Sunday, September 21, 2014
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Jaguar F-Type Coupe is seductive hardtop option

The 2015 Jaguar F-Type S Coupe is a hardtop version of the recently released sports car. (Jaguar/MCT)
The 2015 Jaguar F-Type S Coupe is a hardtop version of the recently released sports car. (Jaguar/MCT) MCT
The 2015 Jaguar F-Type S Coupe is a hardtop version of the recently released sports car. (Jaguar/MCT) Gallery: Jaguar F-Type Coupe is seductive hardtop option

(MCT) -- A year ago, Jaguar resurrected the brand's sex appeal with the F-Type convertible, a two-seater with park-it-out-front styling and a trio of supercharged engines.

The F-Type provided a refreshing alternative to a market dominated by Porsche. But a key ingredient of the recipe was missing: a hardtop. Rolling into dealerships now, the F-Type Coupe focuses on performance while offering an even more seductive silhouette. It's a delicious combo.

Mechanically, the coupe is nearly identical to the convertible. The starting points are a traditional front engine, real-wheel-drive setup and one of the quickest-shifting automatic transmissions available.

The base F-Type Coupe starts at $65,925, or $4,000 less than the ragtop. It comes with a direct-injected 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 engine that has 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. Zero-to-60 mph ticks by in 5.1 seconds, according to Jaguar.

We spent half a day logging miles in the next model, the F-Type S, which starts at $77,925. With the same engine juiced for more power, it has 380 horsepower, 339 pound-feet of torque and a 4.8-second zero-to-60 mph time.

Our tester added another $14,000 in options. Highlights included a full-glass panoramic roof that did wonders to open up the otherwise cozy cabin, and a performance pack that included active exhaust and a dynamic mode. This mode lets the driver choose the settings for the engine, transmission, steering and suspension.

These goodies, plus a limited-slip differential, made for a thrilling ride. Jaguar says the chassis lurking beneath the finely folded aluminum body of this coupe is 80 percent stiffer than the convertible's. That helps the F-Type hardtop change direction with alacrity and predictability.

The 380 horses give the Jaguar healthy legs for any driving situation, and its eight-speed transmission is so quick and seamless that you also suspect Jaguar sneaked in a dual-clutch gearbox rather than the automatic advertised. If only the throttle response were so immediate; at times it felt sleepy for such a powerful car.

While the V-6 coupes behave similarly to their convertible cousins, the V-8 coupe is quite a different beast than the V-8 convertible.

The Jaguar F-Type R (base price: $99,925) has 550 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque. That's a jump of 55 horsepower and 42 pound-feet of torque over the V-8 convertible, despite the fact that they use the same 5.0-liter supercharged engine. The car will do zero-to-60 mph in 4 seconds flat, Jaguar said.

We drove this car primarily on the track at Willow Springs Raceway. In this setting, the F-Type R's bottomless well of power made the lesser Jaguars feel quaint by comparison.

The F-Type R commands the driver's attention on the track in a way the more buttoned-up Porsche Cayman doesn't. The Jaguar's steering is a tad numb, which makes it harder to sense exactly where the car is on the tarmac. This, and a little extra body roll from the suspension, means it takes a few more laps to get comfortable pushing the F-Type R around than it would the Porsche.

But with a little patience, the Jaguar V-8 reveals itself to be a sublimely confident sports car. There's torque everywhere in the rev band, so the driver can shift less and pay more attention to tracking the perfect line in and out of curves.

A subtle bonus to having a hard roof over your head in the F-Type V-8 is that the cacophonous exhaust - full of throaty whip cracks and pops when you let off the gas - isn't the nuisance it can be in the convertible.

And then there's the styling. While the narrow taillights and abrupt facade look good on the roadster, the F-Type Coupe's rear end is worthy of a Sinatra song. It's elegant and muscular at the same time, and looks more complete with the rear glass window slinking down to the end of the car.

The good looks were enough to grab more than one double take and catcall during a brief drive through Beverly Hills. (The Fireside Metallic orange paint might have had something to do with it too).

All this should help Jaguar land a few more of its F-Types in people's garages. The automaker could use the help to close the gap with Porsche. Through May, Jaguar had sold just over 1,300 F-Type convertibles, while the Boxster/Cayman duo found 3,334 buyers. The (generally) more expensive Porsche 911 sold just under 3,100.

It's usually hard to talk us out of a convertible and the open-air experience. But Jaguar's F-Type Coupe combines speed and sex appeal better than almost any car on the market - roof or no roof.

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2015 JAGUAR F-TYPE S COUPE:

-Los Angeles Times take: Sex appeal and performance, just like your father's Jaguar

-Highs: Gorgeous exterior, exhaust note deserves a Grammy, V-8's performance shines

-Lows: Throttle can be sleepy, steering a bit numb, V-6 options add up fast

-Vehicle type: Two-door coupe sports car

-Powertrain: 3.0-liter, supercharged V-6 with direct-injections; rear-wheel-drive

-Transmission: eight-speed, automatic with paddle shifters and sport mode

-Horsepower: 380

-Torque: 339 pound-feet

-Zero-to-60 mph: 4.8 seconds, according to Jaguar

-EPA fuel economy rating: 19 mpg in the city, 27 on the highway

-Base price: $77,925

-Price as tested: $92,125

Prices include destination charge.

David Undercoffler Los Angeles Times