By Eric Barton
City & Shore Magazine
Most everyone had already backed their rides into parking spots when the Jag came growling down Northeast First Avenue. The deep rumble and pop of the downshift into second sounded like firecrackers mixed with a roaring grizzly bear.
As I backed into an open spot, every single person on the curb turned to look. Sorry, this is going to sound cliché, but they all took a moment to marvel. It can be said, and we’re going to say it right now, that the Jaguar F-Type R Coupe is the prettiest car to roll off an assembly line in a generation.
There’s the gaping grill, looking like a daredevil screaming into a freefall. Then the hood, a flat dagger pressed into the wind. From there, it’s a design-school example of simple styling, the sharply slanted windshield and the quickly angled roof, dropping in a hurry to a nearly squared-off back end. It looks, quite simply, like how a two-seat sports car should look.
A crowd gathered. This was the second Sunday morning of the month, when the FAT Village neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale holds Cars, Art & Caffeine. It’s really just a group of enthusiasts pulling up in Porsches and BMWs, a few rare oldies and some oddities made in someone’s garage.
“Damn, look at those lines,” one guy said to his son, maybe six or seven years old. The dad pointed, guiding the boy’s eyes along a crease that begins under the door handle, an indentation that makes the car look like it’s crouching.
“All-wheel drive?” the man asked.
Yup, it comes standard on the R version of the F-Type. Instead of the hard-to-handle squealing-tire acceleration of most $120,000 sports cars, this thing just simply jumps to 60. No fanfare. No smoke. Just 3.5 seconds of hyperspeed.
Power to all the wheels also means handling that never threatens to kick out the back end, like in a Mercedes at this price range; or lose the grip on the front wheels, like similarly priced Porsches. That’s right: the Jag looks and quite possibly performs better than any car for this money.
The interior clicks off all the sports coupe boxes: there’s stitched leather, decent touch-screen technology, and seats that somehow manage huggy-slash-comfortable. It’s not as blingy as a Benz GTS, not as simple-sharp as a BMW M6, and not as Euro-pretty as a Porsche 911. It is, instead, an understated English squire. With a temper.
Even in the normal settings this Jag is a riot of engine and exhaust roars from its 550 horsepower V8. But press a button near where your right arm rests on the center console and the exhaust pipes open up, blasting to red line with a howl any gearhead will want to play back later on headphones.
As the storm-cloud-gray Jag caught the morning sun in FAT Village, the dad continued his spin around it. He was a BMW guy, with his own steel-blue M3 parked nearby. He pointed out to his son the F-Type R’s gigantic ceramic brakes, a $12,000 feature. He cupped his hands to peer inside, like a Christmas shopper who’d arrived too early.
“Man, it’s beautiful,” the BMW guy said.
That’s maybe the best part of driving an F-Type: it earns a fairly universal appreciation. Whether you believe in such stereotypes or not, you probably have an image in your mind of the kind of person who drives a Beamer or a Porsche.
But a Jag driver? With the F-Type, nobody knows. Because everyone’s looking at the car.
Alpine Jaguar, 6606 N. Andrews Ave.,
Fort Lauderdale, 954-598-7900, alpinejaguar.com; Jaguar Palm Beach,
915 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach, 866-347-5322, jaguarpalmbeach.com