Two days ago, I had the distinct pleasure of driving a friend’s 2016 Jaguar F-Type R and came away quite confused. This is a vehicle that checks all of the boxes concerning what a sports car should look like- it’s low, wide, short, and an absolute pleasure to behold. Inside, the vehicle seems to stick to its predecessors traditions of an “intimate” interior. Combine these two aspects with the fact that I’m well aware of the vehicle’s “lightweight aluminum body structure” from all of Jaguar’s marketing and I was certain that this would be a recipe for a great driver’s car. It isn’t.
Yes, the car makes exciting noises and is supremely powerful but I couldn’t ever get past one overriding factor- the weight. Having owned 2 Ford GTs that possess roughly the same power, I was excited to experience the rush that comes from nailing a decent sized, supercharged V8 in a relatively light vehicle. Unfortunately, this feeling just never showed. Yes, there is lots of magnificent exhaust noise but it isn’t accompanied by the force of the acceleration throwing you back like an eager horse or blur the scenery around you like the Enterprise entering warp drive. Oddly, the experience was eerily similar to the one I had when test driving a 2007 Aston Martin Vantage back when they were new. In both cases, the looks and sounds just never matched up with the actual experience. There was always something holding each car back from living up to the expectations that I had for them. In the case of the Aston, it was the power, as 380 hp just wasn’t enough. For the Jag, it was the weight, as every sensation seemed to be watered down. The first few times you fully depress the throttle in a 991 Turbo S or Ford GT, you basically hold on for dear life as the world around you flashes by at a genuinely astonishing rate and you are expecting for the car to take off at any moment. In the Jag, you depress the accelerator and just enjoy the roar behind you but are not provided with the same rush of the other two. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by being privileged enough to drive quite a few amazing vehicles over the years but the F-Type R’s acceleration just didn’t give me the nervous excitement that a proper sports car should. It’s probably a bit like Stouffer’s lasagna. If that’s the only kind of lasagna you’ve ever had, you probably think it’s quite good, maybe even great. However, once you experience a friend’s homemade version whose recipe has been passed done over generations or eat at an exquisite restaurant like Tony’s Di Napoli in New York (one of the few reasons to venture into the city), you’ll never view that cardboard box the same way again.
Not surprisingly, the disappointment doesn’t end when you reach a corner. The excessive mass means that you are required to partake in hard straight line braking or the car will just plow miserably around the bend. Of course, then you reach the corner exit and are ready to deploy the power again... except you can’t because the differential doesn’t seem to ever want to lock up and instead is more than happy to let you destroy the rear tires all day long. Think of the parent who is much more interested in his or her phone than his or her children who are on the verge of starting WWIII on the playground and you’ll have a pretty good idea. Maybe they are both unaware of their duty or simple don’t care, either way, you won’t be booting the throttle mid-corner and riding a surge of power and howling exhaust into the next bend. No, you’ll be relegated to a game of “How much patience can my right foot exhibit?” But it has all-wheel drive you proclaim! I’m here to tell you, it really doesn’t matter. You will feel the front start to grip once the rears have been overwhelmed but it’s a bit like throwing a bucket of water on a wildfire. Yes, you put out some of the fire but it’s a bit too little too late. In addition, even when the front wheels do start taking some of the load, they are only receiving a maximum of 37% of the total power. Not surprisingly, when around 340 hp (550 hp x 63%) is still being delivered to wheels that are already spinning, the result is not going to be traction miraculously being regained all of a sudden. I won’t even mention the cramped cabin because criticizing this car anymore just seems cruel.
All is not lost though. The R does ride decently, the cabin is adequately trimmed, and the transmission is a terrific mechanism (fast shifting when you want but more than happy to poodle around town). However, the standout really has to be the exhaust. It just has so much character and personality that it almost makes you forgive the car for its handling woes.
My good friend, Richard, a man who doesn’t particularly care for driving quickly and is much more concerned with what image his vehicle projects, is, not surprisingly, quite smitten with his F-Type R. He says it makes him feel like a rockstar, as he allegedly can’t go anywhere without someone commenting on how beautiful his car is or what an amazing sound it produces. Upon hearing this, I just shook my head while allowing it to fall into my hands.
So, the best way that I can sum up the 2016 Jaguar F-Type R is if you care about style over substance, you will absolutely adore it. It looks sensational, makes a sound that is guaranteed to put a smile on even a Honda Insight driver’s face, and will make you seem much more popular than you actually are. If however, you want cars that make nice noises and perform well, check out something from Germany (or possibly the U.S.).
Having driven the F-Type R and felt firsthand its corpulence, I decided to research the vehicle’s actual curb weight. I suspected around 3,800 lb but was shocked to learn it’s actually most likely closer to 4,000. So, I decided to see how that stacks up in the current market. In addition, I researched the rear-wheel drive, 2015 version of the R as well to get an idea of just how much weight was gained by moving to all-wheel drive.
2016 Jaguar F-Type R (AWD):
Curb Weight- 4,008 lb (53/47%) (MT), 4,088 (C&D)
Length, Width, Height- 176.0 x 75.7 x 51.6 in
Trunk Volume- 11 cu. ft.
2017 Acura NSX (AWD):
Curb Weight- 3,876 lb (42/58%) (MT), 3,854 lb (R&T), 3,868 lb (C&D)
Length, Width, Height- 176 x 76.3 x 47.8 in
Trunk Volume- 4 cu. ft.
2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S (RWD)
Curb Weight- 3,698 (48/52%) (MT), 3,683 lb (R&T)
Length, Width, Height- 179 x 76.3 x 50.7 in
Trunk Volume- 12.4 cu. ft.
2017 Audi R8 V10 Plus
Curb Weight- 3,642 (42/58%) (MT),
Length, Width, Height- 174.3 x 76.4 x 48.8 in
Trunk Volume- 8 cu. ft.
2015 Porsche 911 Turbo S (AWD):
Curb Weight- 3610 lb (39/61%) (MT), 3,588 lb (C&D)
Length, Width, Height- 177.4 x 74.0 x 51.0 in
Trunk Volume- 4.7 cu. ft.
The comparison I found most insightful was the one between the current Z06 and the RWD R because they seem to be extremely similar in many aspects and yet their weights are just so vastly different.
2015 Jaguar F-Type R (RWD):
Curb Weight- 3873 lb (52/48%) (MT), 3,917 lb (C&D)
Length, Width, Height- 176.0 x 75.7 x 51.6 in
Trunk Volume- 11 cu. ft.
2016 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Z07 (RWD):
Curb Weight (Manual)- 3,499 lb (MT), 3,536 lb (R&T)
Curb Weight (Automatic)- 3,550 lb (49/51%) (MT)
Length, Width, Height- 177.9 x 77.4 x 48.6 in
Trunk volume- 15 cu. ft.
Why I compared them:
1. Both have relatively large, supercharged V8s with intercoolers
2. Both feature an 8-speed automatic transmission
3. Both are 2-seat, sports cars
4. Both have very similar dimensions
Note- For those wondering why I included trunk volumes, it is due to my love of traveling in performance cars and I thought it would add an interesting layer to the comparison.