(Pocket-lint) - If you're lucky enough to be driving an expensive, powerful car then you'll know the response you get from the wonderful British public tends to vary. Driving a Porsche 911? Don't expect to be let out of a side road anytime soon. Range Rover Sport? Go have a look at the comments on our review of the new one to see how polarising those are.
So, here's a pro tip. If you're after a nice car – a really nice car – and want the general British public to like you, get a Jaguar F-Type Coupe. Our week with what many would consider the flagship of Jaguar's current range left us basking in the rosy glow of adoration of their adoration.
Sometimes, being loaned a car for a week feels like a bit like having a holiday romance. You get all the fun bits, without any of the realities of everyday life that tend to make relationships go sour. Which is why we try hard to make sure all test cars get a dose or real world â throwing kids in the back, going on a long motorway run and doing the daily commute several times.
With that in mind, calling a verdict on this Jaguar feels a little dangerous. It more than seduced us in its week with us, despite going through more than two tanks of premium fuel, averaging 17mpg. There's no doubt that a Porsche 911 would be just slightly easier to live with because of its rear seats, the optimisation of its ergonomics, and cabin design that the Jaguar lacks.
But then, for the thick-end of Â£100,000, we'd have the "feels special" qualities of the Jaguar very high on a list of priorities were we actually buying a car at this level. And let's face it, you're probably going to have another car for more practical requirements anyway.
So in the final shake-down we feel that the F-Type R level-pegs with the 911. It's easy enough to live with day-to-day, but its character, looks, vicious speed and slightly unruly behaviour would keep us smiling for month after month.
It made for a great week-long tryst, sure, but the R Coupe has the depth of quality to mean a long-term relationship would be a beautiful thing too. It's easy to understand why Britain has fallen head over heals for the F-Type.
Jaguar F-Type R Coupe
- Exhaust noise
- Steering feel
- Space in the boot
- Seats might be ight for bigger frames
- Not exactly economical
Which is some mean feat given that this F-Type Coupe – running in top of the line 'R' spec complete with 542bhp – has the capability to scare small children and make old people jump out of their skin. Because at any given moment when you're driving along, if you back off the throttle pedal, the exhausts let out a series of cracks and bangs that are so loud and explosive sounding that you'd swear there was an artillery training exercise happening near by.
It'll make you giggle. But it occasionally causes unsuspecting passers by to require new pants. We made people physically jump – it's that loud. But then every single one of them subsequently turned round and smiled when they saw the Jag. That simply doesn't happen with a Porsche or an Audi.
The F-Type's cold-start routine is the kind of thing that, were it wearing a German badge, would have your neighbours phoning the council to complain about noise nuisance. Instead, our next door neighbour's daughter relayed the message that "my Daddy says he loves being woken up by your car because it's the coolest thing you've ever brought home".
After turning up at a supercar event, awash with rare Porsche, Astons and TVRs, we were surprised to suddenly be the focus of attention – with camera phones all trained on the Jag and its crackling exhaust. Britain knows what this car is, and the consensus is that the country loves it.
Politicians would kill for the kind of adoration this car attracts (and no, buying two of them probably won't help).
Tough (not to) love
But all that adoration, and the wave of feel-good factor it creates, can only carry you so far. If the car's a dog, the car's still a dog. Fortunately, Jaguar isn't in the habit of turning out bad cars at the moment.
So while the F-Type definitely has quirks and characterful qualities that occasionally grate, most of the time it's wonderful, feel-good company – managing to be exhilarating when you're pressing on but easy enough to live with when you just need to get to work.
At times, driving this car borders on the intoxicating – from the noise, to the roll-on speed, to the twitchy handling under pressure, and the fact that the seats grip you so hard and so firmly. Every point of interaction tells you it means business and demands respect.
But the F-Type doesn't feel quite how we would expect a Jag to be. It's not honey-like smooth, and the ride is spikey rather than soft given those 20-inch wheels and dynamic suspension. The character is therefore get-up-and-go aggressive; snarling and desperate to be let off the leash – not the relaxing and refined form that we've come to expect from the brand.
Which makes for a car that offers something different from the competition. The F-Type isn't as precise as a Porsche, for example, it's much more lairy and exuberant. You can feel the Jag twitching and wanting to move around under you, and you really need a firm hand on the wheel even with the traction control systems switched on, because when the road is wet the power to the rear wheels often overwhelms them before the electronics have had chance to jump in and save your bacon.
Which is perhaps why one distinctly unwise full application of the throttle on a damp, straight dual carriageway resulted in the F-Type basically changing lanes by itself. As we said, you need to give it respect. So if you're reading this thinking "yeah, but it sounds a bit hot to handle", then Jag has a potential answer for you – an all-wheel-drive F-Type R is now available and should tame some of these more wayward handling characteristics.
The British muscle car
So perhaps the best analogy we can create for the F-Type R is to say that it feels like a more compact version of an American muscle car. If you've driven one of the recent Corvettes – especially something like a Z01 – it'd give you a good idea of what this Jag feels like. And we mean that with the utmost respect – it's just that the F-Type adds a layer of sophistication and does away with the few shonky bits that still blight 'Vettes.
What do we mean by that? The steering is superbly weighted and provides more feel than a modern Porsche 911. Despite its 20-inch wheels, the F-Type's ride is hard but never uncontrolled, the gears click home with a satisfying speed for what's still a standard torque-converter (not dual clutch) automatic. The boot whirs shut with an eerie silence.
Despite these sophisticated qualities, it's the opposite of a traditional, aloof German sports car. It wears it's heart on its sleeve – you feel its character every time you approach it, see those lamps, clock the door handles popping out to greet you and see the pulsing starter motor or those copper-coloured paddles and buttons the design team are so proud of.
Prettier, more practical – what's not to like?
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the F-Type Coupe is that it manages all of this while being prettier from the outside than its soft-top sister, which we've previously driven.
The other advantage over the drop to is that it provides a very usable boot. One of our major gripes about the soft-top F-Type is that the boot is so badly packaged there's hardly space for a weekend bag. But the Coupe is a different kettle of fish – you'd get enough stuff in it for a two-week break for a couple. Or, in our case, bring home a fully boxed-up Jumparoo for a six-month old.
Inside, the R version features suede trimmed bucket seats. They grip you with the kind of intensity that makes your kidneys hurt. But for our slim frames at least, the full-on discomfort you expect when you first drop down into the seat never develops. Instead, their firmness proves a bonus both over long distances, and if you unplug your brain, turn the electronics off and start to throw the car around then you'll be glad of their fit.
The rest of the cabin is largely standard F-Type. Which means lovely switches, dials and analogue elements. And some distinctly crusty old feeling bits of electronics such as the touchscreen.
The good news is that, as you read this, Jaguar is readying the newer system from the XE for the F-Type, so if you're ordering an F-Type new, your car should come with the newer, faster and much more intuitive user interface – answering our only major gripe with this car in the setup we're received it in.
The 10-speaker Meridian sound system is as good as ever though. But we're probably guilty of not using it very much, as we were mostly listening to the tunes the engine and exhaust were playing.
The fastest, most furious car Jaguar currently makes is also wilder, harder and more aggressive than you might expect from the refined luxury brand. The F-Type R experience is dominated by the spits and crackles from the exhaust, and the kind of acceleration that makes passengers swear out loud. But that doesn’t mean it can’t do the daily grind stuff too. Perhaps most importantly, driving one makes you feel like a rock star – the public love it, and that counts for a lot.