OCCASIONALLY, IF I’VE got a lot of travelling to do, I’ll buy a Jack Reacher novel I know they’re not Dickens or Booker Prize-winning, but by golly they’re page-turners and immensely enjoyable if you like a good yarn; easy to pickup, hard to put down and something of a guilty pleasure. Sometimes you don’t want the best, you want to satisfy a craving for a story, and Lee Child provides. The motoring equivalent?
Well, the polished brilliance of a 911 Carrera may make it the car that wins group tests, but I wouldn’t blame you if it was the bombastic noise, stunning looks and accessible oversteer of an F-type R you were drawn towards in a showroom. No, the ride isn’t as good, neither are the gearbox and steering, and yes, it is rather heavy, but there is something irresistible and approachable about its charms. It makes you feelgood -Jethro Bovingdon said as much when the R went up against the Mercedes-AMG GT. To that extent, I would plump for the rear-driven version.
After nearly a year with the extra pair of drive shafts I can certainly appreciate the dynamic benefits of all-wheel drive, the car feeling quicker and much more stable (especially in the wet). With 550hp and 680Nm, the AWDF-type will still slide if you commit to corners with a bit of conviction, working the front tyres hard on the way in so that the rears will swing under power.
But gone is the low-hanging dynamic fruit of the RWD car, the easily accessible low-speed quarter-turn of opposite lock on the exit of a tight corner or roundabout, Instigated almost whenever you feel like it with only a prod of the accelerator. I missed that, because while it might not be particularly sophisticated or quick, it is a lot of fun.
The shape of the F-type Coupe is so intrinsically right that it looks good in any colour, but Rhodium Sliver really did make it look very special indeed. The Design Pack, which replaces the chrome bits with gloss black, was the icing on the cake. Most revealing was walking back to it in a car park: safe in the knowledge that heads were staring at a car without someone inside, you’d see people almost circling it in infatuation. I don’t blame them. I found it hard not to take photos of it constantly. If you turned them all the way up to level three, the heated buckets were like sitting near an open fire.
I’ve never been sure about heated steering wheels, but on an early winter morning or after cleaning cars in a freezing Welsh lay-by, it was a nice luxury. It might seem odd to draw a parallel, but there was something comforting about the raucous noise of the exhaust when you started the supercharged V8, too. Perhaps it triggered a small pulse of warming adrenalin – particularly on the early mornings where you knew it would have disturbed the slumbers of the village, including those in the churchyard.
The tick-tock of the indicators sounded like a grandfather clock in a hallway, while the warning chimes were equally refined. Apart from one occasion where it thought it was in a Discovery and tried to take me green-laning, the satnav was jolly good, too. Fuel economy was predictably poor and the extended side skirts picked up dirt quicker than a schoolboy’s knees. And to end this paragraph of pros and cons, I was surprised by how much you could lug around in the boot. Unlike the Fiesta ST that I had before the Jag, the R isn’t a car that you drive hard all the time.
Short-shifting and enjoying the torque was often all a journey required. But if ever you needed a pick-me-up to improve your mood then holding on to a gear, feeling the monstrous pace squeeze you into the seat-back and then listening to the crack from the exhaust on the up shift was wonderfully accessible. A 911 Turbo may be even quicker, but where the Porsche is clinically impressive, the Jag is engagingly ebullient. Which brings us back to the start of this end-of-term report.