EVO [rating:4.0]

David Vivian

What is it?

We’ve written a lot about Jaguar’s coolest car but most of it can be summed up in four statements. The F-type Coupe is one of the best-looking cars on the planet. The F-type V8 R Coupe is so good it blitzed last year’s evo Car of the Year field, bowing only to the sublime Ferrari 458 Speciale. The F-type V6 S Coupe makes a variously wonderful substitute if you can’t stretch to an R.

And the entry-level F-type V6 Coupe… well, until now we haven’t bothered to find out. Rather telling, don’t you think?

Technical highlights?

The plainest and most affordable F-type doesn’t bring anything to the party the V6 S and V8 R can’t trump with interest. It’s down on power and chassis sophistication (it doesn’t have the adaptive damping and mechanical/active limited-slip diffs of the S and R models) and if you don’t specify bigger wheels from the options list, comes on relatively puny 18-inchers.

It doesn’t look quite right on 18s so, unsurprisingly, our test car was supplied with sexier 19in Orbit Black and Diamond Turned alloy wheels and quite a few other not unreasonable goodies besides.

Even in ‘mild’ tune, that supercharged 3-litre V6 – also slated for the hottest version of Jaguar’s XE saloon – develops 250kW and 450Nm (down 30kW and 10Nm on the S). Directed to the rear wheels via ZF’s brilliant eight-speed automatic, the combination dials up 0-100km/h in 5.3sec on the way to a top speed of 260km/h. Enough to keep all but the most determined hot hatch drivers in their place.

What’s it like to drive?

Much of the F-type’s feel-good personality and demonstrative sportiness remain intact. It fires up with an explosive bark and gratuitous flare of revs before settling to a throaty idle. And there’s a real sense of energy and attack in the way it picks up the pace at even quite modest throttle openings. The soundtrack doesn’t suffer too grievously either. The switchable sports exhaust from the S and R is standard and if the V6 doesn’t sound quite as fruity as it does in S form, it’s no less vocal and retains the full retinue of crackling ballistics on the overrun, the hollow pops sounding not unlike a battery-powered toy monkey banging away on the bongos.

It’s when you put your toe down, though, that it doesn’t quite happen. At least it doesn’t if you’ve previously driven an S. That car’s almost eye-wateringly waspish top end isn’t replicated here. To its credit, the lesser V6 F-type pulls strongly through to the red line, sounding somewhat faster than it actually is, but it never quite nails the visceral thrills of the S.

Accept that and it does nothing else to diminish the F-type Coupe’s high-flying reputation. The chassis might not have trick dampers or a limited-slip diff, but the fast, direct steering, anchored front end and reassuringly tied-down agility are all present and correct. As with its more expensive and powerful stablemates, it’s a car that loves to be taken by the scruff and hustled. And although it’s wide and quite heavy, it never feels it. The absence of slack in its responses and the sheer precision with which it can be placed on the road are remarkable. The ride quality’s pretty good, too – certainly a little more rounded and forgiving than that of the S.

How does it compare?

Perhaps the only nagging problem with the basic F-type is that a Porsche Cayman S costs $139,900. Not quite as pretty as the F-type, but it’s closer to the sports car ideal. If your budget is close to snapping at $120k though and only an F-type Coupe will do, it’s easy enough to make the case.

Anything else I need to know?

The basic F-type Coupe isn’t the range makeweight it might first seem. It’s a very good car with most of the charm and performance of the S and a marginally better ride, for $33k less. Drive the S first, though, and I suspect you’ll work out a way to find the extra.
 
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