India is a country of dichotomy (east meets west), say observers. It is also a land of preconceived notions. Anything with a supercharged 5.0-litre V8 pumping out 550bhp is overkill. And, if it is ensconced in a red suit, then it has to be a Ferrari.
The latter assumption has been a constant source of irritation. The average Joe cannot be blamed for it, though. It is up to design committees and managements to make sure their vehicles look different. Unique design languages set a brand identity, and Ian Callum, design head at Jaguar, and his team seem to understand that. Not one soul we encountered during the three days we had the F-Type Coupe R for mistook the scarlet F-Type for a Ferrari. Everyone whipped out their phones, took photos and exclaimed “what a lovely Jag!”, or “look, a Jag”. Take a bow, Callum and team.
On to round two: comfort and usability. A machine that can accelerate from 0-100km/h in just over four seconds should be uncomfortable and a bit of a high-strung horse. But, heck no. The 20-inch wheels were backed by some of the most sublime damping we’ve seen on a sports car in aeons. With the gearbox set to drive and the ESP firmly on, it felt just like a regular XF, the seats providing ample support in all the right places. Jag — 2, preconceived notions — 0.
Turn off the nanny controls, and the F-Type R Coupe turns into the most vivacious entry-level supercar that snorts, crackles and barks. Push that gold-plated toggle switch on the centre console into dynamic mode, shift the gear lever into sport, raise the revs, engage launch control, and it simply flies in the face of logic and fruit flies. It takes a while to take in what is happening. Before you know it, you are deep into three-digit speeds. A little shaken, you back off the throttle. Now, the violence is driven up by a factor of three. The exhaust pops, crackles and explodes as unburnt gases exit it. You laugh out loud and go through the acceleration process all over again, only to enjoy getting off the throttle. The F-Type R Coupe is one of the few cars in the world more enjoyable off the gas than on it.
Make no mistake, though, it is a lot of fun accelerating too. It nudges your head against the restraint with a certain degree of tenacity. It took us a little over 11 seconds to get to 200km/h, our eyeballs turning in their sockets while the car hunkered down to find every ounce of grip and downforce it could. We soon reached a wet section and backed off the throttle. It was a prudent thing to do. The F-Type is a bit tricky to brake in the wet, the only positive being the rear wing that pops up in your rearview mirror. You won’t find such drama in many other supercars.
To keep things sane, we got off the highway and onto a twisting section of road. The F-Type apologised for its behaviour in the wet by wagging its tail. It must be the most tail-happy supercar out there, letting its rear sometimes overtake the front. It is not the fastest around corners, mind you, but it will leave you with a sense of achievement a long time after you’ve parked the car in your driveway and treated yourself to a glass of single malt as you catch a glimpse of that evocative shape in the fading light through your living-room window. What will make you smile the most is that steering. Injected with a lot of feel and beautifully weighted, even in dynamic mode, what makes it stand out is the steering speed, which is neither too fast nor too slow.
The interiors of the F-Type R Coupe have a lot of nice little touches, such as the grab rail on the centre console, the nicely finished paddles behind the steering and the rubber-lipped automatic climate-control switches. However, they don’t have the flair of Porsche’s interiors.
Viewed in totality, though, the F-Type R Coupe is special, more so than a Porsche. It has will-lift-your-spirits-up-on-a-bad-day looks. That 5.0-litre supercharged V8 is naughty with a sense of joi de vivre, not customary in supercars these days. And, oh, it will scare you silly, like supercars of yore. It’s a return to form for Jaguar.