Road test: Jaguar marks the end of an era with head-turning F-Type R Coupe
This is a strict two-seater with a taut chassis, superb brakes and enough on-board electronics to keep you out of trouble
Jaguar made headlines recently by declaring it will be electric-only by 2025 – not just hybrid but the whole silent nine yards.
For a marque that built arguably the finest in-line six-cylinder engine in the post-war XK, which lasted through to the 1990s, and the opulent V12 in the 1960s E-Type, this was crushing news for purists, but also inevitable.
While those beautiful engines were replaced by the current 5-litre V8, this, too, has been served its retirement papers to make way for battery power, so it was time to farewell it in the new, 575bhp, supercharged, F-Type R Coupe.
Up against the AMG GT, Aston Martin Vantage and Bentley Continental GT, the F-Type R has picked a tough fight, but this street brawler – with looks that convey its feisty, feline moniker better than any other Jag, backed by a sonorous bark from its quad pipes that shock neighbouring dogs and passing pedestrians – has a presence the others work hard to match.
The facelift of the 2021 model has given it a sinister presence with horizontal, slimline headlights, making the previous lights look bulky by comparison, and adds to its overall lower and wider-looking nose.
The bodywork from the front doors back and its profile remain unchanged, but the subtle tweaks made to both front and rear bumpers along with the new tail lights make all the difference, elevating it from a boulevard poseur to the most aggressive-looking car in its class.
The driving position is a classic pose of older GTs that’s fast disappearing in a world of crossovers and SUVs, with a lie-on-the-floor and legs stretched forward approach. It engages the driver from the very first moment with a high centre console and gives the impression of the driver being an integral part as you sink into its cosy leather seats.
The 10-inch infotainment screen, climate control and gear selector are largely unchanged from the previous model with the inbuilt navigation, Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay phone connections still needing a cable rather than a charge pad.
A 12.3-inch digital instrument display welcomes you as you fire it up, offering a choice of gauge and navigation displays, but the F-Type R still uses the previous generation of Jaguar’s infotainment system that lacks the touchscreen control module. I was OK with that as I prefer hard switches over the vagueness of touchscreen buttons that often fail on first use.
This is a strict two-seater with no stowage behind the seats, so anything other than a phone and a wallet needs to go in the boot, which itself is for small items only if your car is fitted with a spare wheel. Those with tyre repair kits only, like our test car, at least allowed for the week’s groceries.
However, the moment you press the glowing red start button, you’re reminded that such practicalities is not what the F-Type R is about.
The V8 barks into life and, thankfully, the tailpipes default to quiet mode for start-up, though the switch is more like a choice between loud and really loud rather than one to keep the neighbours happy.
The F-Type R replaces the SVR to trim the V8 range to a single model; however, it adds an eight-speed automatic transmission with all-wheel drive that provides plenty of grip on all corners despite feeling decidedly rear-wheel drive in its road manners.
With the added grunt and a healthy 700Nm of torque, the 2021 F-Type R gets to 100 kilometres per hour in 3.7 seconds, on its way to a top speed of 300kph, despite carrying a few extra kilos over the SVR at 1,818 kilograms.
Mash the throttle and without turbos, the performance is instant and linear, winding out to 6500rpm without hesitation. It’s a welcome reminder that superchargers don’t lag like turbos and the eight-speed box slips smoothly between gears using the paddle shifts in Sport or Dynamic mode.
The aforementioned rear-wheel drive behaviour manifests in touches of oversteer on the exit of corners, while you can wash out any understeer into a corner with sudden lift off the throttle to point the nose in the right direction.
The old driving habits of punting a car with more power than traction on rough country roads come back into play, but it gives the best of both worlds. The F-Type R lets you think you’re doing the hard work, but then backs you up with a taut chassis, superb brakes and enough on-board electronics to keep you out of trouble. It’s one of the most fun, big GT cars I’ve driven in a long time.
If Jaguar’s current EV, the I-Pace, is an indication, then the company’s future zero-emission products will be polar opposites to the F-Type R. If you’re a Jag-o-phile who loves the low, sleek lines of a big coupe and good old V8 grunt, then you cannot pass up this final opportunity to grab this cat while she still purrs.
Updated: March 9, 2021 08:26 PM