In the space of the last a few days, I’ve covered 1,200 miles behind the wheel of the F-Type Coupe, a car which its maker states is the most dynamically capable, performance-focused, production Jaguar ever. This was always going to be a tall order, and one that Jaguar certainty couldn’t afford to get wrong.
And during my time at the wheel, I got to know it pretty well and learnt a lot of respect for it. It has pretty much rained non-stop for the entire time and if I’d have been in the soft top, the weather might have put a dampener on things but in the Coupe it didn’t really matter a jot.
In 2013, the F-Type Convertible deservedly won the World Car Design of the Year award, and most would agree that the Coupe is even more beautiful, having taken its styling cues from the stunning C-X16 concept car. Ian Callum, Jaguar’s Director of Design, summed it up rather well when he said “Creating a sports Coupe is the purest of design tasks, and also the most challenging; get it right and aesthetically the result will be as dynamic as the car should be rewarding to drive. In F-Type Coupe, I believe we’ve got it right. The purity of the C-X16 concept has been retained without compromise; the F-Type Coupe’s long bonnet, low roofline and tapering cabin inspire me every time I see it.”
Design and Styling
However many superlatives you throw at the F-Type, there is no substitute for the jaw dropping experience of seeing it in the flesh for the first time. Sure, the Convertible looks pretty, but the Coupe takes it to the next level. But let’s remember, this is not some pampered supercar that cowers in a garage and breaks down at the drop of a hat; it’s poised and ready to eat up endless miles of asphalt at a moment’s notice, and can realistically be used on a daily basis.
The key areas of the bodywork design are made up of three features, which Jaguar calls the ‘heartlines’. Two of the three are shared with the Convertible and these form the muscular front and rear wings. The third is the point of difference between the two and arguably the most alluring; the sweeping Coupe roof that tapers down between the powerful rear haunches.
At an initial cursory glance, you might not even notice the concealed rear spoiler that sits flush to the tailgate when not in operation. It’s there to balance front and rear lift, which it can reduce by up to 120kg when deployed. The spoiler will automatically raise at speeds north of 70 mph but will drop again when speed dips below 50 mph. It can also be manually raised and lowered by a button on the centre console. Cast your eyes downwards and you’ll find what are technically referred to as twin exhaust pipes, but which are really a couple of fog horns that broadcast your approach. But more about those later…
The F-Type is normally cornered by 19 inch alloy wheels dressed in Pirelli P Zeros, but our test car is fitted with the upgraded 20 inch Tornado wheels, one of the many designs available to choose from on the options list. You may imagine a 20 inch rim on a relatively small sportscar would look over the top, but it does actually work with the overall proportions of the F-Type.
When the car is unlocked or in motion, the flanks are completely smooth, thanks to the tuck away door handles. When you open the pillarless door, you’re greeted by a low slung leather swathed cabin that you simply slide down into over the sills, which are complete with optional backlit Jaguar logos on our test car. They might be a £250 extra but they really set the scene and are not as ostentatious at you might think.
I’m a fussy one when it comes to seats, but after spending 1,200 miles on the Jag’s leather, I can confidently confirm that it’s a comfortable place to be. There are just so many different options on the seating controls that if you can’t get it right here then there really is no hope. And, if you opt for the seat memory option, you can programme your ideal position into one of the three memories so that someone doesn’t get in and ruin all your hard work. If you’ve ticked the options box for the £350 heated sets, you can tap the air conditioning temperature dial to set the seat heat level on one of the three settings. Stage one you’ll hardly feel anything and may wonder if it’s on, stage two will have you sweating up in no time at all, and stage three will boil your kidneys in moments. To whom should I speak about getting a bespoke 1.5 setting?
Roof or no roof is the one big question when it comes to the F-Type: do I go for the looks of the Coupe or the open top of the Convertible. One way to get the best of both worlds is to opt for the Coupe with the panoramic glass roof. Whilst it is nice to have this option, it retails at a rather substantial £1,250. But this is not a sun roof; there are no opening sections or moving parts, it is a fixed panel of glass, albeit one that does an exceptional job in flooding the cabin with natural light and making it feel more spacious and airy by doing so. Whether you opt for an aluminium roof or the panoramic glass makes no difference to torsional rigidity, which is identical regardless of which roof you opt for as each is bonded to the main roof structure. Jaguar has industry leading expertise in aluminium and has made the F-Type Coupe the most torsionally rigid production Jag ever.
Normally motoring journalists will praise a car for the spaciousness and brightness such a glass roof brings, but to my mind, on the F-Type Coupe this just wouldn’t be right. The test car came with said glass roof but most of the time I found myself preferring to pull over the cover and enclose myself even more.
With the roof fully closed you start to ‘wear’ the F-Type around you, rather than just being a disconnected driver. You’ll feel so attached to the workings of the F-Type that you’ll soon start viewing it as a colleague rather than a mere machine, savouring the inherent safety of the cocooning cabin.
