Why the 'new' Jaguar F-Type R Coupé remains a force to be reckoned with
This updated 2020 F-Type R does seem more mature than past efforts
There was a time in life when I relished getting a 400kW+ sports car on test. Now, however, it's something that fills me with trepidation. Why? Simple really. I live in Johannesburg: a crumbling metropolis whose roads are nothing short of near-ruined, thanks to ever-increasing traffic, cavernous potholes and Grand Canyon-sized trenches left unfilled by the contractors' fibre companies hire to dig them.
You'll also find new speed bumps (many of them unmarked and unpainted) popping up like poisonous mushrooms in random places: ghostly entities that with no warning appear in your headlamps milliseconds before launching your car skywards and back down to the asphalt with a sickening crunch.
Yep, driving a sports car (hell, even a hot hatch) is like running drunkenly through a midnight minefield without a torch: sooner or later it's going to end rather badly.
Still, it has to be done and the last sportster to graze its way up my driveway was the new Jaguar F-Type R P575 Coupé launched here in August. Well, I say "new" - this is essentially the same old F-Type that's been with us since 2013, spruced up with a restyled visage and some subtle interior tweaks. The latter - an updated digital instrument binnacle and Apple CarPlay-compatible infotainment system - is a welcome addition.
That new face, hmmm, not so much. Looks may be subjective and all that jazz but I am of the opinion that this unnecessary nose job has done the F-Type a radical disservice. While the radiator grille and headlights of the outgoing car gave a stylistic hat-tip to sporty Jaguars of old (XKSS and E-Type), this all-new arrangement makes it resemble from the front a slightly racier I-Pace. Yuck.
Unlike the I-Pace, the F-Type R has thankfully been left to run on liquefied dinosaur bones - for the time being anyway. Pop that lengthy bonnet and you'll find it still sports the firm's familiar supercharged V8 that, coincidentally, also dates back to somewhere near the late Cretaceous period.
Be this as it may, it continues to work a treat in 2020 and delivers to the ground via an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive system a goodly amount of power and torque. Seriously, when the opportunity presents itself and you actually have the space to exploit that throttle pedal, you'll find that this Jaguar closes distances with the best of them.
And it does so in charismatic fashion too. While many new sports cars pipe artificial engine noises through their speakers or sneaky actuators hidden inside the dashboard, the cabin of this F-Type reverberates with the real deal: a burbly multi-cylinder rumble and supercharger whine dominate proceedings up front, while at the rear a flatulent active sports exhaust system crackles and pops on the overrun. If you're a sucker for sonic drama, this Jaguar will not disappoint. It's a car that makes small animals cower and young children cry. Ironic, really, considering that it hails from one of the biggest nanny states in the Western world.
FAST FACTS ON THE JAGUAR F-TYPE R P575 COUPÉ
• ENGINE: 5,000cc supercharged V8 petrol
• POWER: 423kW at 6,500rpm
TORQUE: 700Nm from 3,500 to 5,000rpm 0-100km/h 3.7 seconds (claimed)
• TRANSMISSION: eight-speed Quickshift
• TOP SPEED: 300km/h (claimed)
• FUEL: 13.1l/100km (achieved)
• PRICE: From R2,519,600
Anyway, as aurally intimidating as the F-Type R might be, its driving characteristics are considerably more amenable thanks to that aforementioned all-wheel-drive system. Although so-called purists may scoff at this choice of drivetrain, the Jaguar engineers thankfully made it rear-biased in its delivery - something that allows for a satisfying amount of aft movement before more torque is progressively fed to the front axle and stability ensues.
It's playful enough to keep you entertained but offers a useful safety net of protective traction to keep you from drifting uncontrollably sideways into harmful roadside furniture. Matched to a set of 20-inch gloss-black alloy wheels shod with specially developed and staggered Pirelli P Zero tyres (265/35 front and 305/30/ rear), the F-Type R is a confidence-inspiring thing to throw through the bends - a tough ask here in old Jozi Town.
Jaguar also claims to have recalibrated the electronic power steering and, although it remains nicely weighted, I found there's not a great deal of feedback to be found, particularly on initial turn-in. This is disappointing, especially when you factor in the car's performance and just how fast you can rip into corners.
Lack of feel aside, this 2020 F-Type R does seem more mature than past efforts. The sometimes manic twitchiness of its predecessor has at last been filtered out, while the suspension copes better than ever with the bumpy, lumpy bitumen that haunts our urban environments. Retardation is taken care of by regular steel brakes as standard but for an extra R134,200 you can bolt on a set of carbon ceramic anchors that, albeit pricey, will definitely come into their own at track days. Which, to be honest, is probably the only place you'll come close to doing this machine any real justice.
So would I buy one? As much as I love the enduring character of the F-Type R Coupé and its incredible straight-line pace, I think the Porsche 992 Carrera 4S is a more rounded and complete package. It's more affordable too - even after configuring it to match the Jaguar in terms of specification.
The Carrera is also available with an ingenious front axle lift system to limit the destruction and/or teeth clenching caused by speed bumps and ramps. So that's where I'd steer my cash. If I had it. Still, even after all these years this latest V8-powered F-Type remains a formidable sports-car weapon deserving of your attention if you're in the market and not hamstrung by the rot and decay of the City of Gold.
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