Getting into trouble while wheeling the F-Type R is easy to do and that is because it’s brimming with power and sounds like it is gargling nails. Drive it past a cop car and it is impossible not to wince in your seat for fear of being pulled over and getting a ticket for what they’d presumably say was a “noisy exhaust”. It’s ever so playful, too; a mere prod of the throttle is all it takes to break the tail loose and all these factors have made it what it is — brilliant. But has some of that fun been reined with this AWD variant? It’s still ever-so stylish, has loads of adrenaline, but what about the theatrics?
You’re probably thinking the F-Type needs AWD about as much as it needs two extra doors.
All-wheel drive means you get far more grip, which is good, right? Hmm, I’m so sure. Tail-happy cars are lots of fun; dialling in some opposite lock when carving up a corner is always grin inducing, but, with so much more traction in all-wheel drive cars, you don’t tend to smile as much. You’re probably thinking the F-Type needs AWD about as much as it needs two extra doors. How often do we encounter slippery roads over here anyway? Exactly. Aha, but Jaguar has thought this through. It would never want us to think the F-Type has become sterile or too clinical like its chief rival the 911, and dare I say, boring. The AWD system that it has fortified the coupé with rubbishes any such despicable thoughts because thankfully, it is rear-wheel drive biased. The electronically controlled clutch sends 100 per cent of the power to the back wheels under normal conditions, but if it detects the rear is losing traction, it’ll divert 37 per cent of the engine’s torque to the front. Essentially, then, this is still a rear-wheel drive car (with all the bad-boy attitude that those TV spots would have us believe...) and it’s reassuring to see that Jaguar has preserved its nature. This F-Type R AWD still provides a thrilling driving experience, only now you don’t have to hold on to the thick steering wheel with your face contorted in sheer panic when you’ve overcooked a corner. The Intelligent Driveline Dynamics (IDD) exploits the maximum performance potential of AWD traction but retains the rear-wheel drive character of the model. The new technology keeps you on the straight and narrow, and makes you appear a far more competent driver.
This is a fabulous sportscar and you’d be thinking as much before you even fire up that supercharged 5.0-litre V8. People gawk at it and it gets far more attention than the Porsche, which in comparison looks downright sensible. From its voluptuous curves, that rear wing to the aggressive front end, Jaguar’s ultimate expression of a sportscar will leave you weak at the knees. Models with the new AWD system differ slightly, what with a re-designed bonnet, new vents located closer to the front, AWD badging and a body-coloured rear bumper. That may not seem like much — but when you’re born this beautiful, you don’t need too much fettling with. The body, which is to die for, is made of a lightweight aluminium construction providing a solid structure for that 542bhp V8 and its Roots-type twin-vortex supercharger. Mated to an eight-speed automatic, it has a whopping 680Nm of torque and this much oomph may sound like too much for the road, but putting the power down without a fuss is this car’s forte. Nail the throttle into the carpet and you’ll be doing 100kph in a mere 4.1 seconds and it won’t stop pulling until it sees 300kph on the speedo.
Some may argue you don’t feel totally connected to the road in the F-Type R, that it is too tail happy, that you have to be careful how hard you push it. Valid points all, but they don’t apply to the AWD variant. With all four claws digging into the road this variant performs and handles better than the rest. Sure, it’s always nice to get a little sideways action and feel all heroic about it but for the serious driver, it’d be just as pleasing to be able to cut lap times with better traction and this is what this more-manageable car allows. Most of the time, you don’t even notice the tech in action, but what will likely impress more is the electric-powered steering and the carbon ceramic brakes. The former offers very good feedback (there isn’t any of that synthetic feel like other models have) while the 15.7in (front) and 15in (rear) stoppers, painted a fetching bright yellow, bring proceedings to a very quick halt. What’s more, they shave 21kg off the overall weight of the car, which stands at 1,730kg. But the F-Type, remember, was always hefty and you don’t really notice the extra weight.
It has a whopping 680Nm of torque and this much oomph may sound like too much for the road, but putting the power down without a fuss is this car’s forte.
The one thing that leaves the biggest impression is not the AWD system, it isn’t even that rip-roaring supercharged V8. It’s that exhaust note. Push the button in the centre console marked with what looks like a double barrel shotgun (it’s actually two exhaust tips) and the Active Sports Exhaust comes to life with a crescendo of burbles, bangs and crackles on overrun. It’s so loud that you’ll wonder if it actually does signify a gun... Whatever, there’s nothing out there with a soundtrack as bad as this. If you were to ever tire of that raucous exhaust, you can turn it off and cruise peacefully along, something those old American muscle cars — which the aural drama of this evokes — could never do. They were loud all the time, but this car has two quite different personas. With the Active Sports Exhaust turned off, it drives down the street like a GT barely ticking over at 1,000rpm.
Many would argue that this is a GT and not a sportscar because it’s on the heavier side, and because the cabin is ever-so luxurious and loaded with all sorts of wizbangery. Not what you’d consider a ‘traditional’ sportscar to be, but times have changed and segments continue to evolve. People want their track cars to double up as boulevard cruisers, and this one does. The leather sports seats hold you in place when you’re gunning it around corners (they never become uncomfortable, even on long journeys) and I like the fighter-pilot switch gear in there. Apart for a few plasticky surfaces, it all looks top class but it isn’t without its issues, namely blind spots. If looking straight ahead was all that was required when driving, there’d be no such problems with the F-Type but deploy the rear wing and it blocks half of your rear-view mirror, while the A-pillars are very chunky. It’s nothing you can’t live with, heck, it even has a decent-size boot.
Many felt offering this model with all-wheel drive would take away some of the fun factor, but that hasn’t proved to be case. This one is just as powerful, just as seductive and now, it is more focused. Adding all-wheel drive to the range has enhanced its dynamic capability and the reward is an even greater drive. Now, that’s fun.