Jaguar F-Type R AWD

Now with greater grip and gratification

GLENN BUTLER @GlennWheels

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

THE Jaguar F-Type is not your shy, unassuming sports coupe. It looks great from all angles and has one of the sweetest coupe profiles in sweetest coupe profiles in the automotive kingdom. It also has a range of V6 and V8 engines, all supercharged, that deliver performance – and soundtracks – guaranteed to grab attention.

Importantly, 2013’s original F-Type backed up its style and sound; dynamically, the coupe and convertible delivered everything expected of a reardrive sports car.

So does the 2015 arrival of a new all-wheel-drive system spoil things by diluting the F-Type’s acclaimed handling, for just a few tenths off the 0-100km/h time?

For the record, that 0-100km/h time is now a seriously quick 4.1sec in the case of the 405kW F-Type R AWD coupe. But will it handicap the F-Type’s sweet rear-drive balance in the bends?

Before we get to the answer, a quick overview of what this 2015 update brings.

First off, there’s nothing really new for existing models, of which there were six. There are no additional cabin toys, the styling is the same and the engines don’t suddenly have 10 percent more power. In essence, Jaguar has added all-wheel drive to some models, and – joy of joys – a threepedal manual to others. Finally, the lesser of two V8 engine tunes, which was only available in the convertible, has been dropped.

Accordingly, the range has grown from six models to 14.

The entry-level 250kW supercharged V6 coupe and convertible are only available with rear drive, though now with the choice of a six-speed manual.

Step up to the 280kW supercharged V6 and it’s autoonly, but you can choose rear drive or all-wheel drive under coupe and convertible.

The all-wheel-drive system, which delivers all the engine’s goodness rearward until slip is detected, brings an extra 80kg that in turn adds two-tenths to the 0-100km/h time (5.1sec compared to 4.9sec for the reardrive).

It’s only when you get to the supercharged 405kW V8 that power and torque overcome the weight handicap.

With that, the F-Type R coupe and convertible hit 100km/h in 4.1sec. That’s only a tenth faster than the rear-driver, but around a tight track like the Monticello billionaire’s playground west of New York, where Jaguar held the launch, the all-wheel-drive system’s advantage out of tighter corners is surely worth a lot more than a solitary tenth per lap.

Importantly, the torque-ondemand all-wheel-drive system doesn’t dilute the F-Type’s dynamic prowess.

This cat drifts. While that probably sounds hoonish, my point is the rear-drive bias can be exploited and thoroughly enjoyed.

And the inevitable apportioning of drive to the front axle happens so smoothly and surreptitiously that the driver’s only indication that all four tyres are now pulling hard is the speed at which the corner recedes in the rear-view mirror.

No complaints about the auto transmission software update, either, which halves shift times in Sport mode. Gearchanges feel almost instantaneous, and the mapping always picks the right gear. In normal mode on the road, it adopts a more relaxed – and seamless – map but is still ready and willing to drop cogs.

This burgeoning and still brilliant F-Type range is another sign that Jaguar – destined for oblivion before Tata came to the rescue – is going from strength to strength. Hands up who’d like to see a 911 GT3 rival next?

Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Jaguar F-Type R AWD coupe 5000cc V8 (90°), dohc, 32v, S/C 405kW @ 6500rpm 680Nm @ 3500rpm 8-speed automatic 1730kg 3.9sec (claimed) 11.3L/100km $242,670 Now

PLUS & MINUS

Would the supercharged V8’s screaming soundtrack get tiring over time?

Gorgeous looks; effusive engines; rear-drive bias and seamless AWD

01 NICE RACK

All 2015 F-Types get an electric power steering set-up, replacing a hydraulic system that had reached the limits of its capabilities. It’s direct and well-weighted but at times tugs unnaturally, like camber tug when there’s no camber.

02 FOUR ON THE FLOOR

All-wheel-drive versions get slightly stiffer spring and damper rates, presumably to account for the extra weight, and the F-Type does ride firmly on the road.

Like a proper sports car should.

03 LOUD BUTTON

As if Jaguar’s supercharged V8 needed any help with the bellow, a switchable bi-modal exhaust means you can be the alarm clock for your neighbours as you head out for that earlymorning gym session.

OR TRY THESE...

Porsche 911 Carrera 4S $266,850

THE 911’s 3.8-litre flat-six is down on outright grunt against the blown V8 F-Type R, but it’s a lighter car, and therefore faster. It’s soundtrack lacks the Jag’s drama, but few have ever complained about the wail of a Porsche boxer.

BMW 650i Coupe $231,800

NOT a true rival because BMW’s rear-drive 6 Series is more a grand tourer than a true sports coupe.

Its 330kW twin-turbo V8 has the torque, but ultimately not the performance to match the F-Type R, or its luscious noise, even though the Beemer V8 is still hot stuff.