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2014-06-26 09:42

THE 'DEFINITIVE' SPORTS CAR? That's Jaguar's claim for the second wave of its F-Type performance machines - the Coupes - just launched in South Africa with the top model costing R1.5-million. Image: Jaguar

  Video

Check out Jaguar's stunning F-Type R Coupe in action. What's more, the coupe is headed for SA!

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There’s a defining moment in my life when it comes to cars: it was when my younger sister came home with a new boyfriend. Nice bloke, but I can’t remember his name, what he looked like or how he spoke.

I remember his car, though... it was dark green and had a shape that’s now burned into the psyche of anybody who takes automobiles seriously. “It’s a bloody E-Type,” I shouted to my then best mate Terry. “A bloody E-Type...!”

That was the middle of 1964 and now, 50 years later, Jaguar has another Coupe, one letter up in the alphabet but with a shape, its maker says, deliberately reminiscent of his noble forebear – that same E-Type Coupe.

ONE PRESSING, ONE SIDE

It’s almost a year since its sister Convertible arrived in South Africa but the two are, essentially, the same under the skin though Jaguar will tell you they were developed separately.

IMAGE GALLERY: 2014 Jaguar F-Type Coupe launch

Same three- and five-litre engines with eight-speed auto/manual sequential gearboxes and steering-column change paddles and made mainly of aluminium though, as the company explains, the F-Type Coupé’s body sides are made from a single aluminium pressing, “probably the most extreme cold-formed aluminium body side in the automotive industry”.

Those panels, according to Jaguar, contribute to the F-Type being the most torsionally rigid car it has yet produced.

I thought the Convertible was a pretty car; the Coupe, however, rates “beautiful”. If Enzo Ferrari were still alive, he might have agreed that the E-Type is no longer “the most beautiful car in the world” – an accolade (history tells us) he bestowed on that car when he first saw it.

'ACTIVE' DIFFERENTIAL

The E-Type’s straight-six, 3.8-litre engine made 197kW and 352Nm, could reach 240km/h and was claimed back then to be the fastest production car in the world, thanks in part to one Malcolm Sayer, an aero engineer whose aerodynamic knowledge was also used on the C- and D-Type Jaguar race cars.

The F-Type (Convertible and Coupe) range is topped by the F-Type R models whose supercharged 405kW / 680Nm five-litre engine will take the car to 100km/h in 4.2sec and an electronically limited 300km/h.

The F-Type S Coupe and F-Type Coupe (the latter the entry model) have, respectively, 280 and 250kW three-litre V6 engines capable of reaching 100km/h in 4.9 / 5.3sec and top speeds of 275 / 260km/h.

The F-Type R, however, has Jaguar’s second-generation electronic ‘active’ differential and “torque vectoring by braking”, the latter retarding the inside rear wheel during cornering to aid the turn and the car’s stability.

Carbon-ceramic matrix brake discs, 398mm front and 380mm rear, are available for the cars, producing even more prodigious stopping power and saving more than 21kg in weight.

While cabin space in the two body styles is pretty much identical boot space in the Convertible was severely limited (barely space for a laptop bag, if I recall correctly) with the collapsible roof folded down. The coupe, however, offers 407 litres – “easily accommodating two sets of golf clubs”, Jaguar says.

ONLY A SPACE-SAVER

Power opening / closing can be specified for the luggage-space hatch. Want further personalisation? I was told there are 74 988 combinations of paint, accessories, wheels, interior finishes, carpeting and trim so it is unlikely that any other of the hoped for 300 cars sold into South Africa each year will be the same as yours.

A full glass roof along the rear of the car (it costs nothing in torsional rigidity, I was told) and a 480W sound system are also options.

The one thing you might miss, however, is a full–size spare wheel; only a ‘space-saver’ is available but, given the modest boot, you might not want to carry that around with you either.

Jaguar SA is looking to sell 300 cars a year split roughly 30/60% respectively between the V6 S and the V8 R with a smattering of ‘entry’ models..

