Review: The 2021 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe Brings Comfort to the Supercar
Camping in a small British racing car might just be the ideal way to escape the city
After three months of being stuck at home in the city — trying not to snack every five minutes, and playing every board game in the family arsenal (including Pandemic, ironically) — Jaguar got in touch and asked if I’d be interested in taking a few days to try out the swiftest feline in their garage, the 2021 F-Type R Coupe. With hotels off the agenda, I decided to do something I haven’t done since I played with toy cars: go camping. Since things are still slowly reopening, the closest site I could find to New York City that offered tent reservations for lake-front camping was in Pennsylvania, at a place called Promised Land State Park. At a distance of 100 miles, I would have a solid four hours round-trip to release the F-Type’s 575 horses from their stable, courtesy of a supercharged V8.
As a child, I played every single driving game available for the Sega Genesis, especially Out Run (remember the woman in the passenger seat with blowing hair?). Driving the F-Type R is a bit like playing a video game — except you only get one life. When it comes to other vehicles with this much horsepower, I’m usually relieved to climb out of the bucket seat at the end of the day and relieve my lumbar vertebrae from their unwilling integration with the vehicle’s suspension system. The F-Pace, however, is refreshingly comfortable — that is, for a car with this much explosive power. It’s very fast (0-60mph in under four seconds), but also bears the hallmarks of a pure GT. For instance, in heavy traffic, it doesn’t lurch whenever you tap the accelerator to inch forward. And when you can finally get it up to speed, the purr evolves into a sustained, leonine roar, which is enough to announce its presence on the road — but not so loud as to annoy everyone around you.
On a related note, driving a car (with all the options) that costs a cool $115,110 in a country where pandemic-related unemployment is still high feels a bit let them eat cake, but with the F-Type, people either have no idea of the vehicle’s sticker price, or it’s one of those cars that falls into that rare category of being poster-worthy while at the same time not inspiring the kind of scorn that makes its owner look like a complete bastard. I got a lot of thumbs-up driving the F-Type — mostly from young gents in loud, modified Japanese sedans.
Once I had escaped the city and cleared the frenetic suburban traffic of New Jersey, the speed limit jumped to 65 and I was able to have some fun on the long, open curves of 84 West. I lowered both windows and turned off the radio and AC to enjoy driving for the first time in many months. Being so low to the ground and with such a harmonious marriage between the engine and steering, every bend was joyous, and driving the speed limit felt much faster. The leather-wrapped dashboard and visible stitching was a nice change from the carbon fiber look in most cars with a TRACK option, but my favorite element of the interior was the steering wheel — not only how responsive it felt, but the look and shape of it, so beautifully designed with steel accents and a raised leaping cat at the center. It was also the perfect circumference for gripping. The seats were made for racing, of course, but could also be shifted around electronically, which is good for people like me who like to play with the ride height constantly. These and other comfort features usually found on stock luxury cars—but cleverly integrated into the cockpit of this British racing coupe — will be warmly welcomed by people loyal enough to Jaguar to choose the F-Type over the usual suspects, like Porsche and McLaren.
After 50 miles of open road, I had to admit that the F-Type is the second sports car I’ve ever test-driven that I would happily take across the country. The other being the Ferrari California — which actually has about five percent less horsepower than the F-Type R, but is also blissfully comfortable.
As this trip was about reconnecting with myself, I blasted some old favorites: early Metallica, Public Enemy, Pink Floyd, New Order. I was enjoying the anthems of my youth so much, however, that I missed my turn and ended up in a place called Middletown, which was fine, because for the first time in ages, I was alone with a fast car and no schedule. Driving around town looking for somewhere to get food, I noticed a storefront with Jamaican flags in the window and was soon back in my late grandmother’s kitchen (in the Proustian sense) courtesy of YaadStyle, where the aromas of rice and peas, chicken curry and baking patties brought back fond memories of my childhood. Despite a row of empty tables, I resisted the urge to ask if I could sit, and carried my supper outside, where I ate leaning against the side of the F-Type, as though in some 1960s road movie.
After the meal, I was tempted to go back and buy a tray of spicy buns to take back to Brooklyn, but the trunk was already packed. I was actually shocked at how much had fit when I packed the car, and think it was smart of Jaguar to sacrifice any semblance of a back seat for a roomy boot. That leads me to the best feature of this vehicle: the rear end. While the front looks fast and expensive — not that much different from other sports cars, really — the back end is so lean and muscular, it’s mesmerizing. Few cars boast rear styling this good: maybe the Bentley Continental GT, or the Audi S7, but the list is a short one.
I arrived at the campsite fairly late, but thanks to a button that “tones down” the growling exhaust pipes, (how British), I failed to incur the wrath of my fellow campers. This was the first time I had been camping since I was a child, and so the smell of the unfolded (brand new) tent immediately recalled memories I thought were lost forever. If you camp regularly, you’ll already know that without a comfortable sleeping mat (preferably inflatable) the ground feels so hard that it’s hard to fall asleep. Add to that coyotes screeching in the distance and a terrifying, intermittent sniffling — which turned out to be my eyelids on the inflatable pillow — and I slept like whatever the opposite of a log is.
At 4:45AM, I was woken by that explosion of birdsong, commonly known as the dawn chorus. Then I heard rustling and noticed the silhouettes of several chipmunks trying to nose under the tent. With the patter of little feet, my night in Jurassic Park was transforming into Disney’s Snow White. By 7:00 a.m., most of the other campers were up, too, lighting fires to cook breakfast. Each tent site at Promised Land State Park comes with a fire drum and grill, a lantern hook, a picnic table and a cleared site for the tent. I was only 15 yards from the lake, where I could easily have launched a kayak or fished for my next meal. Being alone with nothing to do for a couple of days except cook on the fire, think and hike through 13,000 acres of forest was rejuvenating in a way that at first was quite uncomfortable. I found myself wanting to look at my phone, unsettled by how slowly time was passing, and even considered driving back to the city in the middle of the night. But after two days there was a shift. I was able to reset, surrounded by the natural world, by non-human intelligence. With the right equipment (an air mattress, chairs, a lantern and a kayak), I could have stayed easily for a week. Maybe next time I will.