Jaguar F-TYPE Coupe

Colors, like fashions, change in such a fluid manner that at times you don’t even realize that they’ve happened.  Pretty soon everyone is wearing skinny jeans and you’re caught without.  The same could be said with the color orange.  It snuck in a few years ago on a few Lamborghinis and now it’s everywhere.  Even yours truly has a bright orange (make that Valencia) BMW and the color has really caught on – it’s a happy color.

Perhaps nothing is more happy than a 550 horsepower Jaguar F-TYPE coupe (or coup-eh, as the Brits like to call it) in Firesand Metallic.  While it is stunning on the F-TYPE convertible, the coupe takes the excitement to another level entirely.  The biggest question posed by many auto enthusiasts and critics at the launch of the convertible was “how about a proper hardtop roadster in the style of the legendary E-TYPE?”  When the Jaguar gods decided that the concept would go to production, the next curiosity was to see how close the final car would resemble the design brief.

At times, it’s best to keep your top on

The results are indeed smashing, and the coupe succeeds on every level.  It not only casts a sleek silhouette, the additional rigidity of the coupe improves on the already highly competent roadster chassis, sharpening the handling even further.  You don’t really notice it until you drive the two back to back – the hardtop really gets the nod for driving purists.

This is made perfectly clear while behind the wheel of the coupe at Willow Springs Raceway with Davy Jones (not the ghost of the Monkees, but the ‘96 winner of the 24 hours of LeMans) in the passenger seat telling me I’m braking too late, repeatedly.  Where the ragtop feels great for a convertible, with no scuttle shake, the coupe is a few major degrees more crisp, with no sense of squirm under hard braking, or making a slight course correction in the midst of a high-speed sweeper.

Serious music enthusiasts will enjoy the coupe for yet another reason: the 380-watt Meridian sound system that comes standard with the F-TYPE.  An extra 1,200 dollars steps you up to the 12-speaker, 770-watt Meridian system.  We described the system in depth in Issue 58 and concluded that with the increased cabin noise of the soft top, the upcharge for the bigger system is hardly worth it; however the coupe is a different game entirely.

The dual purpose exhaust system stays quiet while tooling around town, giving the F-TYPE the civility of a luxury sports sedan, yet when the accelerator pedal is mashed to the floor, the baffle opens, providing more than enough growl to feel sporty.  Even more so with the 550 hp, supercharged V-8.

You don’t have to drop 100k to have fun

Don’t let the evil British villains in the Jaguar commercial fool you: you don’t really need 550 hp to enjoy the F-TYPE.  While we didn’t have any of the $65,000 base model cars with a meager 340hp V6 at our disposal, the 380hp supercharged V6, priced around $75,000 with a few options is still no slouch, getting from 0–60 at 5.1 seconds and having a top speed of 172mph.  This should be good for all but those needing to leave the scene in the most fiendish manner.   Interestingly enough, the V6 felt a bit better in the convertible, even though it specs the same in the coupe and all of the auto journalists present made the same observation.

Again, the folks at Jaguar made the comparison to the iconic Porsche 911, as if it were the benchmark they are striving for.  And again, after having driven more than a few 911s since the convertible launch and now, I maintain that they are entirely different automobiles.  If I were in the income bracket to afford it, I’d have both in my garage.

Obvious comparisons

The current Carrera is more capable at the limit – and as good as the 8-speed ZF auto box is, Porsche’s PDK is still the one to beat, offering a connection to the road like no other.  When driving in more subdued situations, the Jaguar gets the nod, being way more sporty than a Mercedes SL or BMW Z4, yet more posh than the current 911.

The F-TYPE offers two driving modes, standard and dynamic. Dynamic is the more sporting mode, stiffening the suspension, altering the shift points and programing the torque vectoring more aggressively.  This innovative system feeds more power to the inner rear wheel, while gently applying braking to the outer rear wheel, offering tremendous driver control.  This was instantly evident when we took the cars out on the skidpad at Willow Springs Raceway for a brief drifting session.  When disengaged, it takes the skill of a professional driver to keep the tail in line, yet with the driver assist engaged, the F-TYPE practically defies the laws of physics, even in the wet.

Hard top or soft?

My experience has been that those loving topless motoring won’t care about most of the coolness built in to the F-TYPE coupe because the top doesn’t go down.  Where the classic E-TYPE convertible still stands as one of the most beautiful automobiles ever made, the coupe was always somewhat of a homely stepchild.  This is not the case with the F-TYPE coupe – it is easily as beautiful, if not more so, as its soft-top sibling.

Much as it is with high end audio gear, it’s tough to call a $75,000 to $100,000 car a “bargain,” though in comparison to its competitors from Porsche and Mercedes, the F-TYPE certainly offers excellent value.  And if you don’t need the prestige of an Aston Martin badge, the new Jaguar is a steal.  Having spent plenty of time in both the DBS and Vantage, I can’t see why anyone would want to shell out the extra dough for an Aston, when the Jaguar is so capable.  — Jeff Dorgay