It's been 40 years since Jaguar produced a true sports car. Back then, the E-Type defined style and performance, and to this day remains one of the most beautiful cars ever built. With this in mind, the F-Type has some very large shoes to fill. Last year's introduction of the F-Type convertible proved it a worthy successor, and this time around the 2015 F-Type R Coupe pushes the performance factor to even higher levels. It's been a long time coming and it was well worth the wait.
What Is It?
The 2015 Jaguar F-Type is a two-seat, front-engine, rear-wheel-drive sports car that is offered in either coupe or convertible body styles. Both models are available with a base supercharged V6 that produces 340 horsepower and an S model that increases output to 380 hp. There's also a V8 S convertible that receives a 495-hp V8. At the top of the performance scale, we have the 550-hp F-Type R Coupe that you see before you. All F-Types feature an eight-speed automatic transmission with manual control via the console shifter or steering-wheel-mounted paddles.
The base F-Type Coupe starts at $65,925 with feature highlights that include 18-inch wheels, xenon headlights, a dynamic driving mode, a navigation system and a premium Meridian 10-speaker surround-sound system. Upgrading to the $77,925 F-Type S gets you 19-inch wheels, a limited-slip differential and an adaptive suspension system. The $99,925 F-Type R Coupe adds an electronic active differential, high-performance brakes, a driver-selectable active exhaust system, dual-zone automatic climate control and an upgraded audio system. Besides an array of interior and exterior trim options, other add-ons include a glass roof, carbon-ceramic brakes, a suite of in-car apps and a power rear hatch.
With the optional 20-inch wheels, black exterior trim and the Vision package that adds adaptive headlights with automatic high beams, front parking sensors, a rearview camera, a blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert, our F-Type R Coupe's price tag reached $103,425. This places it among some very strong rivals, indeed.
How Does It Drive?
Hit the rubberized copper-colored ignition button and the starter spins rapidly to awaken the 5.0-liter supercharged V8 with a burly growl and clearing cough. From the get-go, it already sounds and feels special. At parking lot speeds, the steering is light and its small 35-foot turning circle makes maneuvering into tight spaces easy. The low and long front overhang does have a tendency to scrape on moderately steep driveways, though, and the car is deceptively wide.
In normal driving mode, the engine and exhaust is fairly boisterous, but not overly so. In full automatic transmission mode, the F-Type leaves the line smoothly and upshifts are smooth and frequent enough to keep the engine revving low. Power delivery is incredibly linear, and with 550 hp and 502 pound-feet of torque, reaching highway speeds is shockingly effortless. At these speeds, the steering weight firms up appropriately to give the driver a solid feel for the road.
Both driver and passenger also get a solid road feel from the stiff ride quality. Even small imperfections in the pavement are transmitted directly into the cabin. Larger ruts and undulations result in a healthy amount of jostling that less performance-focused drivers may find objectionable. To a lesser degree, road noise is ever present but it doesn't become intrusive until you hit patches of coarse asphalt. On the other hand, wind noise is barely detectable and in top gear the engine note drops to a low and muted purr.
The above limitations can diminish comfort on a long road trip, but at its core, the F-Type is not intended to be a grand tourer.
How Does It Really Drive?
The F-Type R Coupe is a true sports car, and a formidable one at that. With the flick of a switch into Dynamic mode, it becomes a wild, snarling beast that is as rewarding to drive hard as any of its peers. Most obvious is the change in the exhaust note that bellows like an angry mechanical bear, announcing its arrival blocks in advance. Let off the throttle and the quad pipes crackle with unburnt fuel like a racecar unencumbered by exhaust muffling. From inside the car it induces giggles, but the general public will find it downright obnoxious. We love it.
Besides the exhaust bravado (which, by the way, can be turned on independently with a separate button), Dynamic mode sharpens throttle response, increases steering effort, quickens gearchanges and further stiffens the suspension. In this mode, the F-Type R becomes a specialized weapon to slice through the most challenging of serpentine roads. It's a thrilling sports car that reacts immediately to inputs with great precision and a direct seat-of-the-pants feel that makes it feel like an extension of your nervous system.
In actuality, there are several advanced systems that help deliver the excitement and high levels of trust. Jaguar's Adaptive Dynamics system utilizes data from an assortment of accelerometers and sensors throughout the car 100 times a second (steering wheel position is measured 500 times a second), and the suspension reacts accordingly. The result is cornering that benefits from tenacious grip and no discernible body roll, yet midcorner bumps do little to upset the handling.
Approaching the limit of adhesion, the F-Type R is balanced and inspires confidence. In the tightest of turns, the small coupe tracks sharply and reacts in tandem with the driver's intentions. Every now and then, you can feel the torque-vectoring system lightly brake the wheels on the inside of a turn and send power to the outside wheels to increase steering performance, but it never feels intrusive or as though you're relinquishing any level of control.