‘DEFINITIVE COUPE’

Phil Popham, Jaguar Land Rover’s group marketing director, summed up the F-Type Coupe and its bodywork and tech advances thus: “The F-Type Coupé provides its driver with a unique sports-car experience. It combines seductive design with cutting-edge technology and performance which is truly breathtaking.

“Engaging, precise, intuitive and alive – it is the definitive sports coupe.”

Jaguar wasn’t shy of showing us just how engaging the new Jaguar is by sending a convoy of them out from Umhlanga and into the kwaZulu-Natal hinterland to play dodge-the-goats-and-cows and, halfway through the day, risk the million-buck machines on the venerable Roy Hesketh race circuit near Pietermaritzburg – now restored and awaiting rebirth as the core of a motorsport-aligned upmarket housing estate.

Through the day we covered going on for 450km – nearly 100km from Umhlanga to the Hesketh circuit and a fast 320km more from there to King Shaka airport, north of Durban. Plus a dozen laps of the track.

Only the V6 F-Type S and hyper-performance V8 F-Type were supplied to drive a superb and pretty much pothole-free route up the N13 to PMB and after the scary (in the V8) track stuff from PMB via Richmond and Ixopo on the R612 and then back north-east to the N3 and south-east back to Durban and King Shaka – awesome roads with challenging passes that (well done, KZN) are in great shape.

BACKING FROM RATAN TATA

Which did I prefer? Frankly, the V6 – the choice of several other journos whom I asked, would be my buy. The car’s 280kW is plenty power, the engine howl at max revs truly orchestral and the drive lighter and more relaxing than handling the monstrous hauling ability of the V8 whose snap, crackle ‘n pop exhaust I just couldn’t get enough of.

Though Jaguar is obviously the builder, the drive to push the cars into production came from Ratan Tata, the now (I believe) retired head of Tata Motors in India which owns the Jaguar Land Rover brand, though the F-Type is assembled exclusively at three plants in the UK. Basically, I was told, he provided the hard cash needed to develop the astounding engines.

Kevin Flynn, the genial managing director of JLR SA and sub-Sahara Africa, said: “The convertible is already the best-selling open sports car in the country and we expect the coupe to have an even broader appeal, out-selling the convertible by about two to one.

“The coupe is more hard-core and the V8 R flagship is the zenith of our philosophy of making innovative, seductive performance cars.”

He emphasised the importance of the “new dynamic technologies” introduced with the coupe: a second-generation electronic active differential and – the first time on a Jaguar – “torque vectoring by braking”, the two working in parallel to provide superb grip.

The R Coupe has Jaguar’s adaptive dynamics system that controls vertical body movement, roll and pitch, monitoring the car’s attitude as many as 500 times a second. Which dynamic mode is used is your choice.

LEATHER, LEATHER, LEATHER

The F-Type’s cabins manage to combine luxury with performance with the liberal use of leather, a superb instrument array and a trip data computer with displays that might take you weeks to find let alone learn!

The R Coupé’s has ‘Performance’ seats with inflatable bolsters and trim is ‘premium’ with leather sheathing for the instrument panel and binnacle, armrests, door inserts and  centre console.

Two audio systems from British experts Meridian are available: either 10 or 12 speakers with outputs of 380W and 770W respectively.

Here’s how the prices stand – and in these stratospheric numbers there’s not much difference between the Convertible and the Coupe (ask your salesperson to explain delivery times):

F-Type 3.0 V6 Convertible – R858 300
F-Type 3.0 V6 Coupe – R843 404

F-Type 3.0 S V6 Convertible –R988 200
F-Type 3.0 S V6 Coupe - R982 404

F-Type 5.0 V8 R Convertible – R1 409 900
F-Type 5.0 V8 R Coupe - R1 534 189

For more information on and specifications of the two F-Type ranges go to the F-Type section of the Jaguar South Africa website.

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