Behind the Wheel
One of the best things about owning such a car is that you feel like being behind the wheel of an F-Type is a privileged position to be in, like each drive is a treat to be enjoyed rather than a chore. The dashboard is driver focused with all the controls easily at hand and the feeling of driver control is reinforced by the handle running down the passenger side of the centre console. As well as giving passengers something to grip onto in the twisty bits, it’s also quite effective as a barrier to them fiddling about with the dials. I am seriously considering getting a similar handle fitted to all cars I drive.
The bronzed start button on the centre console prods the beast into life and it awakens with a howling bark. If your neighbours don’t know what time you leave for work in the morning, they soon will. As you sit in the cabin and take a glance around, you’ll notice that only the most important bits are highlighted in bronze, the rest of them fading away into the background unless you actively go looking for them. And one of these bronzed slide switches you most certainly will want to seek out is the dynamic mode button, featuring a fluttering chequered flag, which should give you a good hint at its intentions.
In anything less than perfectly dry roads, dynamic mode can be a buttock clenching place to put yourself, but get the right road in the right conditions, or even better get on a track, and this will soon become the control button for your new adrenaline drip. This is particularly likely to cause repeated dependency when combined with the Jag’s highly addictive LSD. No, not that type. I mean the Jag’s simply excellent mechanical limited slip differential.
When you select dynamic mode the dials glow red and a serious sounding message stating ‘dynamic mode confirmed’ is displayed on the screen between the speedo and rev counter. It’s like you’ve just primed some sort of missile – and in a way, you have. However, slide the switch the other way and you’ll reach the other end of the scale by engaging the rain and ice mode, which lets you take everything down a peg or two when the road gets slippery.
The other button on the centre console that will probably see a lot of finger prodding is the active sports exhaust button, which quite simply makes everything even louder. Which, as we all know, equals better. So if you’re happy to announce your arrival from several streets away then do keep this switched on – the novelty doesn’t wear off nearly as quickly as you might think. Anyone with a drop of petrol coursing through their veins will contort their face in pleasure at the array of noises those rear trumpets can produce.
Engine, Gearbox and Performance
And what an engine it is. Beneath that long, alluring bonnet is housed a 3 litre supercharged V6 engine capable of knocking out a 0-60 mph sprint in just 4.8 seconds, and it keeps the needle climbing until 171 mph. Power output is a healthy 380 PS with a whopping 450 Nm of torque.
In comparison to the V6S we’re testing, in the top of the range V8R model you’ll find a 5 litre V8 supercharged engine sporting 550 PS of power and a physics wrenching 680 Nm of torque. This enables acceleration from 0-60 mph in 4.0 seconds, with a limited top speed of 186mph. As you’ll see below though, this increase does come at quite an additional cost.
The auto box is an eight speed from ZF, which changes seamlessly and never leaves you wanting. With a few less gears, manual changes might be a tad more tempting but I much preferred letting the aptly titled Quickshift box just get on with it. However, if you do find the urge to take control then you can always give the paddles a tug to shift up or down.
On the gearstick there are just three straightforward options in a vertical row: Reverse, Neutral and Drive. Simply push the ‘trigger’ at the back of the lever and pull downwards to the appropriate position. To get going, simply pull the selector all the way back into Drive and then slip it over to the left hand side to engage Sport mode, if you so desire. As well as using the paddles behind the steering wheel, you can also sequentially shift through the box by tapping the gearstick forwards or backwards to respectively go up a gear or drop a cog. Delve into the F-Type’s menu system and you can even disable the paddles in normal Drive mode if you only want them to work when in Sport. When you arrive and want to stop, simply press the park button on top on the gearstick. Press it when the lever is across to the left in Sport mode and if will even kindly slide in back to the centre position for you.
Amongst the general outpouring of love for the F-Type Convertible, one of the main criticisms was the tiny boot space due to the need for space to accommodate the roof. Furthermore, it turned out if you wanted to carry a spare wheel it would also be travelling within the already diminutive boot space.
The Coupe completely trumps the Convertible in terms of boot capacity, with 407 litres against 196 litres respectively. In the Coupe, this is plenty of capacity for luggage for two, or ample room for two sets of golf clubs. Lift up the boot floor and there is a smaller storage area beneath, ideal for stowing tools and other essentials out the way and stopping them rolling round the main boot compartment.
Our test car came fitted with a powered boot lid, a £450 optional extra. With this, you can access the boot compartment either by pressing a button on the boot, the key fob, or inside the cabin. When you’re done, simply press a button on the inside of the boot lid and it’ll close down and latch by itself. For paintwork perfectionists, it might well even be worth this cost just to avoid littering your boot lid with grubby fingerprints.
One piece of advice concerning the boot though, whether you have the Coupe of the Convertible: don’t stand too close to the rear of the car when accessing the boot, especially with the engine on, or you will end up with rather warm shins thanks to the centre mounted exhaust pipes.
