time but when it comes to head-turning, long-distance cruising the F-Type has it all. But just in case you want a little more action from your Jaguar the carmaker has now produced an R coupé with a 550 horsepower version of its all-aluminium, supercharged V8 lurking under that long, chiselled bonnet. This is as much power as any Jaguar has ever had and just 10hp short of Porsche’s 911 Turbo S – and yet it costs about £55,000 less.
I drove the Jaguar F-Type Coupé V8R for the first time when opening the Top Gear Festival in Barbados, arriving in front of the audience wreathed in tyre smoke after a pirouette of power. I was then the first driver to set a lap time round the newly refurbished Bushy Park racetrack. The silky-smooth, eight-speed automatic gearbox that is so relaxing to use on the road remains mildly frustrating on a track but the handling was perfect.
While my ownership of the circuit’s lap record was unlikely to last long – Lewis Hamilton would shortly appear in his 2013 Mercedes Grand Prix car – it was still a circuit where I could fully appreciate the extra response of this flagship Jaguar F-Type Coupé V8R.
A flick of the Dynamic switch stiffened the suspension and sharpened up both throttle and steering inputs. As I switched to the Trac DSC system, the R coupé responded to every little input – the nose of the car reacting instantly to even the smallest movement through the suede-covered steering wheel.
With the second generation of E-diff managing the traction, I was able to hold glorious long drifts, showboating to the crowd and never for a moment thinking I wasn’t in full control – and all the time the cleverly designed bypass valves in the exhaust system brought V8 music to my ears. When it was time to head home at gentle cruising speed, I flicked the Dynamic switch back to Standard and turned to the audio system for the soundtrack.
With the high-performance V8R, Jaguar really is flying the flag for British manufacturing.