LOS ANGELES — We came to play. Jaguar was debuting its new F-Type coupe at a two-day party for the world’s automotive media. There was no way to pretend this was work.
The honoree, presented in two iterations — S and R — was a motorized bauble with starting prices ranging from $65,895 to $99,895.
The car, unveiled here in the glamour of West Hollywood, is wonderfully impractical, unadulterated fun. It is necessary only in the sense that fine art, music, dance, drama, poetry and good novels are necessary. You don’t need them. But your life would be pitifully poor in their absence.
Similarly, driving and the illusion of freedom that accompanies it would be diminished without the reality (for those who can afford it) or the aspiration (for those of us who can’t) of owning and driving the F-Type.
It is a stunningly beautiful automobile — seductively sensuous in its curved, rounded exterior presentation and enormously satisfying in its well-crafted, super-comfortable interior. It is a personal luxury car, designed to mask the more onerous aspects of being on the highway while carrying only two people and a limited amount of their stuff.
It is practically impractical. But that is the point. The new F-Type coupe is motorized luxury at its finest—replete with racetrack driving performance, advanced electronic safety features, top-notch cabin materials and even a nod to better fuel economy with Jaguar’s Intelligent Stop/Start System.
Stop/Start works this way: It is activated when the engine is turned on. When the brake pedal is depressed, the engine stops automatically unless it is needed to support other vehicle functions, such as air conditioning. Releasing the brake pedal and selecting a drive gear automatically restarts the engine.
Stop/Start saves fuel, although those savings might seem negligible in both the V-6 and V-8 versions of the F-Type coupe. The V-6 S (380 horsepower, 339 pound-feet of torque) gets 19 miles per gallon in the city and 27 miles per gallon on the highway, for an average of 23 mpg. The V-8 R (495 horsepower, 460 pound-feet of torque) gets 16 miles per gallon in the city and 23 miles per gallon on the highway for an average 18 mpg. Both engines require premium gasoline.
But no one will buy either car primarily for fuel economy, or utility. Writer F. Scott Fitzgerald’s truism about the rich — “They are different from you and me” — stands. They’ll buy the rear-wheel-drive F-Type coupe simply for the rush. The S car, with the V-6 engine, moves from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 4.8 seconds. The R, with the V-8, does it in 4.2.
Problem is, you legally cannot drive either car that fast on the streets of Los Angeles County, or on any other regulated road in the United States. So, we did what only automotive journalists, or what people gifted with the time and money to do it, are wont to do. We took a meandering, winding route to the Willow Springs International Motorsports Park in the community of Willow Springs, about an hour’s drive north of here, to play with the F-type R and S on the raceway’s 2.5-mile main track.
Except, I did not play there. It made no sense to me. I took as truth the testimony of Jaguar engineers and fellow journalists that the R and S moved as fast as advertised. It made more sense to me to drive the cars in real traffic, rush-hour type congestion, the kind that confronts most of us on our daily commutes.
Both the R and S were fun to drive in that milieu, too. Precise, quick steering coupled with the admirably smooth operation of the eight-speed Quick-Shift ZF transmission, which also could be operated manually via steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, took the labor out of driving. Traffic jams became fun. People stared at the F-Type, waved, tried to get me to lower the driver’s window to ask about the car. I felt like the celebrity that I wasn’t. It was a massive ego boost. In Los Angeles and elsewhere, that is worth something.
Bottom line: For those with the means, the F-Type coupe, either the R or S, is a wonderful toy. The V-6 S offers remarkable power and almost reasonable fuel economy for a car of its type. It makes more sense — to the extent that sense can be made of a purely luxury sports car. The V-8 R is a statement in its own right, something like: “I got mine. . .” There is a base S type with a lower horsepower V-6 (340 horsepower, 332 pound-feet of torque). Get the R or S.
R-S ride, acceleration and handling: Both get top marks in all three.
Head-turning quotient: The car is a massive ego boost. Don’t drive if you are in a witness-protection program. You will be noticed, maybe followed.
Body style, layout: The F-Type is a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, compact, two-door, two-seat luxury sports car of largely aluminum construction. It is available in base, S and R trim with two iterations of a V-6 serving the base and S models, and with a V-8 assigned to the R.
R and S engines/ transmission: The S comes with a supercharged (forced air), 3-liter, 24-valve gasoline V-6 with variable valve timing (380 horsepower, 339 pound-feet of torque). The R has a supercharged, 5-liter, 32-valve, variably timed V-8 (495 horsepower, 460 pound-feet of torque). Both engines are linked to an eight-speed automatic transmission that also can be operated manually via steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Capacities: Seating is for two people. Cargo capacity with all seats in place is 11 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 18.5 gallons of gasoline. Premium fuel is required.
Mileage: I spent most of my highway driving time in the V-8 R averaging 21 miles per gallon. The V-6 S was discernibly better in that regard at an estimated 25 miles per gallon on the highway.
Safety: Standard F-Type equipment includes front and rear ventilated disc brakes; emergency braking assistance; electronic brake-force distribution; four-wheel antilock brake protection.
Pricing: Prices range from $65,895 for the base F-Type to $99,895 for the R. Most sales probably will occur in the S class with options boosting the price of that model into the mid-to-high $70,000 range. R prices will exceed $100,000 with options.