You’ve heard about the so-called one percent, the ones with all the money. To state the obvious, they’re the kind of people who buy most of the luxury super sports cars out there.
Now when it comes to the Car Talk community, we have our one-percenters. But I suspect as a group even they disproportionately favor ancient Hondas… Nissan Sentras with 175,000-miles …and Volvo wagons that have been to the moon and back.
Meaning Car Talk’s one-percenters – and I’m not just speaking about Ray and Tommy here -- are even less likely than average citizens to purchase extravagant machines.
So it must be, then, for those very few who do care – the point-oh-one (.01) percenters, if you will – for whom I am about to drive the new Jaguar F-type Coupe R.
For these people, of course, I will drive it and to satisfy my own abiding scientific curiosity about what is easily the most explosive Jaguar road car ever: an all-aluminum coupe, with eight forward speeds, carbon ceramic brakes and close to five hundred and fifty horsepower.
Don’t thank me, friend. It’s my job.
So despite strong “Occupy” proclivities, a few weeks ago, I found myself trackside at the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya, home of the Spanish Gran Prix -- to drive the hottest version of this newest Jaguar. A couple of days in the City of Gaudi came courtesy of Ratan Tata, the billionaire Indian industrialist who now owns the British carmaker. He’d flown three American (and dozens of other far flung) journalists here to preview the car that’s coming to the U.S. later this spring.
Now, as someone who appreciates a good car, I couldn’t hate or even really resent anyone for owning an F-type, even though it is loud and some might say garish.
Last year, we drove the F-type convertible. And you’ll have already forgiven us for saying -- notwithstanding our empathy for the working man – the seventy to ninety thousand dollar automobile was simply one of the best we drove all year. In the realm of expensive sports cars the F-type drop top is a good deal and it’s just on the right side of tasteful.
This new coupe, however, is even better. First because it is more rigid – so it handles better and rides even more smoothly. For a sharp handling sports car, the F-type’s magic carpet ride is its most amazing attribute. Its second advantage is being prettier – just as the most classic Jag, the original E-Type, looked best in coupe form. The knockout punch is price – the coupe starts at a hardly proletarian but only mildly stratospheric $66,000 for the less powerful (and less thirsty) six-cylinder model, which has to make due with a mere 340 horsepower. It’s fast in its own right, and $18,000 less than a Porsche 911. The F-Type coupe we drove, the R, was a bit less prole and a bit more 1 percent. With its supercharged V8 and performance upgrades, it costs about a thousand bucks shy of one hundred grand -- before taxes and options. One hundred thousand dollars for a Jaguar that will, if requested, formally yet quickly introduce you to 60 miles per hour from rest in four seconds.
Because we’d been brought to a racetrack, it was inevitable that we’d be invited to drive this racy car on that track. Which always makes us a tiny bit nervous, since proper driving like you’re a racecar driver kind of means you have to be a racecar driver – forever practicing, among other things. Though carmakers are proud parents, then, it’s got to be a special kind of torture for them asking journalists to drive their expensive and supremely fast cars around circuits that test the finest drivers in the world.
If anyone would take the bet, I’d be happy to wager them that I will never make it on the professional circuit. Fortunately, I have other fallback ventures when Ratan’s people lose my number. But, that doesn’t mean I can’t tell what a good car is, and this is one. It doesn’t take even part of lap to realize beyond a scintilla of doubt that the F-type is, to borrow a line from the Reverend Jackson, “Somebody.” And it is something. You can’t fail to hear it: high-tech electro-acoustics are deployed to make it sound louder when you’re going hard. It adds a video game dimension to a car that is already superhero fast.
Headed down the back straight, we topped 160 mph. With a top speed of 186 and room to run, we could’ve gone faster, had we not been accelerating too tentatively, before braking too early. But we got the point. Forget the one percent. This car is more fun than 99% of the driving we do.