I'm a massive fan of the Jaguar F-Type Convertible . It's one of the sexiest cars on the road today with a supercharged growl that sounds as good as it looks.
The newly launched 2015 F-Type Coupe retains the Convertible's handsome front end, its driver-centric cockpit, and touchscreen infotainment and navigation, but swaps the ragtop that I loved so much for a new fixed roof gives the Coupe an absolutely gorgeous and sleek profile.
Do I prefer the open-air roadster or the sleek and sexy coupe? This is as first-world as dilemma come.
The Coupe comes in three flavors: base, S and R. The base Coupe and the Coupe S feature the same 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 powertrain that you'll find under the hood of the analogous Convertible models. The base model outputs 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, while the Coupe S gets a slight retune that bumps it to 380 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque.
That engine is mated to an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission -- for now, the only gearbox available to the F-Type, but a new six-speed ZF manual will be available for the V-6 next year -- which sends torque to the rear wheels.
The S model further upgrades over the base with better High Performance brakes, a limited slip differential, an improved sport suspension, and the Active Sport Exhaust. It also gains a few convenience amenities, such as keyless entry and start and ambient interior lighting.
At the top of the heap is the F-Type Coupe R. Like the F-Type V8 Convertible S, the R features a supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 engine. However, the hardtop's output has been massaged up to 550 horsepower (up from 495 ponies) and 502 pound-feet of torque.
The Coupe R features the same ZF eight-speed automatic transmission as the S, but steps up with an electronic active differential and a torque vectoring system that utilizes bias braking to help balance power delivery across the rear axle. That last bit is unique to the Coupe R.
The R grows its performance envelope with configurable drive modes, quad tips for its Active Sport Exhaust, excellent performance seats, and Super Performance brakes. If those stoppers aren't hardcore enough, there are optional Carbon Ceramic Matrix brakes available.
All F-Types feature a few different drive modes accessible by nudging a copper toggle on the center console forward or backwards. The Winter mode reduces torque to increase control over slippery surfaces like ice or snow. Pulling backward activates the Dynamic mode which sharpens the Coupe's throttle response, tweaks the steering and suspension's performance for better control, and adjusts the behavior of the torque vectoring, electronic differential, and traction control systems. If the Jaguar is equipped with the Active Exhaust, Dynamic mode wakes that system up as well. For the Coupe S, this is an all or nothing toggle, but the Coupe R gains the ability to adjust and preset what systems get adjusted and how when Dynamic mode is triggered.
The Coupe is marginally lighter than the roadster (about 44 pounds) and just a tad stiffer, giving it a slight performance edge, but without back to back drives, you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between the Coupe and Convertible at or below the S trim level -- it simply becomes a matter of preference. However, the Coupe R stands above the Convertible V8 S where outright performance is concerned.
I was able to spend some time on the track at Willow Springs International Raceway with a group of Coupe R models. Some featured the optional carbon ceramic matrix brakes, but the examples that I was able to test featured the standard Super Performance brakes, which seemed up to the task of hauling the Coupe down to cornering speed lap after lap.
Built into the side of a hill, Big Willow is a fast course that mixes up its long fast sweepers with a few tight and nearly blind corners to keep you guessing. This was my first go around the circuit, so my first few heats were effectively learning experiences as much as they were evaluations of the Coupe R.
Turn 1 is a 90-degree constant radius turn that sets up for the long and fast Turn 2 sweeper that seems to go on forever. With a bit of patience and a steady right foot, the R simply settled into the slightly banked bend with what felt like an endless amount of grip. Lap after lap, I pressed the Coupe R faster and faster through this corner and found the limits of my bravery and talent long before I found the limit of the contact patches.
A bit more throttle near the end of the bend slings through the slightly uphill exit before getting on the brakes before the quick direction change that is Turn 3.
So far, it had been pretty easy, but Turn 4 starts as a moderate uphill right-hander, but suddenly becomes a decreasing radius hairpin as it blindly crests the rise. I didn't have enough time to wonder where the hell the track went, rather I was marveling at the Jaguar's ability to deftly dance around the apex, thanks in part to its exceptional, nearly 50/50 balance and in part to the electronic active differential and torque vectoring system making the most of the grip given by rear wheels.
There's no time to unpucker before the next turn, because it's on the brakes for the steep downhill and slightly 0ff-camber stretch to shave off as much speed as possible before tucking into the Turn 5 apex, which feels a heck of a lot more severe than it looks on a map of the course.
I'm told that the fastest racing line involves sacrificing the Turn 5 exit to carry speed through Turn 6. In a lesser car, this could easily be the most terrifying corner on the course: like turn 4, this right-hander blindly apexes just after it crests a hill, but Turn 6 is a faster bend that features a slight bump mid-turn. This thing seems like it was designed to sling inexperienced drivers backwards off of the track. However, the Jaguar handled with just a slight waggle of the tail during my first session and with almost telepathic control on subsequent heats.
Turn 7 is so straight that you'd almost miss it, but it flows into Turn 8, another fast and long sweeper. The front-engine, rear-driven Jag was built for this kind of corner and I was able to enjoy the firm hold of the Coupe R's deeply bolstered, but very comfortable Sport Seats. Like Turn 2, a steady toe on the throttle and a bit of patience are required to dance near the limit of adhesion before hitting the corner's very late exit. Then it's back on the Super Performance brakes with a bit of trailing to tuck the sculpted nose into the last corner of the circuit before rolling onto the throttle to enjoy the V-8's uncorked roar as I blasted up Big Willow's front straight. The Jaguar F-Type Coupe R is capable of speeds of up to 181 mph, but I was braking at the end of the relatively short straight to repeat Turn 1 with plenty of overhead at about 140 mph.
