The Beast Within The Machine – we put the V8-powered 2015 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe to the test
When the V6 F-Type just won’t do, the 2015 Jaguar F-Type R with a 550-hp V8 supercharged engine capable of 0-100 km/h in just 4.2 seconds should fill the void.
Around North America, including in Calgary, aviation enthusiasts can pay upwards of $3000 to partake in a one hour flight in a vintage World War II Mustang. 2000hp of raw fury propels the P-51 Mustang through the air, and it manoeuvres with such grace and powerful beauty that you will fail to comprehend the physical limits being placed on your body.
The noise from the engine will shatter your ears and the g-forces will drain your blood from where it’s needed and deposit it precisely where it isn’t. This is also the experience you get from the 2015 Jaguar F-Type R, which is the newly released 550hp coupe version of Jaguar’s critically acclaimed roadster.
The beast in this case is the growling, snarling, fire spitting 5.0L supercharged, silky-smooth-revving Jaguar V8, which also contributes 502 foot pound of torque to the experience, which is something to take seriously in a vehicle that is built on an all-aluminium architecture. Jaguar may just as well have thrown a real, living, not-fed-for-thirty-six-hours Jaguar into the F-Type with you. The same sense of excitement and uncertainty at your survival of the experience would be the same. The hairs on your arms and neck will be standing on end in a never ending electrified trance.
The Juxtaposition of Power and Handling (The Warning Sign On The Cage)
This may come as a surprise to people who haven’t actually driven the F-Type, but the F-Type is not a super sharp, race-inspired machine. Even in Race mode, there is still a level of comfort embedded in the suspension that other comparable roadsters and coupes don’t have even in comfort mode. This makes the F-Type incredibly enjoyable to drive for long stretches of time, and is part of what makes it so fabulous to own.
Under the hood
The original 2014 F-Type roadster was designed around the 380hp 3.0L supercharged V6 S engine, and the result was a perfect blend of power and handling. It is possible to drive the V6 S hard and to have extreme fun without really exceeding the limits of the vehicle too quickly. The V6 S is how the F-Type was envisioned. The inclusion of the V8 was to provide a ludicrous option that could compete with the ludicrous competition. As a result, the F-Type is set up for mild to moderate performance. The V8 engine in both its V8 S (495hp) and V8 R applications smashes through this fine tinkering like a sledge hammer through an automotive engineer’s crystal ball.
Thank goodness, though, for ludicrous decision making skills in general, and especially from automotive manufacturers. The V8 R takes a pleasurable experience and turns it into an intense one, which is perfect for drivers who know how to handle a vehicle, and potentially puts the V8 R into the same terrifying widow maker club as the Porsche 911 Turbo S. Everyone else beware.
The Experience Made Tangible
To begin with, if you’re going to order the coupe version of the F-Type, make absolutely sure to order it with the Panoramic Glass Roof. The only negative thing about the original convertible was a moderate sense of claustrophobia when the roof was up, and the cabin space hasn’t increased any with the addition of a permanent roof in the coupe version.
The Panoramic Glass Roof, however, fills the entire roof and creates the effect that you are actually sitting in a convertible with the top down. It is incredibly done, and is bar-none the most impressive application of a glass roof in an automobile. It achieves this without even being open-able.
F-Type R Driving Impressions
Hit the Start button and the beast roars to life. The ECU even throws a bunch of unburnt fuel into the exhaust system on start up to help get your day started right. At first it is difficult to hear the difference between the V6 S and the V8 R, but opening up the exhaust baffle via the button on the centre console will help you make the differentiation later, when you’ve got the throttle pinned.
You now take a moment to choose how you want to set up your F-Type. You can leave it in comfort and automatic modes, or you can toggle the Race Mode switch and pull the shifter into drive and then left into Sport mode, in which case you have full manual control over the gear changes. If you’re driving the V8 R, the choice should be easy (go with Race/Manual).
Leaving your driveway feels like nothing unusual. The F-Type absorbs curbs, bumps, manhole covers and everything else as if it was a luxury sedan, and without a modest dose of throttle, the engine doesn’t even make much fuss. You will, however, wake up the entire community when you accelerate to even the sedate speed of 50km/h.
Merging onto the highway becomes another matter entirely. You owe it to yourself to pin the throttle on the on-ramp, with the exhaust baffles open. This is when you swear there’s a wild, 200lb feline leaping towards the back of your neck from the cubby space at the back of the F-Type, and what’s worse, you can do nothing to get away from it because the g-force of the acceleration is holding you in place.
Drivers already on the highway will swerve out of the right lane simply as a reaction to the roar coming from the F-Type (this, of course, makes merging safer). There is quite a bit of suspension movement in the F-Type, so the car will squat noticeably to the rear. If you’re still in the corner, this is an excellent time to appreciate just how much grip is being achieved by your outside rear tyre.
