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Hard R, the F-Type R is not for children

Enzo Ferrari himself described the E-Type, as “the most beautiful car ever made” and it’s hard to argue with his thinking. But ten things went a little sideways. Jag made some great execu-sleds in the meantime, packed with ample power and style, but there’s been a bit of a cloud over the marque’s head since the Ford debacle, and what better way to shrug off the Americana blues than by making a proper British sports car… again.

In 2013 the F-type marked the return of the predatory cat, and this gorgeous front-engine, rear-wheel drive Jag has clearly been sharpening its claws with an eye towards Teutonic rivals. It’s not so much a E-Type reboot, which they wisely avoided claiming with the name change, as a an extension of the E-Type’s legacy.

Consider, for example, that the E Type’s designer Malcolm Sayer cut his teeth designing planes, so perhaps it’s not surprising that he was the first designer in automotive to bring the complex aerodynamic design approach of aviation to motoring, prefiguring the modern day CFD systems (computational fluid dynamics) that help today’s cars (like the fantastic F-Type) slip through the air.

Lowering myself down into the cockpit of the R I was greeted by surprisingly generous headroom and an unobstructed view afforded by the gargantuan, pillar-less side windows. You can’t help but feel slightly privileged the moment you plant your rear in the F-Type’s Performance seats, with their inflatable side-bolstering and jutting wings put in place to grip the driver during high-speed cornering. That feeling is only enhanced when you finger the start button, firing up the muscular feline’s 5.0-liter supercharged V8 engine, delivering seering performance and driver experience.

This car devours the twisting tarmac like Pac Man, even with its 1,745 kg kerb weight— F-Type added Jag’s Electric Power Assisted Steering in recent years and despite the requisite complaining about that move, the car feels pointed and sharp, like a surgeon’s scalpel. The change also trimmed 4g CO2/km from JLR’s EU combined cycle so it’s not as if they don’t have a good reason for modernizing.

Jag has worked hard to ensure that F-Type’s AWD system is a winner, governing the system with their Intelligent Driveline Dynamics control (IDD). “IDD allows us to provide ‘torque on demand’ – only delivering torque to the front wheels when it’s required to enhance traction” said Russ Varney, Vehicle Programme Director, Sports Cars for Jaguar. “That means we get great steering precision and the efficiency of a rear-drive car, but with additional traction via the front wheels precisely delivered to match the driver’s demand, the road surface and the driving situation.” The upshot is, it works, and it does so really well. AWD sports cars aren’t for everyone, but this is one of the better examples.

The mighty V8 produces 680Nm of torque and 550PS— all that raw power translate into a head-snapping 0-100kph time of 4.2 seconds, running all the way up to 300kph. This copious reserve of speed is paired with laser-honed capability and intuitive, if rather laissez-faire, driving dynamics. Traction control and stability control are present, naturally, they just give you plenty of room to really feel what this sports car is capable of and more or less expect you to know what you’re doing in return.

The R is equipped with Jag’s second-gen electronically controlled differential and the Torque Vectoring by Braking (TVbB) which JLR created specifically for this car but now offers on all models. TVbB avoids understeer by selectively braking the inside wheels, which helps hold an ideal line but can also keep the car stable under extremes— Jag uses the example of an emergency lane change.

This R is perhaps less forgiving than its siblings, although not disconcertingly so. A set of high-strength, hydro-formed aluminium beams in the roof rails help see to that sizable increase, but this is every bit a Jaguar to be sure, meaning you could drive it every day. It’s also quite keen to scratch up your local track.

According to Jaguar, the R versions of the car are 4.3 per cent stiffer at the front and 3.7 per cent stiffer at the back. In our experience the R transfers takes potholes and ruts a bit more personally than the S. So while it’s slightly more jolting as a daily driver, the track ability more than makes up for that disparity in the right kind of driver.

One thing you won’t be able to stop: people turning their heads for a longer look at the ride as it passes by. The arcing roofline meets the tapered windows to create an effect that is partly recognizable, but also, something new. The F-Type coupe looks bruising and aggressive— the most villainous of its good-to-be-bad stablemates. At the same time, athleticism and luxurious refinement, hallmarks of Jag, are present in every element of this beautiful and terrifying car.

If you don’t like the F-Type R, we have a timely medical suggestion for you: check your pulse. What’s that? You still have one? Good, then go out and drive this superlative car— we’re confident you’ll come to appreciate it.

By: Tarek Hawchar | Photos: Natali Leonova

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