Great Britain in the 1960s was a time and place unlike any before, highly creative and teeming with free expression and free love as the post-War generation reached smoking and drinking age and hit the workplace fizzing with ideas and imagination.
And what ideas they were!
It was a stellar period that spawned so many things still regarded with appreciation now, as well as the first recognisable computer age and even a soundtrack to go with it in the guise of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, et al.
The music industry dominated London and the world during these 10 years, but a couple of hours north up the M1 and M6 motorways there was a beat set to a very different soundtrack at Jaguar’s Coventry HQ, to the tune of valves and pistons in a rhythm soon to become a roar heard around the world.
It was March 1961 and the world got the E-Type, automotive flamboyance as wildly appealing as to men and women alike as the mini-skirt would soon be, and an instant domestic and export success. It broke the rules on car design and laid down a new set still relevant today, and it wasn’t long before the accolades started rolling in as the rich and famous were seen around the world in E-Types, from Coventry to Cote d’Azur with such panache that even Enzo Ferrari called it “the most beautiful car ever made”. Imagine a firm saying that now about a rival! How times have changed.
PROGRESS THEY SAY
The world has moved on – even if you can still see members of The Beatles, Stones, Floyd, Zeppelin, and Fleetwood Mac play live to this day – but Jaguar are still making headlines and attracting the great and famous with another spectacular car: the F-Type R. It may not be as groundbreaking as the E was, but I can tell you, it’s the greatest sports car Jaguar have built in a very long time.
Raw. Fast. VERY fast. Uh-oh, hang on there’s a corner… and, crikey that exhaust sounds amazing! For drivers, the F-Type R story begins in the same way the E’s did all those years ago, but believe me when I say there’s so much more meat to this one. Cars in the 1960s didn’t handle or stop, and while the newbie is as laugh-out-loud fun as the E, it can also strike you into silence with its sheer dynamism, the kind that makes you go quiet as your brain reaches its “I need to concentrate here…” levels.
It’s got a different kind of presence than the E-Type ever did. While the 60s model was lissom and curvaceous, the F is brutish and muscular in comparison, though not without elegance and balance to give it a recognisable Jaguar look and hint at its nimble and lithe feel on the road.
The F-Type R whips between the tightest of corners, brakes, rockets away, with complete serenity and balance. Even if you feel a bit squirmish at the rear wheels, the traction control has a setting that can make even the ordinary driver feel positively adept, allowing the rear to drift slightly without any of the jerking, jolting motion you get with less sophisticated control systems in these fast settings.
This intelligent level of control that Jaguar has developed allows you to enjoy the car safely without reaching race driver stress levels, allowing a drift without a pedal dance so you can pat yourself on the back. You can switch it all off if you are on a track day and want to look at life sideways but for most the Jag R is will reward best with its clever and intuitive way of managing its drivetrain and chassis, and… oh yeah, that LedZep-loud 550bhp V8.
There’s some clever trickery going on behind the scenes to make all eight gears and all four corners work in perfect harmony with the engine and road. Steering, gearchanges, and suspension are analysed and adjusted 500 times a second to best suit driver input and intention, and done so smoothly that what you notice most is the oh-so-cool change of the dials from mild blue to devilish red when modes are notched up a level or two. Really cool.
A sporting Jaguar has always been a comfortable place to be seated and the F-Type continues this tradition, surrounding you with bespoke parts everywhere you look, unique to this new model and going a long way to echo those 50+ years of evolution since the car the F most spiritually follows.
What impresses hugely about the F-Type R is simply how coherently good it is so early in its life. It’s really difficult to make a car this good on numbers and spec and performance when it is the first model out of the box. Most accept how good the 911 is after 50 years of development and evolution but to hit the road this fast with a new car has to be applauded.
But what impresses us most warmly about the F-Type is that Jaguar have avoided insulating the performance so much that you’d never get the point of what it really could do, that you’d never be reminded of that teenage kick of a miniskirt or Keith Richards riff. It’s sophisticated, classy, elegant… but deep down it’s still sexy rock n roll.
Fast Facts – Jaguar F-Type R
Top speed 186mph
Engine 5.0 litre V8 Supercharged
Max power 550hp
Max torque 680Nm
Fuel Consumption Combined: 25.5mpg
Price (Basic) £85,000 (As tested) £94,295