The F-Type proved to be an excellent track tool. There was plenty of grip for the course's fast corners and plenty of control for the tight and blind ones. What stood out the most was how easy it was to get the F-Type Coupe R to do what I wanted it to. The car is exceptionally well balanced and very responsive when changing speeds or changing directions. On an unfamiliar course in an unfamiliar car with more than enough power to get into some serious trouble, the F-Type Coupe R doesn't punish the driver for pushing while inspiring confidence and rewarding daring.
This is exactly what I want from a sports coupe.
Though the 550 horsepower Coupe R is the most lust-worthy Jag in the pride, the supercharged V-6 models are not to be overlooked offering plenty of power and performance for the road. While I wasn't able to test a base model, I was able to spend a week's worth of quality time on some California's best driving roads in a well spec'd Coupe S with the Performance Package.
Like the R, the Coupe S has a nearly 50/50 weight distribution, balancing neatly between its two axles. Its 380 horses provide more than enough grunt to totally disregard the speed limits on any public B-road and its grippy tires and adaptive dampers allow you to carry that speed neatly through switchbacks and sweepers.
With the Active Exhaust open and the gearbox in its Sport or Manual setting, the V-6 pops and burbles with as perhaps more than as the eight-cylinder. Along the same roads, the V-6 feels eager to rev and more involved, holding its engine speed just a bit higher than the V-8 which tackles backroads with such an quiet ease that it almost feels like it's being lazy about the whole ordeal.
And perhaps its just my imagination, but the Coupe S' nearly 110-pound lighter nose gives it just the slightest edge in responsiveness. Again, it would take a back-to-back comparison to notice the difference.
The driver-centric, two-seater's interior is largely identical to the convertible's cabin. Which means that the fit and finish is good -- especially on a fully loaded out Coupe with the $1,800 Premium Pack and a $2,700 extended leather option -- but the tech is, frankly, very disappointing.
Let's start with the good: the coupe's interior is as gorgeous as its exterior. I love how the climate controls cleverly integrate the dual-zone climate displays and temperature readouts into small screens on the face of the control knobs. These knobs also can be tapped to activate the optional heated seats ($600). This is an excellent use of a very limited amount of space that is also extremely intuitive.
Just above the climate controls is the standard touchscreen for Jaguar's navigation and infotainment system. The navigation system is okay, but doesn't speak street names aloud. It also managed to confuse me on at least a dozen occasions with cryptic turn-by-turn directions. At one point, it spoke the instruction "turn left" even though the map's instructions indicated a right turn onto our chosen route. It's weird.
I should also note that the 2015 Coupe S that I tested completely lacked any sort of on-board voice command. There isn't even a button for it on the steering wheel. Rather, Jaguar offloads its voice recognition duties to the driver's USB connected smartphone via a new JustDrive application, part of its new $400 InControl smartphone mirroring tech. I was able to test this software briefly at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show and see how it's supposed to handle voice texting, hands-free calling, and more.
However, when I hit the road on my own, wasn't able to get any of the InControl apps to work. (In all fairness, this is most likely due to conflicts with Android Lollipop's built-in Android Auto compatibility.) Subsequent tests with an Android KitKat device yielded better, but still buggy, results. Other InControl compatible smartphone apps include iHeartRadio, Parkopedia, Stitcher, and Sygic navigation, but my testing left me with the impression that InControl will need a few more software updates before it's fully baked.
Standard audio sources include an auxiliary audio input, a USB port with iPod and InControl compatibility, Bluetooth for audio and hands-free calling, and CD playback. HD and Sirius satellite radio are optional on the S ($450) and standard for the R.
Depending on the trim level and options selected, the F-Type Coupe features either a 380W, 10-speaker or a 770W, 12-speaker Meridian audio system. The Meridian system didn't really wow me with its sound, but it's not a bad audio upgrade at $1,200. I can say that the system sounds better in the Coupe than it did in the Roadster, most likely due to the more isolated cabin.
Rather than the stereo, I chose to enjoy the best music that Jaguar offers coming from the Sport Active Exhaust at full bore.
The examples that I was able to test were also equipped with an optional Vision Package ($2,400) that adds steerable headlamps with adaptive high beams, front and rear parking distance sensors, and blind spot monitoring. The package also adds a rear camera that really should be a standard feature; between the gun-slit rear window and the Coupe's bulky C-pillars, rearward visibility is absolutely abysmal.
I'm not surprised that I enjoyed my road and track time in the 2015 Jaguar F-Type Coupe. It's everything that I loved about the roadster only, in the case of the Coupe R, with more power, more responsiveness, and a more gorgeous profile. On the track where extremes of performance matter, the Coupe R is an amazing machine.
On the road, where things get a bit more subjective, I think I'd be just as happy with the V-6 S models. Jaguar has done a good job of not diluting the experience of the lower trim levels.
The base Coupe is the least expensive model in the F-Type lineup, starting at $65,000 in the US ($4,000 less than the base Convertible), £51,250 in the UK and AU$119,900 in Australia. The Coupe S, which we spent the most time with, also undercuts its Convertible twin by the same amount with its $77,000 starting price. Fully loaded up with destination charges, amenities, safety tech, and the $3,400 Performance Pack S, our Lunar Grey 2015 F-Type Coupe S rolled away at a mind-blowing $91,475 as tested.
The Coupe R is uniquely $7,000 more than the most expensive Convertible model with a starting price of $99,000, but it also boasts much more power and is the only model with torque vectoring.
It's a pricey proposition, but the Coupe S is no more expensive than an equally equipped Porsche Cayman S or BMW M4. The Coupe R, on the other hand, prices itself into a much different league of competitors. For the money, the 2015 Jaguar F-Type Coupe is an exceptional performer that goes toe-to-toe with the very stiff competition and still manages to come away looking like a supermodel.