A polite notice to anyone planning a trip to Scotland – don’t bother. It’s deadly dull, the scenery is awful and the roads are the stuff of nightmares. And you certainly don’t want to come in something compact, powerful and driver-focused like the Jaguar F-Type R.
No, definitely not. You might as well go somewhere else, I hear north Yorkshire’s nice.
Still, those of us who are stuck here have to make the best of a bad lot, which is why I agreed to test the F-Type on an anniversary getaway to the north-west.
The anniversary was a special one, so it called for a special car and, by heck, is the F-Type that. The R sits just below the bonkers SVR at the top of the F-Type pack. It’s a supercharged coupe with a 542bhp V8, four-wheel-drive, rapid-shifting eight-speed auto gearbox and tyres so wide they should have their own postcode.
Even standing still it makes an impression. Like a lot of people who passed by, I spent a lot of time looking at its lines, and there isn’t a bad angle on this car. Ian Callum’s design is a pure sports coupe, blending sharp creases with swooping curves. The whole package is taut and purposeful, and is finished off with some bullish quad exhausts that hint at the prowess beneath the sleek lines.
A press of the pulsing start button and those exhausts fire into life with a wildlife-bothering roar before settling into a calmer, deep burble.
On the initial mundane run up the M9 the Jag maintains that calm feel. There’s some roar from the 20-inch wheels, but at a cruise and with everything set to “quiet and soft” it eats up the motorway capably.
After a brief stop to admire the Kelpies – 30-metre-tall metal horses that rise up beside the road and have to be seen to be believed – it’s time to ditch the motorway, engage Dynamic mode and find the roads the Jaguar was designed for.
Jaguar F-Type R
Price: £90,860 (£98,020 as tested)
Engine: 5.0-litre, V8, supercharged petrol
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, all-wheel-drive
Top speed: 186mph
0-60mph: 3.9 seconds
CO2 emissions: 269g/km
Past Doune and tourist staging post Callander, we’re into the Trossachs where the roads become twistier and the mountains reach ever higher, disappearing into the looming clouds. The Tarmac dips and rises like a ribbon through dense forest and along steep hillsides as we grab glances of lochs Lubnaig, Earn and lubhair.
From inside, it all looks and feels spectacular. The F-Type is a purely two-seat affair, albeit one with plenty of boot space for a couple of overnight bags. Driver and passenger are cocooned in grippy but well padded sports seats, there’s every toy a modern driver demands and everything falls readily to hand. The black-on-black-on-black “jet” finish of our car was perhaps a little dark and some of the switches not as solid as in other Jaguars, but you don’t spend much time looking at the controls or the stitching as the road and scenery demand your attention.
Flitting across the otherworldly Rannoch Moor it’s easy to be bewitched by the ever-changing colours and shapes of the landscape – flat moorland specked with purple heather makes way for grey Munroes spearing skyward and vibrant green forests of ancient pine.
In truth, while the route is spectacular it can be frustrating too. Stuck behind another convoy of Dutch-registered motorhomes you begin to question the point of having all that power and grip at your disposal – the V8 a mere burble in the background –but then a gap opens up and the Jaguar is ready to pounce.
“The cacophony at full throttle is all rip-your-face-off rage, snapping and cracking through the gears”
The minute you sink your foot, it erupts into a furious roar that seems to scream “get out of the F-Type’ing way” to each car you pass.
The big hill that seemed a long way away suddenly becomes a much bigger hill far closer and the row of winding corners blurs into a single, fluid sequence of darts one way then the next.
It’s all rather special – the F-Type matching the road for beauty and thrills.
The power is phenomenal. Having 542bhp marshalled through an eight-speed automatic and sent to the Tarmac via all four wheels makes for some eye-opening pace.
But more than that is the way the F-Type handles the constantly changing roads from broad constant radius curves to sudden 90-degree twists. The chassis is so taut and precise, the grip from the four-wheel-drive system so plentiful that it feels purpose-built for this kind of terrain.
It’s engaging and dramatic, but even the drama of the Jag can’t match the soaring, glowering peaks of Glencoe. Slipping past the foot of Buachaille Etive Mor the road drops down into the glen with its history soaked in blood and betrayal. The clouds hang low over the peaks, somehow a fitting atmosphere as the Corris Grey F-Type slinks among them rumbling ominously, displaying its other party piece.
As well as looking good and driving brilliantly, the F-Type sounds astonishing. The howling cacophony at full throttle is all rip-your-face-off rage, snapping and cracking through the gears, but even more evocative is the rolling, boiling rumble that builds as you gradually accelerate. It’s the sound of an approaching storm building over the glens.
It’s certainly enough to turn heads everywhere we go, burbling away as we pass in the shadow of the Glenfinnan viaduct and along the sinuous coastal road past the silver sands of Arisaig and Morar.
Some cars feel built for certain places. The Renault Twizy belongs only in St Tropez, the Range Rover Velar in Knightsbridge and the F-Type here in the remote wilds of Scotland. It’s compact and agile enough to thread along narrow, twisting routes but muscular enough to make the most of broad, sweeping stretches and its stunning looks and noise almost – almost – match the spectacular surroundings.