REVIEW | The Jaguar F-Type R Coupé P575 still brings the thrills
Is this really the end? That was my thought as the distinctive timbre of the supercharged 5,000cc heart in the Jaguar F-Type R coupé grew increasingly boisterous, tachometer needle sniffing 7,000rpm.
This is a characterful motor. Instead of the typical burbling baritone that defines a V8, the rendition here seems higher in pitch. It is more akin to the fast-whirring rotors of a chopper than the brewing of thunder.
A frightful cacophony rips through its quadruple exhaust pipes as the next gear is snatched. The bespectacled form in the main seat is genuinely stirred. As is the wildlife in the surrounding, damp grassland on either side of this deserted stretch of road.
It has to be the end. The writing is on the wall for internal combustion, even if the transition may occur slowly in our southernmost tip of the African continent. Jaguar is charging ahead with the shift. Which means the likes of this feral breed is destined for obsolescence.
This definitely leaves the marketers at Jaguar with an unenviable problem. How will they transform a brand that relied so heavily on the emotive aspects associated with the humble piston-based engine? And will those endearing feline-inspired brand hallmarks ever translate fully?
You have to admit the famous growler emblem on the nose is rendered a mislabel when the power source behind it is silent. The I-Pace electric sport-utility vehicle is quick and nimble on its paws, but it could never emulate the soul-rousing spirit of a ground-hugging eight cylinder coupé.
The F-Type was launched to rapturous applause, arriving on local shores in 2013. Last year, the new model was launched, with the most glaring changes being in the design department. If you feel the automaker might have taken a step back in this regard, you are not alone.
Many have expressed reservations about its slimmer prow, with mere slits for eyes, much like a Hyundai Kona. Luckily, aside from the facial reconstruction, the overall silhouette that earned its forebear plaudits in the World Car Design segment of the prestigious World Car Awards organisation remains unchanged. The bumpers were subtly reworked and the famous Jaguar leaper mascot now adorns the fenders’ vents.
Ingress and egress is an affair that requires a certain… grace. Admittedly, it seemed far easier a task during that first test drive nearly eight years back, with slightly younger bones. In the coupé especially, things are snug. Of course, you can alleviate claustrophobia by opting for the roadster format.
But those with a finer attuning to the act of driving will no doubt place their bets on the tauter, fixed-top counterpart. They will be well served by what it offers. Power in this P575 all-wheel drive model is rated at 423kW and a hefty 700Nm of torque.
Acceleration from standstill to 100km/h is commensurately rapid at 3.7 seconds. But since power is sent to each corner, traction is rarely compromised, even when driven with verve in the wet. Its Pirelli P Zero tyres (265/35/ZR20 and 305/30/ZR20) were never flummoxed by the kick sent their way. The brakes tended to graunch under low speed operation, but were fine on the go, with assuring pedal feel. Carbon ceramics are optional, with discs even larger than the already large 380mm and 376mm ones.
The steering, with its electric power assistance, is fairly rich in feel, but the car seems fidgety at highway speed. Not something you notice carving up the back roads, but certainly pronounced if you are cruising down the straight N1. Its eight-speed automatic works fine left to its own devices, but complies well when you take things into your own hands via the steering-mounted paddles or via the tip-to-shift function of the gear lever (if anyone ever does that anyway).
According to Jaguar, the steering system was recalibrated. Suspension enhancements were made too, with improved springs, plus tweaks to the valves of its dampers as well as the algorithms controlling them. Bigger wheel bearings and uprated upper ball joints in addition to rear knuckles forged from die-cast aluminium are among the upgrades. Be assured, the F-Type is still as entertaining to drive as it always was.
The coupé offers marginally better practicality than its roofless peer, with a rear hatch that can accommodate around 336l. The spare wheel does impinge on space, of course, but you can be glad it is there: the omission of a back-up in many other cars in this segment is concerning given the state of our roads.
As a soulful expression of the traditional sports car genre, the F-Type still rates highly. There is little doubt people will be discussing it with the same reverence as past Jaguar two-seaters long after the sun has set on its production run.