April 24 (Bloomberg) -- Beauty, thy name is no longer Jaguar.
Temperance, subtlety and understatement shall not be cross-indexed with the Tata Motors Ltd.-owned brand these days either.
Look instead to bombast, muscle and “turn it to 11, baby.” Take that firm upper lip and pull it over your head, as the new Jaguar F-Type R Coupe has no interest in keeping calm. Its 550-horsepower soul is dedicated to shock and awe.
There’s a whiff of private-school breeding to be found on details like the stitching and fine leather seats, yet mostly the F-Type is a two-door muscle car, as much a hooligan as a Camaro ZL1 or Shelby Mustang.
For those of us who really weren’t there for the 1960s, we mostly know Jaguar for its long, sleek land yachts from the mid-1970s on. They were either stately saloons or two-door coupes and convertibles that seemed vaguely like sports cars.
The U.K.-based brand’s golden age was embodied earlier, with the justly revered E-Type of the 1960s or the boggling sensuality of the 1950s D-Type race cars.
The F-Type Coupe is the new blueprint of a vigorous, frame-rattling Jaguar, which abandons British reticence for an international sense of “I’m coming through!” entitlement. Power is the commodity.
The price for the R model starts at about $100,000. The car has a 5-liter supercharged V-8 with the 550 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque. The $77,000 F-Type S Coupe has a 3-liter supercharged V-6 with 380 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque. Both are deliciously loud and plenty fast.
The coupe models come on the heels of the F-Type Convertible, which Mumbai-based Tata put on sale first. This reversed the normal order of things, pointing to the importance of the U.S. market for the F-Type.
Americans with the disposable income for a plaything like the F-Type are generally thought to go for convertibles rather than coupes. Globally, coupes are often preferred over roadsters.
The convertible is handsome if not pretty. It is also a bucketful of fun, handling ably on both road and racetrack. I like that car.
My personal expectations for the coupe were that it would be more beautiful than the drop-top and handle even better. After all, a roof gives the opportunity for more flowing lines and more structural rigidity.
It does handle better, especially at the limit. Big, sticky tires ensure plenty of traction, and the car is stiffer than an anvil. This makes it worthy of a racetrack, especially when outfitted with superlative (and expensive) carbon-ceramic brakes.
All that potency can overwhelm the chassis though, especially on regular roads with, you know, speed limits and all. The R model may sound like the thing, but the V-6 S model is the more balanced machine.
The downside of huge tires and the little give to the suspension is a rough ride. Every imperfection of the road transmits into the cabin. It’s noisy and often uncomfortable.
The design left me underwhelmed. This is a matter of taste, of course, but where I expected sexily curved fenders and svelte contours, I found instead an exaggerated hood and braggadocio bulges. The skin is puffed out to the point of seeming overstuffed, without hint of give or elasticity. The standard 20-inch (51-centimeter) wheels on the R are so big as to be cartoonish. This is a muscleman forced into a too-small T-shirt rather than a sprinter in a Savile Row suit.
And if the package looks bigger and wider than expected, the cockpit is more cramped. It’s identical to the convertible except that the fixed roof skims over your head.
Sadly, there is a solid partition behind the seats, which means no access to the rear hatch. If you’ve got an umbrella you want to chuck into the space, you’ll have to exit the car and open the hatch. Seeing as it’s already an impractical car, one wishes Jaguar had spent a little extra time and money for a better solution.
While the seats look great, they proved iron-lung uncomfortable to my 6-foot (1.8-meter) frame, with an unlikely cant forward just at the point where my back and neck meet.
Would you, then, be spending $100,000-plus for only tight quarters and a voluminous hood?
Well, no. Muscle cars are fun, perhaps especially so when they come under the guise of a sophisticated European brand. Imagine yourself on a two-lane road with a slow-moving car ahead. The center divider allows for a short passing zone. You signal your intention to pass and then...
Cue the John Williams soundtrack: cymbals crashing, horns swelling, bows sweeping over violins. This is the F-Type R’s raison d’etre, the reason it has forsaken plummy sotto tones for a rebel yell.
You pass the other car in a hot second, a vortex of hot exhaust, expressive sound and aluminum shearing through air. The Jag lays on straight-line speed like a ballistic missile.
You’ll want to revisit that moment, that sensation, time and time again. Any chance to lay into the gas, if only for a moment’s spurt, to get that feeling of being a 5-year-old on a madly spinning merry-go-round.
The Jaguar F-Type R Coupe at a Glance
Engine: 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 with 550 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.
Zero to 60 miles per hour: Four seconds.
Gas mileage per gallon: 16 city, 23 highway.
Price as tested: $118,000 (estimated).
Best feature: Howls like the wind.
Worst feature: Seats that will make you howl.
(Jason H. Harper writes about autos for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
To contact the writer of this review: Jason H. Harper at Jason@JasonHharper.com or follow on Twitter @JasonHarperSpin
To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Lear at firstname.lastname@example.org Niamh Ring