Just when it seemed that Jaguar’s ferociously fun F-Type didn’t have any more tricks up its sleeve, it pulled out another ace for the 2016 model: adding a full-time all-wheel drive (AWD) system and some slightly revised styling.
Since the 2013 launch of one of the sleekest sports cars to come out of the UK, the F-Type has quickly become the modern face of the company, and has been steadily rolling out new variants featuring an alternate form factor (coupe, in 2014) or transmissions (manual, available in rear-wheel drive V6 models). Now, for the first time, the grade-topping, 550-horsepower R trim receives standard AWD.
But first, a little on its appearance. Journalists, enthusiasts, and even casual onlookers alike have commented time and time again on simply how beautiful the vehicle is. When it was first released, Ian Callum, director of design at Jaguar, likened the styling to a narrative, saying in a press release that “a piece of design should tell a story, and this is why every line in the F-Type has a start, a direction, and a conclusion.”
The story is conveyed through a pair of what Jaguar calls “heartlines”—creases formed in the bodywork that give the F-Type its unique windswept shape. The first heartline runs up the front fender and across the doors, and the other curves along the flared rear wheel arch and towards the hidden active rear spoiler, which pops up when sensors detect speeds of over 100 kilometres per hour. New for this year, the hood bulges have been massaged to offer a more aggressive aesthetic and better fit around the powertrain, and the cooling vents are spaced further apart and forward to differentiate from rear-wheel drive (RWD) versions.
Drivers opting for the R are treated to comfortable leather 14-way power adjustable seating with R logos set into the headrests. On both door panels are knobs that can inflate the side bolsters to varying degrees of support. For convertibles, the soft top is raised and lowered using a pull switch on the centre console. Operation is smooth, quick, and quiet, as one would expect from a Jaguar.
What isn’t quiet, however, is the engine, and that’s a wonderful thing. A strong case could be made for buyers to choose a drop top over a coupe for this very reason—the F-Type howls like a startled jungle cat whenever the gas pedal is pressed, and without a roof overhead, the sound seemingly comes from every direction.
The above effect is magnified 10-fold when the dynamic exhaust is activated, done so by pressing a button below the shift knob illustrated via a miniature set of muffler tips. A set of bypass valves in the exhaust piping open up, creating an increasing cacophony of pops, growls, and backfiring sounds as the tachometer needle rises. Pure bliss.
Replacing the 495-horsepower mill found in the RWD S is a supercharged 5.0-litre V8 pumping out a mighty 550 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque, mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Combined with the instinctive AWD—instinctive because torque is sent to the front set of wheels only when the computer determines additional traction is required to maintain grip—acceleration from zero to 100 kilometres per hour is achieved in less than four seconds.
Despite packing a big 5.0-litre displacement, fuel consumption is relatively low at a measured 15.2 litres per 100 kilometres in mixed driving conditions. Partly responsible is the F-Type’s Electric Power Assisted Steering, a first for Jaguar on a sports car, which unlike a hydraulic setup only provides assistance when needed. A real cat’s meow.
Photos by Benjamin Yong.
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