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Driving the 2015 Jaguar F-Type Coupe, England's buzz bomb at Germany

March 24, 2014

Not so long ago, I did a story about a pre-production track drive I experienced in the $99,895 supercharged Jaguar F-Type R coupe in Spain. I’m back now for more, albeit on a different Spanish track, and this time it’s with the actual production car set to hit U.S. dealerships next month.

As for the 542-hp R trim, featuring 502 lb.-ft. of torque and 20-inch rear tires that emit smoke on a whim, nothing on it has altered from my January drive. So, for this second test opportunity, I was looking forward to two things: long drives on happy little roads in the $77,895, 375-hp supercharged V-6S middle model, and then more track time with the V-8R. You know, to see if I could make the beast dance nice and dirty for me.

Sorry if this is a rehash of glee, but…isn’t the thing just gorgeous? I feel like a teenage girl at her first One Direction concert. Design maestro Ian Callum did a great job on the convertible F-Type, winning the World Car Design award for 2013 [full disclosure: I am involved in this award]. But, as with the Porsche Cayman that followed the Boxster, the coupe’s solid roof completes the F-Type's proportions to a T.

Do you want a burnout maven of a Jaguar in your garage? Get the 3,670-pound F-Type R coupe with twin-scroll supercharged 5.0-liter V-8. Also get the 20-inch forged Storm wheels that are specific to (and included with) the $12,000 Brembo carbon ceramic matrix brake upgrade; controlled oversteer through quick curves, smoking rubber at launch, and window-shaking exhaust noise are all standard.

I was encouraged to drive the F-Type Coupe to its limits: however, I discovered exactly why I needed to focus my attention to the F-Type S with the supercharged 3.0-liter V-6. Despite my love for the V-8R, this V-6S is the one I would buy, and it will be the biggest seller in the F-Type range.

Jag’s two-seater sports car is more at home on road than it is on the track. And if I am driving my F-Type on public roads, a series of things makes me want the V-6S more, despite missing the additional power and roar of the four-tip exhaust on the V-8. I love the finesse of the 3,510 lb. V6-S at full chat. It’s merely 0.8 seconds slower to 60 mph — 4.8 seconds estimated versus the 4.0 seconds of the V-8R — but with less weight, it handles technical road sections with more poise.

Having now spent plenty of time in the F-Type coupe, it’s allowed me to nitpick the few bits that are lacking. First among these is the sub-par touchscreen and sat-nav – it’s not intuitive, and while improving over time, more work is needed. The cockpit of the F-Type is comfortable and supportive, but if a taller driver or passenger requires the seat all the way back to the rear bulkhead, the incessant leather-on-leather binding sounds could force you to carry a less-than-luxury terry cloth at all times to tuck between them. A last bit, which surprises me in such a sporting Jag, is that there is no bracing dead pedal for the left foot in the driver’s foot well. This, to me, is crucial to have in a car designed to be thrashed.

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If you’re in the V-8 F-Type, you need the carbon cermamic brakes. Out on the wild roads, I experienced the normal steel brakes, and they were slightly insufficient through repeated hard braking. Between the stiff body and chassis, and well-calibrated adjustable suspension, both the V-8R and V-6S feel flat as a board through tight curves. What would make it better? A manual shifter. But despite my yearning to row my own gears, the eight-speed transmission with the typical steering wheel-mounted paddles is plenty capable; the snap, crackle and pop from the overrun and the blips on downshifts make for an exciting alternative.

While it's fair to say that the F-Type coupe's success may be made easier due to its stunning looks, you'd be a fool to suggest that's all it has going for it. It's well-rounded and capable, and a every bit the rival to that ultimate German sports car, the Porsche 911.

Full disclosure: The manufacturer provided meals, air transportation and lodging for this review