First drive: 2015 Jaguar F-Type R, F-Type V6, XJ and XF-RS at Yas Marina Abu Dhabi UAE
Jaguar is one of the few brands that often sets up track days for potential as well as existing customers, to show a side of their cars that wouldn’t be apparent in a regular test-drive. Their latest event was held at the Yas Marina circuit a couple of months ago, and the media was invited to have a go at their range of cars as well.
With hotel stay included, we opted for the evening session, which meant we did all of our driving under floodlights. The event kicked off with a couple of low-speed activities on the skidpad, one involving a Jaguar XF 2.0 Turbo around a coned course and the other a Jaguar XJ 2.0 Turbo on a car-control exercise in the wet.
The good bit came later in the night, when we hit the main Yas Marina racetrack in a variety of Jaguars, our “special” group completely unchaperoned for multiple laps in each car.
Starting off with the 375 hp Jaguar F-Type V6 S roadster, it’s hard not to be impressed by the car. Boasting a racecar-grade exhaust note, tight handling and a cosseting interior, you could pretty much forgive that the sharp responsive steering actually offers limited feel, and that it’s almost as impractical as a motorcycle when it comes to cargo room. It’s a fast car in every sense of the word, but not overpowering like its V8 sibling.
The 550 hp Jaguar F-Type R coupe is the true definition of too much power, but damn is it fun. It’s a crazy car that likes to twitch its tail out at the slightest provocation, so it forces you to be dead-accurate with your throttle inputs. The ESP is also tuned to allow a bit of slip before reeling things in smoothly, all in the name of safe but lairy fun. Oh, and it sounds insane. And yet, the coupe is actually a bit more practical, with its proper boot.
If boot space is an even bigger concern, there’s the 542 hp Jaguar XFR-S, a midsize super-sedan that has ingrained itself in our minds for being far more characterful than today’s boring noise-faking BMW M5. With a real V8 soundtrack and an aging chassis, the XFR-S feels like an old-school muscle-car, only with electronic nannies to hold you back when the situation calls for it.
Like the sports cars earlier, this sedan also allows a bit of slip to eke out some minor tail-sliding moments. If you expect the ESP to eventually kick in, you won’t panic when the rear does step out, which is the best advice we can give to amateurs who we overheard complaining that Jaguars have “too much power.” Now if you still want to turn off the ESP completely, learn to drive better first.
Funnily enough, we then jumped into the 340 hp Jaguar XJ-L 3.0 Supercharged sedan — funny, because we actually mistook it for an XJ-R and didn’t realise it until our laps were over. They having quietly slipped this limo into a fleet of sporting models, we felt something was off, but it was still a pretty quick car thanks to its lightweight aluminium body. Body roll was noticeable on the tight track, but it was well-controlled and settled down quickly when out of turns. The steering also felt too light after jumping into this car from an F-Type, but the brakes were performing well enough on hard application.
All in all, it was surprisingly keeping up with the F-Type in front, mostly because that idiot was unsuccessfully trying to induce drifts with ESP on. After we were done, someone pointed out to me that it was just a regular XJ after all. No wonder it felt a little loose, but now it just felt impressive for a non-R full-size sedan. We did say in our earlier review of the Jaguar XJ 3.0 Supercharged that it was all the (big) car you’d ever need, without paying any more for bigger engines.
Jaguar has made great strides over the years, going from being makers of conservative old-school cars to, well, flamboyant old-school cars. Sure, there’s a lot of safety tech and computer screens to keep up with the overcomplicated Germans, but underneath the veneer of futuristic styling lie these off-the-hook driving machines that can really make your ear-hairs stand on end.
Keep track of prices and specs in the Jaguar buyer guide.
Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury & Jaguar.