Overall rating: 5/5
Same great looks as the rest of the range, but with a 550hp supercharged V8 engine under the bonnet: that'll be the sensational new Jaguar F-Type R Coupé. That powerplant may define the car, but the chassis is well up to the job of containing it and packaging it in an accessible format for all. Don't even consider the V6S if you can afford this one.
In the Metal:
We waxed lyrical about the styling of the new F-Type Coupé in the review of the V6S model so read that here if you've missed it. Same applies to the R model really. You can spot cars fitted with the excellent (though optional) Carbon Ceramic Matrix (CCM) brakes by their yellow-gold callipers, while all examples of the R come with a quad exhaust set-up and rear diffuser.
Inside, the specification is enhanced in the R model, including the addition of R-embossed sports seats with leather lining and electric adjustment. It also comes with alloy gearshift paddles as opposed to the rubberised plastic items found in other models.
Our first taste of the F-Type R Coupé was on track, and though hugely impressive (and massive fun of course) it disguised how much faster the R is than the V6S model. We reached speeds of nigh on 240km/h on the straights, followed by hard braking for the tighter corners, yet lap-after-lap there was no fade from the brakes. These cars were fitted with the CCM brakes in fairness. The Pirelli tyres started to warm up as we pushed further, resulting in a little more slip and movement under braking, but overall the car was as unflappable as it was enjoyable.
As you can from our images and video we had the opportunity to completely turn off the traction control on track too. It's a laughably easy car to get into a power slide in these conditions and it's also remarkably easy to hold while the rear tyres begin to smoke... All for the camera you understand. The quick and communicative steering is invaluable in this situation and the F-Type turns out to have a decent amount of steering lock too. Without such extreme provocation rear end slip is incredibly progressive and the electronics keep it in check when in their default mode.
On day two we were at the wheel of the F-Type R exclusively on the road, and it was even more illuminating than the track test. The increased performance and focus were immediately obvious, from the steering to the damping and the quicker responses of the car. In fairness, the chassis is only moderately changed from that in the other F-Types, though of course the addition of the electronically controlled rear differential (see 'Worth Noting' below) gives the R a subtly different personality.
But there's no denying that the engine dominates proceedings. We thought the V6S was loud and raucous; the barrel-chested V8 will change your perception of such things. The wild exhaust sounds that can be summoned up are somehow more natural sounding than those of the V6S and again, intoxicating. As is the performance. A maximum power figure of 550hp is a lot by any measure, but it's the availability of the peak torque output of 680Nm all the way from 2,500- to 5,500rpm that really matters here and the F-Type R is enthrallingly fast from any gear at any speed.
In spite of the bigger engine under the bonnet, and the modest increase in mass, the F-Type R feels no less wieldy on a tight and twisty road. Indeed, it's tangibly better to drive hard in these conditions - due to that clever differential no doubt. Finally, on really challenging mountain roads, the standard steel brakes were faultless. No fade, just a reassuringly weighted pedal underfoot at every application.
What you get for your Money:
At €161,740 the F-Type R Coupé represents a sizeable jump up from the entry-level model (€94,820) and it's even €10,000 or so more than the V8-engined F-Type roadster (albeit that car has 'only' 495hp). However, we'd argue the R is worth the extra. Or rather, it will be to those that truly love driving. Clearly at this level of the market logic has been thrown out the window a long time ago.
The F-Type R Coupé has both an Electronic Active Differential (EAD) and Torque Vectoring by braking on its side, as mentioned throughout this review. The former in particular transforms how the car handles. In most situations it helps to quell understeer and make the F-Type feel more agile. At the exit of corners it can redistribute the torque across the axle as necessary so the car leans on its electronic traction control less, making for far more satisfying progress. It can also boost safety by encouraging understeer in what is deemed to be a dangerous manoeuvre - like a very sudden lane change. Torque Vectoring by braking, meanwhile, is designed to simply keep the car on line in a tight corner. It does this by applying the brakes selectively to the inner wheels.
The Jaguar F-Type R Coupé is a lot more expensive than the rest of the line-up, if relatively good value next to some rivals of similar performance. However, logic won't come into the decision to buy a car like this. It's a true sports car that will keep its owner engaged and interested long after they've grown accustomed to the beguiling appearance. It is an epic car.