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F-Type R: Jaguar’s statement car lays claim to the jungle

Perhaps it’s the marketing: years of being exposed to the Jaguar badge having brewed up unconscious associations in the brain. But wow, it is hard to find a metaphor more suitable to the F-Type R than its namesake big cat.

It’s not purely the power or the roar – lions and tigers have plenty of such. Rather, it’s the way the vehicle calmly slinks into position on the road. Stalking its prey until the precise moment it is close enough to pounce. When it does – foot pushed flat to the floorboard – there is no sense of exertion or loss of control. The surge in velocity is completely smooth. From the sumptuous perspective of the cabin it is the most luxurious of hunts.

Which is not at all the view from the outside. The angry gurgle echoes across the concrete jungle … the apex predator is hungry. On a track it’s a violent blur, its menacing grill only coming into focus when manoeuvring the tightest of corners. 

This flashy display of dominance is a necessity for Jaguar, of course. The F-Type R coupe (R2 543 612) is the captain of its performance stable at the moment. 

That role used to be fulfilled by the SVR version, but its future in the new generation remains unclear. The popular speculation is that it will invariably return, with this model slightly neutered to ensure scope for improvement.

Either way, the R remains the most savage car you can buy from the British manufacturer at present. In marketing speak it’s role is to emanate a halo effect: a product most people can only dream of buying but is intended to cast a warm glow over the rest of the range. (Don’t forget that one will pay for the privilege of being a flagbearer, with this costing double that of a regular F-Type.)

To that end, there’s no denying it looks damn good in a shop window. The car we tested was a pure black projectile; the darkness only interrupted by long, curved pixel LED headlights at the front and the four exhausts protruding from the most perfect derrière. 

Its badges have been blackened out to complete the look. This is an increasingly popular aftermarket tactic so some manufacturers have decided to cut out the middleman and do it themselves on the now-ubiquitous dark/black packages. 

Inside, the Jaguar does a better job than most of its competitors at offering a cockpit that suits its performance ambitions. Leather-sewn bucket seats welcome your body, nestling it neatly against the tiny rear window. The air vents at the centre of the dashboard rise up or conceal themselves depending on whether the aircon is on or not. There’s even a hand rest near the centre console for terrified passengers to grip onto – creating the impression from some angles of a quasi-roll cage setup.

But the main factor determining how the gavel lands was always going to be the performance.

Making the case is a supercharged 5-litre V8 stripped from the discontinued SVR model. The 423 kilowatt block had become somewhat of a legend so its return will surely please a good many fans. And is perhaps a little scary if they do intend to up these numbers down the line. The promised return off all of this is a 0-100km/h time of 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 300km/h. 

Off the line, its acceleration is never in doubt. Put into the raciest settings at the Gerotek Test Facilities in Pretoria, the F-Type easily registered times of between 3.5 and 4 seconds. The nature of the supercharger means its power is at your feet instantaneously; the tires screeching for a split second before launching.

Where the engine does procrastinate a bit is post the 200km/h mark. After getting there with ease it takes a bit of concentration to push the upper reaches of its capabilities on anything but a straight line. Going around the speedway it took a stingy use of the brakes to keep the speedometer clicking when it passed 235km/h.

Cornering, thankfully, makes the mission a pleasant one. The all-wheel-drive setup coupled with the adaptive sports suspension make the R a real life cheat code – simple point-and-go steering to keep it glued within the lines. Around a hairpin the cat is slick and agile.

The lightfootedness might be a turn-off for some drivers. As immensely fun as it is to drive, the smooth nature can take away the raw thrill (the kind that transposes from fear) which coupe sports cars usually inspire. It’s almost an anti-Audi TT

It would be mean to pass that as an indictment, however. The F-Type has no interest in being an unruly joy toy. Deadly but precise, it knows exactly what it is.  

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Luke Feltham
Luke Feltham is a features writer at the Mail & Guardian

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