Jaguar F Type Coupe
Gareth Butterfield grudgingly accepts the keys to Jaguar’s exciting and beautiful F Type Coupe for a week. Here’s how he got on.
THE F Type coupe arrives and, wow. It’s a genuinely beautiful thing. They’ve sent me a white one and I’m honestly not sure the colour does it any favours but, still, it’s one of those cars that warrants stopping for a moment and drinking it in.
The coupe version follows the convertible which I’ve already spent a week with. I happen to think the soft-top version is one of the best cars I’ve ever driven and I’m told the coupe is better so I’m ready to be impressed.
Inside, the coupe is set up almost exactly the same as the convertible. I say almost, because in my test car the ever-so-slightly mad orange paddle shifters, engine start button and race mode switch are gone in favour of more sober black controls.
In fact, with its hard roof, bigger boot and slightly less ostentatious dashboard, it feels a little bit more grown up than its drop-top sibling. A bit less brash and “yobbish”. The drama and sense of occasion is still present, but it somehow feels a bit boring in comparison. Perhaps it’s the white paintwork.
As you might expect, the coupe is quite a bit cheaper than the convertible. A base-spec F Type Coupe weighs in at a shade over £50,000 where as a comparable convertible will nudge your necessary budget over £58,000.
The Coupe also has around double the luggage capacity of the convertible and it has a much more rigid structure thanks to the roof – this, apparently, makes it handle better.
So the coupe is cheaper, more practical, drives better and is arguably prettier than the convertible. But does that make it better? I can’t wait to find out.
Although the solid roof, the big boot and the prettier lines make the this car feel a bit less dramatic than the Convertible F Type, the drama and sheer sense of occasion are definitely still there in the Coupe.
The interior is every bit as beautiful as the exterior, with figure-hugging seats, an immaculately detailed dashboard with a rather over-the-top grab handle on the passenger side and a perfectly-proportioned steering wheel. I’ve heard it said that the F Type feels cramped. I disagree. Maybe I’m just the right size for it, but to me it’s a perfect fit.
It has to be said, it does feel a little dark, but if you can cope with shelling out another £1,250 Jaguar will fit a glass roof which does a great job of brightening up the cabin. Money well spent, to be honest.
The drama steps up a gear when you prod at the start button and coax the engine in to life. There are three engines to choose from and each one fires up with a mechanically engineered dollop of throttle. My neighbours are going to love me at 7am tomorrow.
I’m testing the middle-of-the-road supercharged V6 engine. There’s a full-on V8 available and a toned down, normally aspirated V6 at the bottom of the range but it doesn’t matter which one you pick, they’re a little on the loud side, even at idle.
In each of the three variants, you can up the ante even further by pressing a naughty little button that opens up the exhaust system. For the sake of my neighbours I wait until I’m out of my housing estate before I press that.
In truth, pootling along at 5-10mph does little to wake the beast and the Jag is actually very good at being teased along through narrow pedestrian-strewn roads.
And as I notice once I’m out on the open road, it’s also very good at doing exactly the opposite. Finally, it’s time to open the taps and… Oh. My. God, it’s quick. It’s not just quick, it’s absolutely ludicrous.
The supercharged 3.0 V6S I’m hanging on to for dear life has 380bhp. That’s not a massive number in this day and age, but the levels of grip, the insane noise spitting out of the huge centre-mounted twin exhaust and the lightning-quick action of the eight-speed automatic gear box make it feel like nothing could get close to you.
Each gear change is paired with an angry “snort” from the exhausts and when you back off the accelerator it just sounds angry. Pops, bangs, snaps and crackles reverberate off the landscape that’s still whizzing by. It’s like riding a bull that’s suffering from a really nasty chest infection.
In no time at all I’ve made it to the next village and it’s time to slow down and calm down. Like I say, the Jag does slow driving as well as it does lunatic driving but because I’m not mature enough to press the button that turns the exhaust down even a sedate 30mph pootle over speed bumps and mini-islands attracts more attention than riding a horse in the nude.
THIS weekend the wife and I are treating ourselves to a quick break in Stratford-upon-Avon, so it’s time to see how well the F Type Coupe gets on with the M42.
Before we set off we load up with all the suitcases Mrs B needs for an overnight stay in a hotel and I can instantly see why the coupe has a big advantage over the convertible. Apparently the boot is big enough for two sets of golf clubs and I don’t play golf but I can certainly believe it.
It’s nearly full by the time the last bag of shoes is heaved in over the high shelf but it’s surprising how much can be squeezed in.
So yesterday I established the F Type Coupe is good at both going slowly and going absolutely ballistic and it turns out it’s also very good at going “a bit fast” on the motorway.
Having said that, and it has been a while since I last drove the convertible, I don’t remember the ride being quite so firm. As I’ve already said, the coupe is much stiffer, thanks to that roof and some extra structural bits that have been fitted and that makes all the difference on a race track, but I’m not on a race track. I’m on a sticky stretch of managed motorway somewhere near Coleshill and there’s absolutely no need for it to be so uncomfortable. I search around in the dash-mounted display for some sort of suspension setup but to no avail.
