In order to stave off the spiral into irrelevancy, Jaguar is rolling out a few key updates to keep its F-Type fresh for the 2016 model year, including the all-new R All-Wheel Drive model seen here. But is that enough to keep the F-Type fresh? Come with us as we find out.
What is it?
Based on the F-Type Convertible that has been with us for nearly two years, the R AWD is the ultimate expression of Jaguar's sportiest model. It may look similar to the regular F-Type, but underneath its sheet metal the R packs an up-rated 550-horsepower 5.0L supercharged V8, all-wheel drive and a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic.
What's it up against?
With a price tag well into the six-figure range, the Jaguar F-Type R AWD goes up against some pretty stiff competition, including the Chevrolet Corvette Z06, Porsche 911 Carrera 4S and the BMW M6. Although not as sporting as the F-Type, the Mercedes-Benz SL550 can be had for about the same kind of money as the R AWD.
What's it look like?
Like a rolling piece of art.
The F-Type joined the "most beautiful car ever built" discussion the second it was unveiled, and the 2016 R model does nothing to move it out of that conversation. Changes from the regular F-Type are pretty much limited to wider sills, a more muscular hood and 20-inch wheels.
We found our tester's Glacier White/red roof color combo to be quite striking, but your opinion may vary. For the more conservative crowd, the F-Type R's cloth roof can also be had in black, grey and tan.
We'd give a slight edge to the F-Type Coupe in the looks department, but there is just something special about a drop top Jag.
And the inside?
The F-Type's cabin is more of a mixed bag, juxtaposing a smart design and high-end finishes with some decidedly down-market bits. For example, the area around the center console is beautifully trimmed in leather with contrasting stitching, but the faux carbon fiber faceplate feels more like something you might find in a Subaru WRX.
The F-Type R's twin-pod gauge cluster is also somewhat of a letdown. For such a special car, the speedo and tach just seem ordinary. Moreover, the speedometer's spacing is a little tight, making it tricky to judge 5 mph increments. Luckily there is a center LCD screen that also displays vehicle speed.
Center air vents provide some added drama to the F-Type's interior, leaping up from the dash at the touch of a button. The unit retracts when not in use. And while we're on the subject, we found the F-Type's chunky HVAC controls to be ideally positioned and easy to use.
We can't say the same for Jaguar's infotainment system, which is still clunky despite a recent refresh. Menu layouts aren't the most intuitive in the industry and there is some significant lag between screens. The F-Type now feature's Jag's InControl Apps, but most buyers would probably prefer the latest Android Auto or Apple CarPlay systems.
The F-Type R uses sculpted sports seats that are nice to look at but not necessarily comfortable to sit in. The piping down the center of the seats is a nice aesthetic touch but it can dig into your back. And while there is plenty of bolstering to keep you in place, there isn't a lot of padding, meaning you backside will further suffer from a long Sunday drive.
But does it go?
Any complaints about the F-Type R Convertible are immediately erased when you get it pointed down an empty winding road.
Thanks to its 550-horsepower, 502-lb-ft of torque supercharged V8 and all-wheel drive traction, the F-Type R shoots off the line like a stabbed rat. Jaguar says the F-Type R Convertible can accelerate from 0-60 in under four seconds, and it feels every bit of that fast.
And with that rush of speed comes an exhaust note that would make any muscle car blush. With the exhaust baffles open the F-Type R roars to its 6,500 rpm red line before barking into the next gear. Each downshift is accompanied by a flurry of crackling and popping that sounds like you're being followed by the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
For those drivers that might want to be a little more discreet, the exhaust baffles can be closed with a button in the center console, making the F-Type R as quiet as a typical sedan. They do, however, open automatically as the revs climb beyond 3,500 rpm.
The F-Type R's eight-speed auto does a fine job of shifting on its own, but we preferred grabbing the bull by the paddle shifters. Although it's not a dual-clutch unit, the eight-speed swaps gears at lightning speed.
The F-Type R's electronic steering creates a disconnect between the tiller and the front wheels, but inputs are met with a direct response. The F-Type R's on-center feel would benefit from an update as it's rather vague.
The F-Type R's suspension is definitely taut even in its softest setting, but not in an offensive way. Unless you're covering choppy pavement, the F-Type R won't rattle your fillings out. But, as we mentioned earlier, the F-Type's seats aren't the softest, so when combined with its stiffer suspension, the F-Type R makes for a less-than-ideal long-distance cruiser.
But for a short blast, it's hard to beat the F-Type R. The roadster's AWD system provides a welcomed safety net that also improves overall handling. Stab the power coming out of a corner and you can still get the back end to slide, but the AWD system seamlessly kicks in and pulls the car back in line. The F-Type R is never going to be the purest sports car with a curb weight of nearly 3,850 pounds, but Jaguar engineers have done a masterful job of hiding most of that heft. And that intoxicating exhaust note is a cherry on top.
As you might expect of a vehicle that's a borderline supercar, the F-Type R Convertible isn't the most practical daily driver. Trunk space is cramped, although it is possible to squeeze in a golf bag as long as you stow your longer clubs separately. Interior storage space is also at a premium.
Those coddled by today's latest driving aids might feel a little naked in the F-Type R. While you can get parking sensors, a rear-view camera and blind spot monitoring, things like adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist and absent from the R's option list.
The biggest everyday problem we came across with the F-Type R was ride height, or rather lack there of. The F-Type R uses an extended front splitter that we're sure does a great job at adding extra downforce, but it's also so low that you have to worry about it scraping on just about everything.
It should also be noted that the F-Type R drew far more attention than we were expecting. Since the F-Type has already been out on the market for a couple of years, we figured it'd simply skirt under the radar. Not so; We received plenty of compliments and thumbs up from passersby.
The EPA says to expect 15 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway from the F-Type R. During steady state highway cruising we actually beat those numbers with the R AWD returning 25 mpg or better. Keep the hammer down, though, and the R AWD will struggle to return figures in the low teens.
Leftlane's bottom line
It's tough to come to a final verdict on the 2016 Jaguar F-Type R AWD. While we love the F-Type R's beautiful styling and exciting drivetrain, we're not sure if it has the interior or status to pull off an as-tested price of $118,000 (you can actually option an R to over $125,000). But, as the case with most sports car purchases, sometimes you just have to let your heart overrule your head.
2016 Jaguar F-Type R Convertible base price, $109,450. As tested, $118,445.
20-inch Gyrodyne Alloy Wheels, $1,000; Illuminated Treadplates, $450; Red Headlining, $500; Red Convertible Top, $600; Red Seat Belts, $350; Extended Leather Pack, $1,100; Vision Pack, $2,100; Destination, $995.
Photos by Drew Johnson.