Safety and Security
Everyone knows the F-Type has no problems in the power department, so with all these rampant horses at the disposal of your right foot, some dinner plate sized vented disc brakes come in particularly handy when you want to rein them in. Carbon ceramic discs are available as an upgrade to the top two levels (the V6S and the V8R), and come complete with signature yellow callipers that highlight beautifully against the darker bodywork colours in the range.
Within the cosseting cabin are concealed six airbags: driver, passenger, one in each A pillar and one in each of the pillars behind each seat. It doesn’t feel like there’d be room inside to fit two people and six inflated airbags but hopefully very few people will ever need to find out…
Look at the stats and the structural rigidity of the Convertible is already impressive, but stick a roof on it and it becomes stiffer than minor royal’s top lip. The Convertible also comes with some fairly substantial looking roll over protection bars behind the seats, but there’s no denying that on a primal level it just feels safer having the roof over your head.
Prices, Equipment and Options
Rather than a baffling array of engine types and trim levels, the F-Type comes in three simple options – V6, V6S or V8R. The on the road price for the middle of the pack V6S we’re testing is £60,250, but to match the spec on our test car would require at least £13,000 extra. However, this is still a sizeable chunk less cash than opting for a well-specced V8R, where you’ll soon be knocking on the door of a hundred grand. I suppose the real question must be whether that increase in power is actually useable on a day to day basis. Are you going to truly get the benefit of it?
I’ve driven the V8R Coupe on track, and whilst it’s a terrific machine, I’m doubtful you’ll truly appreciate the difference in a real world situation on a day to day basis. I just didn’t feel it was that much of a massive leap forward to justify picking the V8 over the V6S. When the F-Type Convertible first came out, loads of motoring journos were doing side by side tests on the range and as far as I recall every single one I read plumped for the same conclusion: go for the middle of the range, the V6S. Whichever one you opt for, be aware that you can go quite mad on the options list if you’re not careful… There’s a lot of stuff on there that seems like a good idea but may not really serve any particularly practical purpose, like my soft spot for the illuminated door sills. No practical reason to have them but they just make the car feel that little bit more special.
The infotainment system is generally well put together and is displayed on an 8 inch touchscreen. All the menus are intuitive and easy to use but aesthetically a couple of the screen layouts come across as a bit messy, if I’m nitpicking. The sat nav is ambitious on its estimated arrival times: maybe Jaguar expect F-Types to constantly be driven on the ragged edge rather than just ambling along…
As well as regular and DAB radio, the Jag has a CD and DVD player (with disc slot concealed in the compartment beneath the arm rest, in case you’re struggling to find it), plus USB and auxiliary audio connections. Bluetooth phone pairing is easily done and call audio quality is good. If you’re really serious about your audio then you can even upgrade to a 770W 12 speaker surround sound system from Meridian, priced at a cool £1,700.
Cost of Ownership
The F-Type is a thirsty chap. Use it a lot and your petrol pumping arm will get a fairly regular workout to keep its 72 litre tank stoked. Official fuel consumption is just 32 mpg but to enjoy yourself you’ll be getting a fair bit less. When you start it up, after the “look at me” wake up call from the exhausts, it defaults to Eco mode, complete with a stop/start function, though in the first week of ownership you’re unlikely to spend much time in this mode whilst you’re still craving the full engine power and exhaust noise. There are very few cars that convert petrol into noise and speed quite so well or quite so enjoyably. As you’d expect, tax and insurance are both on the high side. It emits 209 g/km of CO2, meaning annual road tax will cost £285, whilst for insurance purposes it’s in the highest possible group.
Jaguar is in a great place right now as a brand and its cars are striking all the right notes, both metaphorically and out of their exhaust pipes. Some manufacturers insist on giving their models myriad permutations, but in two body styles and three power outputs, Jag has managed to produce an F-Type suitable for nearly all tastes and a wide range of budgets.
When I first drove the Convertible I thought it was brilliant, and still do, and I was worried that in the Coupe the exhaust note theatricals would be muted by the aluminium shell and that would detract from the fun of it all, but do trust me when I say this is not a problem.
Put the Coupe on the metaphorical scales against the Convertible and on one side you’ve got more than double the boot space, even more achingly beautiful styling from the pen of Ian Callum, the extra rigidity, safety and cocooning from having metal rather than fabric protecting your precious bonce, and if you opt for either the V6 or the V6S it costs £7,285 less that its Convertible equivalent. On the other side, all the Convertible has got to offer is a million miles more headroom and some rose tinted imaginings of driving along a deserted country road with the wind billowing through your hair.
If there were somehow a folding metal roof option that looked nearly as good as the Coupe then that could well be the happy medium, but I can’t see how it could work with that styling. Or, if we lived in warmer climes then the Convertible makes sense, but truly convertible appropriate weather here is few and far between. Admittedly my week with the Coupe was an exceptionally wet and windy one, but there was not a single occasion in the whole week that I thought “this is great but I wish I could get the roof down now.”
For me, the Coupe is the one that makes sense on a number of levels, but it would win in the end just for the lip-bitingly good looks. Let’s be thankful we’ve got the choice between the two but in all honesty, either one is a great buy.