Prod the throttle pedal a bit more and the rear tires spin just enough to get the tail gently rotating around the car's central axis. Adding more pedal pressure runs the risk of stability control intervention that abruptly cuts the power and snaps the car right back into line. While other contemporary sports cars rely heavily on stability and traction controls to keep the car on the pavement, the F-Type is still manageable and predictable, should a talented driver decide to disable them fully.
The F-Type R Coupe's impressive on-road manners are further confirmed in Edmunds testing, with our test driver remarking how enjoyable it is to attain these results. Reaching 60 mph took a mere 3.8 seconds (3.6 seconds with rollout as on a drag strip). Braking from that speed requires only 106 feet to come to a stop, and that's with the standard brakes. It's possible that the carbon-ceramic brake option could shorten that distance. The slalom whizzed by in a 71-mph blur and the Jaguar rounded the skid pad at a 0.98g average. This level of performance is on par with the more expensive Porsche 911 Carrera S we last tested.
With an elusive combination of balance, technological sophistication and outrageous power, the Jaguar F-Type R Coupe is one of the most entertaining sports cars available today, skirting the borders of supercar territory. Think of it as a tailored-to-fit Corvette Stingray for more refined palates.
What Is the Interior Like?
Because the F-Type is a Jaguar at heart, it has all of the quality and most of the features you'd expect from any premium luxury brand. The interior itself wraps snugly around the driver and passenger without feeling confining. Leather surfaces abound and the few exposed plastics are attractive and sturdy. The only quality issue that stands out is the steering-wheel-mounted buttons that have a down-market look and feel.
The F-Type R's performance seats feature 14 power adjustments to help you find the optimal position for a variety of body types, and they're supportive during hard cornering. At 6 feet, 4 inches, though, one of our staffers remarked that he was at or just past the limit of space and comfort, but this would certainly not dissuade him from jumping at any opportunity to drive it. The seat padding is rather firm, however, and the low fixed headrest positioned between your shoulder blades may cause some minor discomfort.
Furthermore, ventilated seats are not available, which seems like an oversight given the leather's stifling nature. The passenger thoughtfully receives a substantial grab handle on the door and center tunnel to offer some steadying assurance while the driver explores the car's performance potential.
Situated in the center of the dash is the same infotainment touchscreen that is found in other Jaguars, which doesn't look as up-to-date or function quite as well as systems found in other luxury vehicles, but most will consider it more than adequate. The standard 12-speaker Meridian surround-sound system is very powerful and clear, though we still prefer the soundtrack coming from the engine and exhaust.
Interior storage is minimal but includes a pair of medium-size cupholders and a shallow armrest bin and door pockets. The trunk doesn't fare much better, as it maxes out at 11 cubic feet and its aperture is fairly narrow. Jaguar assures us that two golf bags will fit, but we're more inclined to think that one set of clubs in a medium bag would barely squeeze in there. That said, it is much more accommodating than the convertible's tiny 7-cubic-foot trunk.
What Safety Features Does It Offer?
Standard safety features on all 2015 Jaguar F-Type Coupe models include antilock brakes, stability and traction control and seat side airbags. Rear parking sensors are also standard on F-Type R Coupes. Selecting the optional Vision package adds a rearview camera, front parking sensors, adaptive headlights with automatic high beams and rear cross-traffic detection.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Can You Expect?
The EPA estimates the 2015 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe will achieve 18 mpg combined (16 city/23 highway). A quick-reacting auto stop-start function helps improve efficiency, but is disabled if you select manual shift control or Dynamic driving mode. On our highway-heavy evaluation loop, we achieved 23.7 mpg, which shows that if you have the restraint of a saint, you can indeed get decent fuel economy. Given the Jag's potential for performance and our unbridled lust for it, our overall average for the test plummeted to 14.6 mpg.
What Are Its Closest Competitors? Aston Martin Vantage V8: A bit more money gets you a rarer sports car, but this entry-level Aston Martin trails the Jaguar when it comes to performance. Some interior elements are also disappointing in terms of quality.
Audi R8: A sports car that isn't held back by heritage, the Audi R8 is a technical wonder that you can drive every day. It'll make you feel just as special as the Jaguar does, but after seven years in production, its age is starting to show.
Porsche 911: As the archetypal sports car that has evolved over the decades, the 911 expertly balances comfort and performance. It's fairly commonplace compared to the F-Type, however, and isn't nearly as raucous or lively (at least in supporting models that are similarly priced).
Why Should You Consider This Car?
If you love sports car performance with visceral thrills behind the wheel, the 2015 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe will definitely satisfy your cravings. It doesn't hurt that it's drop-dead gorgeous, either. It'll make you feel like a million bucks, yet will only set you back a tenth of that. Any of the aforementioned drawbacks we pointed out are easily forgiven once you put a little pressure on the accelerator.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
If you value comfort over performance, the F-Type R may not be the best choice. The good news is that the more affordable V6-powered coupes and convertibles may hit that sweet spot between sport and luxury. Cargo capacity is limited throughout the lineup, though, so this may be a good time to downsize your personal items. And it might be worth it.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.