Once you’ve finished the manoeuvre you lift your foot all the way off the throttle (because you’re going way too fast at this point) and take note that you’re breathing like you just raced Usain Bolt (and won) and that your heart rate must be very near the limit of what is survivable for you.
The odd thing about the F-Type is that the engine alone is responsible for this physical reaction. The handling is refined and is capable of adapting to the changing forces on the vehicle, so within reasonable use, the F-Type suspension is capable of containing most of the forces acting upon the car.
You can drive the F-Type hard into a bumpy corner and the car will bounce and recoil like a plump person on a trampoline, but it is all contained by the car’s electronics, so the experience is manageable. The damping is exceptional, which allows so much freedom in the initial shock absorption, which in turn makes the F-Type a very comfortable grand tourer.
If you’re really enthusiastic about motoring, you’ll get your F-Type R with the optional $13,500 carbon-ceramic brakes, which fill the entire 20” cavity of the stock wheels at both the front and rear. The initial contact phase with Jaguar’s carbon-ceramic brakes provides enough travel on the brake pedal to make the motion akin to driving with standard brakes. Some systems will stop the vehicle immediately when the pedal is simply touched, which makes braking smoothly difficult.
Jaguar’s system is smooth, and it takes very little effort to lock up the front wheels (which, thankfully, lock before the rears do). The sensitivity through both the steering wheel and the brake pedal is so acute that you can actually feel the individual grooves in the tread gripping and sliding over the asphalt. You will also spend less time braking in general, because decelerating from any speed to a stop requires only half a second at most with the carbon-ceramic option. It’s a peculiar sensation that makes the vehicle feel as if it has no mass.
After you settle into the F-Type, you can start to experiment with the acoustical nature of the car, which is perhaps it’s defining characteristic. You can literally make the car produce very specific tones by adjusting your gearing and rpm range under medium to full throttle. This quality alone makes the convertible such a sensational motoring experience. Happily, with the coupe, the engineers have turned the cubby space at the back of the cabin into a resonance chamber, so the same auditory experience is available with the coupe.
With the V6 engines, you have more time under heavy throttle to listen to the beautiful sounds that the F-Type makes. The sound is clean and precise and is akin to hearing a prima donna perform Mozart’s Queen of the Night Aria. This is all thanks to Termingoni of Italy’s exhaust tuning. With the V8s, the same precision is heard, but the sound is less clean and more throaty. Monstrous would be an apt description, with overtones of impending doom. The sensation is still exquisite, although you have considerably less time to experience it because of the rapid rate of acceleration.
Finesse Versus Brute Power, Coupe Versus Convertible
The V6 S is the perfect composition of power, beauty, performance, and sound. It’s how the F-Type was meant to be and it should not be underrated simply because the V8 exists. However, the V8 provides such a crazy amount of power that it is hard not to be enchanted by it, especially when the price point is almost half that of its rivals, the Porsche 911 Turbo S and the Audi R8 V10. The choice essentially comes down to your specific price point, and whether you prefer finesse or brute power.
In terms of the coupe versus convertible dilemma, Jaguar has happily resolved 90% of that problem for you by offering the addition of the Panoramic Glass Roof. You simply have to decide whether or not you want the wind in your hair while you’re driving (and if your climate is suitable for such driving). There is a tiny sensation of increased longitudinal rigidity and a lower centre of mass over the rear axle in the coupe version, owing to the presence of aluminium roll cage members passing through the cockpit behind the seat backs and the lack of mechanical gear for operating the retractable soft top.
These will certainly be significant characteristics if you use the F-Type for track days. The carbon-ceramic brakes are definitely not necessary, but are kind of cool if you can afford them, and will be handy on a track.
The styling of the coupe is incredible, even from the inside looking out. The driver and passenger windows cut an aggressive line, which contributes to the overall pervading feeling that the F-Type coupe is a meaner and more aggressive version of the convertible. The 550hp 5.0L V8 actually feels right at home in this beautiful beast of a machine.
The paradox of choice is a term used by psychologists to describe the situation in which humans experience increasing levels of difficultly in making a choice amongst many options as the number of options increases. Researchers have also found that people are less satisfied with their choice when other options exist. Remarkably, if you present people with no choice at all, they are often happiest with what they have received.
Jaguar has created a paradox of choice scenario with its F-Type convertible and coupe offerings. No matter which one you choose, and regardless of the engine package, you’ll be extremely happy, but also left wondering what it would have been like to own the other. This is possibly the only situation in life where you would be justified in convincing your spouse that you have to buy both. Researchers call that mutual gain and (you’ll be happy to know) it’s highly successful in creating happiness and strengthening marriages. Trust the researches at Jaguar in this.