2016 Jag F-Type gets even more sure-footed
Sideways might be the right way to conquer life’s mean curves.
Call me a low-plains drifter, but I find slithering tail-out through the corners of an empty road to be highly therapeutic — kind of like dancing with the devil on the way to work.
Think of it as low-level rebellion, a little outburst before getting in line and submitting to the daily beating on scenic Central Expressway.
But my brief moments of raggedy fun in the sun may soon be ending — thanks, as always, to technology and this silly notion that we need to be protected from ourselves.
“What do you mean that Miller Lite and a Marlboro aren’t the breakfast of champions?”
I offer the Jaguar F-Type R as Exhibit A: a slinky, snarling coupe that just a year ago promised lots of heart-stopping moments in curves and corners if you got western with the loud pedal.
Rear-wheel drive and 550 heavily squeezed horsepower tend to act that way.
Climb under the 2016 R, though, and you will find fun-sapping differentials front and rear as part of the F-Type’s new all-wheel-drive system.
Once the domain of rock-pocked Jeeps and mud-spattered pickups, all-wheel drive is increasingly being fitted to high-end, high-horsepower luxury vehicles — everything from Bentleys to Mercedes-Benzes and Porsches.
Next in line, I predict: mainstream daily drivers.
Most people won’t complain, and even I have to admit that all-wheel drive doesn’t diminish the F-Type’s grin factor by much. And it does make the car far more stable in curves, rain and ice.
But I’ve been married twice. I have a fine appreciation for instability.
Fortunately, the silver F-Type coupe I had recently still shimmered with the ghostly genes of the fabulous E-Type Jag, one of the most beautiful cars ever conceived.
Like the E-Type, the F-Type wears its long hood and powerful curves really well.
Up front, a long, slinky hood with a subtle power bulge in its center slid gracefully down onto a large, oval blacked-out grille.
Slender, distinctive headlamps cut into the tops of the fenders, and the Jag’s giant asphalt-mashing tires — 255/35s up front and 295/30s in back — were pushed to the car’s corners and wrapped around 20-inch wheels.
The overall impression, enhanced by a taut carbon-fiber top, was one of muscle and curves. The rear fenders, for example, were flared with broad shoulders on top, and the F-Type’s unusual slim wrap-around tail lamps terminated in a round main taillight — sort of E-Type meets F-Type.
And just in case you had any doubts about the R’s virility, four 3.5-inch exhaust pipes — two on each corner — seemed to spit gravel and fire with every blip of the throttle.
As sweet as the F-Type R looks, the real pleasure arrives with a push of its starter button, stirring an energetic 5-liter V-8, supercharged to the hilt.
The engine’s 550 horses don’t awaken gently, erupting instead in a concerto of thick growls, snarls and pops.
All of that lyrical twist and shout is channeled through a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic that then distributes it to all four wheels.
The system typically sends most of the power to the rear wheels but can quickly apportion more to the front wheels if the rear starts to slip and slide.
It’s kind of like having a driver’s education teacher on board with his own brake pedal.
Actually, the most noticeable effect of the system is in curves, with the Jag feeling a little less frisky turning into them and a tad bit heavier, which it is.
But the stiff-riding F-Type still corners flatly and confidently, able now to rely on immense all-wheel-drive grip.
Best of all, the Jag’s two tons of mass don’t weigh on the steering, which remains light, very quick and nicely alive with sensations from the road.
As you can imagine, acceleration is stunning with 550 horses and no wheel spin. Slam the accelerator down and the Jag’s dark snarl quickly becomes a howling, chest-mashing surge of power that will shove you to 60 in a blazing 3.4 seconds, according to Car and Driver.
Burning rubber isn’t even an option.
Zero to 100? How about 8.1 seconds.
Keep your lawyer’s cell number handy. Be prepared also to see the R’s modest 15 mpg city fuel-economy drop into single digits.
Just don’t expect a lavish interior to accompany the Jag’s lofty $131,895 price tag.
The black interior in mine seemed a bit basic, but I thought it fit the car’s polished street fighter personality — sort of high-end jeans and a $100 sweatshirt.
The black leather-covered dashboard curved gracefully down onto a large center stack topped by a modest display screen that didn’t even rate as much of a distraction.
Although storage space and elbow room were limited, the interior had some really nice touches.
The dash, for example, was stitched on its edges, and the door panels were covered in subtle black suede. A flat-bottom three-spoke steering wheel had a smooth leather cover, while the black leather seats got suede centers.
More suede was used on the headliner and the car’s console was trimmed in carbon fiber.
Appropriately, a grab handle for squirmy passengers — and many will be — was also covered in suede.
Granted, it wasn’t flashy Mercedes-Benz opulence. But I thought it looked sort of sublimely spare and functioned just fine.
To be honest, I’m still not sure about all-wheel drive. It adds density to the Jag’s handling dynamics, making it more difficult to tell what all four wheels are doing. I think I still prefer old-school rear-wheel drive, which feels lighter and more lively to me.
But most reasonable people would have a quick retort to slip-sliders like me: Get a grip.
2016 Jaguar F-Type R coupe
Type of vehicle: All-wheel-drive, two-passenger sports coupe
Price as tested: $131,895
Fuel economy: 15 mpg city, 23 highway
Weight: 4,080 pounds
Engine: Supercharged 5-liter V-8 with 550 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Performance: 0 to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds
SOURCES: Jaguar Land Rover North America; Car and Driver