You thought the Jaguar F-TYPE Coupe was impressive before? Add the option of an all-wheel drive chassis and the one thing purists have been crying out for, a manual transmission, and you have a sports coupe that is something genuinely special.
"Well that was a bit dull and inert" said nobody, ever, after stepping out of a Jaguar F-TYPE Coupe. Having driven an F-TYPE R up a streaming wet mountain road, it's fair to say that the big cat was possibly a little too exciting for my personal preference. Your eyeballs can only sit out on stalks for so long before you end up so juiced with adrenaline that normal functioning becomes all but impossible. Jaguar has recognised that the F-TYPE might be a little too full-on for some and has thus developed an all-wheel drive chassis that'll offer a bit more stability and traction but without dumbing the experience down. For those berserkers who crave even more involvement, Jaguar also introduces a manual transmission on six cylinder variants, this gearbox to be sold alongside the quite lovely ZF auto. Win-wins don't get much sweeter than this.
Clearly the all-wheel drive chassis is going to have all kinds of benefits when the going is a bit slippery. The AWD system (only offered as an option on V6S and F-TYPE R models) features Intelligent Driveline Dynamics (IDD), a control system networked to the powertrain, rear differential and centre coupling and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC). Operating on the torque-on-demand principle, the AWD system sends 100 per cent of the engine's torque to the rear wheels under normal driving conditions, reducing unnecessary parasitic losses in the drivetrain. The system can also vary the front: rear torque split to mitigate oversteer during fast cornering. The six-speed manual 'box has been developed exclusively for the V6 and rear-wheel drive configuration. The short-travel gear lever with a throw of only 45mm, along with closely-spaced ratios, might just make the entry-level F-TYPE Coupe the purest version. Electric power steering and torque vectoring by braking are now both standard across the range. The 542bhp in hardcore V8 R Coupe form heads up the line-up, with the 337bhp 3.0-litre V6 supercharged petrol engine bookending the other extreme. In the middle is the F-TYPE S Coupe which gets 376bhp, 60mph in 4.8 seconds and a top speed of 171 mph. Go for an all-wheel drive V8 R and it'll smash its way to 62mph in just 3.9 seconds.
The shape works really well. What looked good as a drop top looks great as a coupe, with a short wheelbase, a power-packed set of rear haunches and an elegant roof line. It manages to make the Porsche Cayman seem rather hall-of-mirrors in its proportioning and while it's not as instantly beautiful as an Aston Martin Vantage, it looks as if it would thoroughly work the Vantage over in a bar fight. It's that combination of sleekness and aggression that makes the F-TYPE Coupe such an accomplished styling job. The all-wheel drive cars look subtly different, with a deeper central power bulge. Either side are distinctive vents, positioned further apart and further forward than those of rear-wheel drive F-TYPEs. There are some lovely details, such as the pop-out door handles and the single flying buttress that swoops down from one side of the centre console, to the neatly styled gear selector, the giant TFT display in the dash and the deep-set driving position. The instrument cluster features smarter dials and gauges and the infotainment system has been upgraded too: navigation routing is much faster than before and SD card-based mapping is available for the first time. The boot is relatively big, giving the F-TYPE Coupe genuine GT potential. You'll get 315-litres in up to the parcel shelf and 407-litres to the window line. A 72-litre fuel tank gives a realistic cruising range of over 340 miles. You can even specify the car with a panoramic glass or carbon fibre roof.
Okay, if you want any combination of engines, chassis and gearboxes, you might find yourself a bit disappointed. The manual transmission is only offered on the V6S, and all-wheel drive is offered as an option on the V6S and the V8 R models. So, the middle model in the line-up, the S, is the one that offers most options. But even then, if you want an S with all-wheel drive, you can only have it with the auto box. Work out the permutations and you'll realise that you can't have an all-wheel drive manual model anywhere at any price. F-TYPE Coupe prices open at just over £51,000 for a manual 3.0 V6, with the S starting at just over £60,000. The auto version retails at £1,800 extra and all-wheel drive will tack nearly £5,000 onto that. The top F-TYPE R with power going to each corner now retails at well over £91,000. The F-TYPE now comes as standard with InControl Remote telematics functions. When away from the vehicle, this system makes it possible to check information such as the fuel level or the door lock status using a smartphone. You can even use the phone to start the engine, enabling the climate control system to bring the cabin to the desired temperature before the journey even begins.
Although there are some better performers in its class when it comes to economy and emissions, the F-TYPE Coupe is there or thereabouts. The entry level car records a combined fuel consumption figure of 33.6mpg, with emissions of 199g/km. Go for the S and those figures change to 32.9mpg and 203g/km with the Quickshift auto box, while the manual car can only record 28.8mpg and 234g/km. The unreconstructed hooligan that is the supercharged V8 F-TYPE R manages 26.4mpg and 255g/km on an extremely good day. Go all-wheel drive and you'll be looking at 25mpg and 269g/km. If you average more than 20mpg in this car then you're not using it properly and it deserves a better home. You know where I am. Depreciation on the F-TYPE Convertible hasn't been at all bad, with the entry level car recording a 110 pence per mile cost of ownership over a three year/36,000 mile tenure. The Coupe is a good deal more affordable so should do even better, which is illuminating given that a Porsche Cayman S with PDK costs around 114 pence per mile to operate. It looks as if Jaguar has stolen a key advantage here.
Jaguar has really turned over a hand of aces with the latest F-TYPE coupe range. There's a manual transmission for those who want to dial up the involvement a bit more and a four-wheel drive alternative for those who felt the rear-driven car was a bit too much of a handful. True, the Porsche 911 has offered the customer exactly these options for years now, but the F-TYPE R now has the chops to mix it with the Porsche 911 Turbo and at the base of the range, the manual F-TYPE now has a better chance of facing down up-spec Cayman variants. The other masterstroke Jaguar has pulled is in building the prominence of the F-TYPE S, the car that was looking like the overlooked middle child. The only real problem we had with the F-TYPE before was that it could be a bit too in-your-face at those times when you just wanted something low maintenance. Now you can have exactly the car you want. This is going to get interesting.