The F-Type Coupé is a sports car for the non-conformist. Jaguar says its latest product is the ‘progressive alternative’ – an alternative to the likes of the Porsche 911, a car that tends to dominate this market. ‘It represents Jaguar’s return to proper sports cars,’ notes Wayne Darley, global brand manager. It is the marque’s contemporary interpretation of the E-Type, a car that came to define Jaguar half a century ago.
We get our first glimpse of the new car as our tiny aircraft lands at Lleida airport in north eastern Spain. Parked side-by-side along the runway, the fleet in silver, white, red and orange make for quite a picture. They’re almost like toy cars, conceptual designs that look ridiculously cool – there really is no other word for it. The design and engineering teams worked hard to stay as close as possible to the C-X16 concept car that foreshowed the F-Type three years ago, translating the unusual one-piece rear graphic, and undisturbed swooping roofline into the production model we’re about to drive.
From Lleida we head to Motorland, a racetrack in the heart of Aragon and onto miles and miles of snaky mountain roads. With virtually no traffic, this region is ideal for putting the F-Type to the test. Almond trees, delicate pink from the spring blossoms, interrupt this otherwise rough and rugged landscape as sleepy villages awake with the sweet sound of our crackling, roaring engine.
This all-aluminium car is light in structure, yet boasts a strong bodyshell and is certainly powerful. There are three models on offer, the Coupé, S Coupé and top-of-the-range R Coupé – its 550PS/680Nm 5-litre V8 supercharged engine enabling the car to accelerate from 0-60mph in just four seconds, and reach a limited top speed of 186mph. This is a powerful beast that demands your attention.
The design is viscerally exhilarating – elegantly proportioned, lovingly detailed. It is also playful but with just the right dose of playfulness – after all this is a serious sports car. There is purity in its execution, too. The body side is made from a single-piece aluminium pressing, which means there are no multiple panels and cosmetic joints. The dramatic one-piece roof panel comes in either aluminium or panoramic glass – the latter adding extra theatre. It has these voluptuous wheel arches and a deployable rear spoiler that sits within the tapered shut-line, while slim, very distinctive, wrap-around LED lamps flank the tailgate.
Inside the mood changes. The cabin is a quieter space, the cockpit wraps around the driver creating a focused and cosy environment. ‘You want to feel you’re in control,’ says Julian Thomson, head of advanced design. It is full of tactility, lots of old school metal parts, so the driver can feel the mechanics on the gears and pedals. I recall discussing this in great detail with Jaguar designer Alister Whelan when the C-X16 concept car was first shown in 2011. There was much talk on how to marry digital and analogue components in a modern Jaguar, and here the balance seems almost right.
The F-Type in coupé and convertible is the pinnacle product in a family of cars that have been completely refreshed since Tata took on ownership of the company six years ago. In automotive terms this is a relatively short time but with 10 new models, the transformation is impressive. Last year, Jaguar Land Rover was reportedly the fastest growing premium carmaker in the world.
‘Jaguar’, Thomson told me a little while ago, ‘is about purity and beauty in design and a sports car is the best way to demonstrate it. Sports cars should have a greater sense of poise, so this is the pinnacle of our design philosophy.’ One of the main criteria for the Coupé, I’m told, was for it to be a focused performance car that is deliberately distinctively unique, and it delivers on both fronts.
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