By the time we get to the rural roads of Stratford I’m actually getting a bit sick of it. The combination of firm suspension and rough British roads does nothing for ride comfort. And that’s a shame because, other than that, it’s been a remarkably effortless journey that the Jag took in its stride.
I’VE had a good sleep and spent a bit of time in the spa so I’m more than ready to climb back in to the F Type. On the way back we call in to Stratford and as I knit it through the historic streets I’m struck by how easy the coupe is to manoeuvre. Its visibility isn’t actually all that good but the controls are very light and it’s a surprisingly small car. Parking it is a doddle.
The other thing I’ve been noticing more and more over the last few days is how many heads it turns. And not just because of the exhaust noise, either, I’ve not had it on the loud shouty setting all the time. I honestly thought it looked a bit dull in white but the F Type Coupe seems to draw more admiring glances than the F Type Convertible I borrowed. What makes this even more remarkable is that the Convertible was in a very ostentatious orange and the F Type itself was a very new, seldom-seen thing at the time.
Before we leave the town we call in to the bakery I parked outside to pick up a loaf. The owner had obviously watched me park and asked if the car was mine. I’ve no idea why but, without thinking, I replied: “Yes. Yes, it is.” And then had to spend the next 10 minutes trying to out-geek someone who clearly new more than me about Jaguars.
He’d owned a few posh Jags in his time, he enthused, and he also thought the F Type Coupe was far prettier than the convertible.
And as I glanced back at it from the counter, trying desperately to figure out how to maintain my ridiculous lie and not come over a bit “new money” and arrogant, I found myself agreeing.
It is more beautiful. It’s a more complete design and there’s more than a few echoes of the E Type about it. Even in white, it’s definitely the one you’d want to spend more time looking at.
But then, on the way home, the sun came out and I longed for a fabric hood that can be folded down to make the most of this rare occasion. I think my heart still belongs to the convertible.
BACK to the daily grind and I’ve given up worrying about the neighbours. They’re getting the full-volume blast whether they like it or not. After all who wouldn’t want a supercharged V6 alarm clock? It’s a glorious sound that I can’t see I’d ever get tired of and I’m sure they really like it too.
The pay off of all this snorting and barking should be rubbish fuel economy but, funnily enough, the V6S hasn’t performed all that badly. I’ve been getting MPG in the mid-to-high 20s, even nudging into the 30s which, to say I’ve not been behaving all that well, isn’t too shabby for a car such as this.
On my daily commute the Jag fares well. I still find the ride a bit firm but I’m used to it now and the twisty roads that make up the bulk of my route to work are an absolute joy.
The coupe does drive better. There really isn’t a huge difference and you’d need to be on a dry race track to feel it properly but the extra stiffening adds just a little bit more poise when you push on out of a corner and the tyres seem to contact the road just a little bit better.
TODAY a man is coming to do some complicated things to my boiler so I only manage a trip to the shops before I have to stay in and wait for him to arrive. Even popping out to get a sandwich in the F Type is a moment to savour. Turn the exhaust up, switch it in to race mode, wind the windows down and you can enjoy every last drop of the excitement this car brings to even the most mundane journey. It reminds me of an old TVR in many ways, except it’s so much easier to live with and you don’t get the constant worrying feeling it’s about to burst into flames.
The gas man is a Jag nut too, it turns out. While he fettles with my dicky burner we debate the coupe-vs-convertible issue. He’s adamant the Coupe is the better car and I think he’s probably right. He’s also not keen on the white paintwork. I think it’s grown on me now and it actually suits the clean lines of the car but such a dramatic beast somehow deserves a more showy paintjob. We both agree that, for the money, few cars on the market are more desirable right now. Yes, you could have a Porsche for similar money and, yes, they are – dynamically at least – a little bit better but the Jag makes you feel special in ways a Porsche never will.
THE F Type Coupe has to go back today and it’s been a blast in many ways. Living with a supercar for a week has been an eye-opener in itself but the F Type has made it easy, pleasant and a lot of fun.
But the big question is: Coupe or Convertible? If, miraculously, I was in a position to be choosing between these two wonderful cars – which one would I spend my own money on?
I can’t argue, I do think the Coupe is a better option. Yes, the ride’s a bit too firm but it’s more practical and it’s cheaper and it looks nicer. For all these reasons, it’s obviously the one you should buy. But it’s not the one I’d choose.
Maybe I’m just a sucker for a fabric hood, or maybe it’s because I’d feel I’ve cheated myself every time the sun came out, but if I could afford it I’d go for the convertible.
Of course that would mean I’d not be able to fit all the wife’s luggage in but in reality I’d probably have to sell the wife to afford one anyway.
Actually, that gives me an idea…