Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2016 Jaguar F-Type

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

As a single fella’ who often partakes in the recreational consumption of barbecued beasts, Costco is my favorite store in the universe. Aside from fantastic meats, and great deals on cases of things like batteries, floor cleaner and luxury mayonnaises, it turns out that Costco sells a highly affordable bulk-pack of pre-moistened handy-wipes, which have proven handy for this test drive period.

The Jaguar F-Type wears its sheet metal skin more tightly than Kim Kardashian’s yoga pants. It’s one of the sexiest things on four wheels: oozing, dripping and gushing with sumptuousness so strongly you’d nearly wonder how it doesn’t leave a puddle wherever it stops. Just a peek gets the salivaries of nearby car buffs pumping away on overtime.

F-Type R has some serious, serious effect on everybody in its vicinity.

“Bro, what is that? An Aston Martin? God, it’s sexy. Is that a V12?” Asked almost all of the Bro-dudes at the gym.

Then, the scooter kids.

My office overlooks my driveway, which is bisected by a public trail frequented by pre-teens on scooters. With the window opened and the F-Type R Coupe parked just below, I took in the numerous subtleties of nine-year-olds cussing, frequently and often, every day.

F-Type R has some serious, serious effect on everybody in its vicinity. The tight skin and tidy size nearly make it a wonder that the engineers found space to stuff an all-wheel drive system underneath. Turns out, the popular two-seater, which is gaining traction (literally), was designed as an AWD car from the get-go.

Why the extra-traction option? Giving this kitty more claws moves the F-Type another step closer to offering truly world-class levels of selection on a truly world-class sports and performance car. The F-Type will be a model range, not a car, just like the Porsche 911.

Selection sells cars in this segment, ensuring shoppers can devise the perfect setup for their needs, tastes and budgets. The classy F-Type launched with numerous supercharged engine options in six or eight cylinders, and with a drop-top roadster configuration followed shortly by a coupe, adding a gorgeously swoopy fixed-lid alternative.

The Coupe Slideshow: 2015 Jaguar F-Type Coupe in the Spanish Pyrenees Slideshow

For 2016, further selection has been slathered upon the F-Type range. Now, AWD is available on the mid-line 380-horsepower V6 S model, and standard on the 550-horsepower F-Type R, helping it more strongly target shoppers planning to enjoy their investment all year round, and in inclement weather. Or those that don’t like replacing the fat rear tires every week.

A manual transmission is available now too – in six-cylinder, rear-drive models. So – coupe or convertible, supercharged six or supercharged eight, manual or automatic, and rear- or all-wheel drive. That’s a covetable list of choices to have to make in a two-seat posh-rocket.

The new AWD system was developed with serious steps taken to leave the F-Type’s underlying rear-drive hot-rod character intact. Mainly, this is an AWD system that, most of the time, doesn’t make its presence apparent.

In the dry, prioritizing the F-Type’s rear-drive feel and friskiness sees the AWD system only sending power up front as an absolute last resort after first using Torque Vectoring by Braking, and the Limited Slip Differential to turn up rear-wheel grip when drivers push it. Only once these two options have been exhausted will the AWD system start clamping its electromagnetic clutches together to send power forward. This all happens in milliseconds, and the system can even anticipate the need for front-wheel power in some instances. Translation? Extra traction is only activated when needed, but it’s activated right-frickin-now.

Engineers say that in very extreme conditions, up to 50 percent of engine power can drive the F-Type’s front wheels, though the percentage is typically much lower. From the driver’s seat then, piloting the 380-horsepower F-Type S around some winding side roads, the system isn’t apparent.

Different story for those drivers piloting its almighty snort-monster, the F-Type R, around a fast circuit. More of this monster’s 550-horsepower can be used more of the time, and drivers can blast out of corners with more confidence and thrust, and less tire smoke and sliding and risk of dramatic surprise sidewaysness. The nearly constant traction control intervention required to keep the rear tires from vapourizing is gone, too.

If you have a collection of flat-brimmed hats and haven’t got your grade twelve, you’ll probably gripe that the F-Type R can’t do a burnout, but that’s irrelevant. For novice and experienced track-day drivers alike, this AWD system puts more of the F-Type R’s capability on offer, more of the time, and that’s what the folks with the chequebooks want.

Don’t miss the whine of the supercharger pulling the F Type R past legal and even reasonable speeds, or the gorgeous zing of the optional carbon ceramic brakes pulling it back down again and again with no fade or fuss, even after numerous hot laps.

Of course, the big sound is the exhaust. Thousands of hours were spent testing prototype manifolds, mufflers, baffles, tips and plumbing arrangements to create the so-called signature Jaguar sound, with an entire team, paid in actual money, put to work ensuring the F-Type makes noises that cause drivers to require a towel. The F-Type R is literally a tick below illegally loud levels when opened up, and the thing snaps and pops like an overloaded bug-zapper when the throttle is lifted.

(I took a friend for a ride to demonstrate this, and after hearing the sound, his jaw dropped, and he looked over and told me, through a guttural man-laugh, to “take off”. Except he didn’t say “take”.)

Really, the F-Type R couldn’t sound any better.

The manual transmission available elsewhere in the model range adds a unique dimension, giving drivers even more control over that signature F-Type engine sound. The ZF-built six-speed box uses a unique oiling system to drastically reduce gearbox friction, spraying oil strategically where and when it’s needed, rather than constantly bathing the gears. This improves mileage and shift action and even contributes to reduced weight as the compact transmission only needs to carry a miniscule 1.2 litres of oil.

So what’s a lubricated-on-demand Jaguar manual box feel like? The throw is short, creamy and solid: not rifle-bolt tight or precise, but the shift mechanism and effort fall nicely between flick-of-the-wrist lightness and a good bit of exertion to remind you you’re shifting something serious. Pedals are spaced nicely for heel and toe work, and though the throttle requires a deep and prolonged stomp for blipping, it’s easy to get into the rhythm of the gearbox and throttle with some practice.

The shift mechanism and light but grabby clutch reminds your writer strongly of a BMW 335i. Test drivers with long arms are advised to ensure they’ll be able to enact a comfortable driving position, though, as your writer repeatedly wished the gear shifter was mounted an inch or two further away. It sits right beside you.

In all, the F-Type’s hot-rod feel is maintained on all models via the ever-present exhaust note (an exotic wail from the V6 and a crackling bellow from the V8), the squirmy rear-drive character of the car when drivers push, and the absolutely instant and direct throttle response, largely enabled by the use of an ‘always-on’ supercharging instead of ‘hold-on-a-sec’ turbocharging to boost output.

The added 80 kg for the AWD system won’t be felt by average drivers in terms of steering response or turn-in, and ride quality in all model variants is admirable and composed over even very rough roads. Here’s a performance car with suspension that feels solid and robust over potholes, not flimsy and delicate.

With the recent updates, the F-Type stays fully in stride with its soul. Units are available now, with pricing from $77,500. The F-Type R, which boasts arguably the most gorgeous looks in its segment, and among that segment’s most extreme, loud and haywire performance, starts around $117,000.

4 years/80,000 km; 4 years/80,000 km powertrain; 6 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/80,000 km roadside assistance

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Model Tested 2016 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe
Base Price $117,500
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,470
Price as Tested $140,070
Optional Equipment
Carbon-Fibre Roof ($3,600), Carbon-Ceramic Brakes ($13,000), Suede Performance Seats ($1,100), Vision Pack ($2,300)