Jaguar F-Type VS KTM X-Bow
- Tarmac-tearing performance
- Surprising comfort
- Just look at it
- Short on active safety tech
- Tight entry/egress
- Fast and utterly furious
- Unique in Australia
- A track-attack special you can drive to the track
- Even a light sprinkling of rain will leave you in despair
- Safety kit non-existent
- An expensive toy
After a long gestation period where a variety of Jaguar corporate overlords toyed with the idea of a successor to the all-time iconic E-Type, the F-Type finally emerged in late 2013 to a global intake of breath.
Over time the formula has become more complex, with the arrival of a coupe version, powerhouse R and full-fat SVR variants, special editions including the exotic Project 7, and more recently, 2.0-litre, turbo four-cylinder models to make this stunning two-seater more accessible.
A late 2019 update added some extra catnip, including a redesigned nose and this is the flagship F-Type R, complete with supercharged V8 power and performance-focused underpinnings. Time to dive into this latest chapter of the Jaguar F-Type story.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
I know what you're thinking: "How is this thing legal?" And to be honest, somewhere between a rock flung from the tyre of a passing car colliding with my forehead like it had been fired from a pistol, and the pouring rain lashing my exposed face like a damp cat-o'-nine-tails, I'd begun wondering the same thing.
The answer is barely. The product of a years-long fight to overcome our import rules, this madhouse KTM X-Bow R is now finally free to roam Australian roads and racetracks - though, with sales capped at 25 per year to comply with the Specialist Enthusiast Vehicle Scheme.
The price? A slightly eye-watering $169,990. That's quite a lot, and places the X-Bow R miles above its closest lightweight, carbon fibre-tubbed competitor, the Alfa Romeo 4C ($89,000).
But then, the KTM X-Bow R is unlike anything else on the road today. Part super bike, part open-wheeler and all mobile madness, the 'Crossbow' is fast, furious and completely insane.
Expect no doors, no windscreen, no roof. On-board entertainment is limited to the turbo whistling behind your head, the car's standard safety list is as barren as the interior and the climate control is dependent on the temperature of the wind that's smashing into your exposed face.
And we couldn't wait to take it for a spin.
Okay, so rain is not your friend. Neither is brutal sunshine, strong winds or any speed bump anywhere. There are probably a handful of times you'll want to drive it, and when you do you will definitely get hit in the face with rocks and bugs, and spend most of your time wondering just how the hell this thing is legal.
And yet, we are hopelessly, head-over-heels in love with it. It's an absolute weapon on a track, a joy on anything even resembling a twisting road and it is one of the few genuinely unique cars on the road today. And the fact it exists at all is a cause for absolute celebration.
Does the KTM X-Bow R's purity of purpose appeal to you, or is its performance focus just too narrow? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Although it kicked off as a roadster, a coupe version of the F-Type was always part of the plan. In fact, Jaguar's C-X16 concept, that in 2011 previewed the eventual production car, was a hardtop.
Following the Coupe's public reveal at the 2013 Los Angeles motor show, I asked Jaguar's then head of design, Ian Callum, if the bean counters had vetoed the concept's ultra-cool side-opening hatch door; one of many styling hat tips to the E-Type. His response was a wry smile and slow nod of the head.
It's a shame that door didn't make it to the showroom floor, but the E-Type is still a strong design influence on its successor.
At close to 4.5m long, around 1.9m wide, and a fraction over 1.3m tall, the F-Type R looks more compact in the metal than it does in photographs, arguably the hallmark of a successful sports car design.
A long, flowing (front-hinged) bonnet (Jaguar calls its shape 'liquid metal' sculpture) projects forward from a rear-set cabin, with broad but tightly wrapped haunches behind it. The 20-inch, 10-spoke rims (in 'Gloss Black' with diamond-turned finish) fill the wheel arches perfectly.
I'm a huge fan of the tail-light cluster design, subtly reprofiled in the late 2019 update, which echoes the shape of the Series 1 E-Type and other classic Jags, but found it harder to warm to the outgoing F-Type's squarish headlight treatment.
Always a subjective call, but to my eyes this car's slimmer, more feline (LED) eyes and ever-so-slightly larger grille deliver a better front to rear balance. And slender, flush-fitting pop-out exterior door handles remain sub-zero cool.
Our 'Santorini Black' test car had been optioned with the 'Exterior Black Design Pack' ($1820) for an extra hint of menace. It applies body-colour to the front splitter, side sills, and rear diffuser, at the same time blacking out the grille surround, side vents, side window surrounds, rear valance, Jaguar script, F-Type badge and 'Leaper' emblem.
Jaguar describes this two-seater as a '1+1', confirming the F-Type's focus on the driver, and our test car's tan leather interior emphasises the fact.
Tan dash on the passenger side, complete with flying buttress-style grab handle for extra support when g-force starts to build. Contrasted by all black and all business on the driver's side.
A broad centre stack houses the 10-inch multimedia touchscreen, with easy-to-use dials for the climate control system below. And the 12.3-inch reconfigurable hi-def instrument cluster (with graphics unique to the F-type) is a model of clarity and simplicity.
The latter offers a choice of display themes, including full nav map, but the default mode highlights a large central tachometer. Nice.
An impressive design feature carried over from the previous model is deployable front air vents. The dashtop remains flat until a given climate control temperature setting causes an upper section, housing a pair of adjustable vents, to gently rise. Very cool (no pun intended).
The X-Bow R is built for purpose in the most wonderful of ways. From the visible suspension components to the rocket-style exhausts, to the stripped-bare interior, it's fairly obvious that form came a distant second to function in the X-Bow's design process.
And, for us at least, that's a tremendous thing. It looks raw and visceral, and a bit like Harvey Dent post-fire - you can see all the normally hidden components doing their thing. It's mesmerising.
If you're intending to daily drive your F-Type R, make sure your yoga fees are up to date, because entry and egress are for the fleet of foot and flexible of limb.
Once inside, though, within the bounds of its two-door coupe format, the F-Type offers an array of storage options, including a decent glove box, centre storage box/armrest, small door bins, a netted pocket on the top of the bulkhead between the seats, and a pair of console cupholders.
Power and connectivity runs to a 12V socket in the dash, with another in the central storage bin, alongside two USB-A ports, and a micro SIM slot.
Notwithstanding the (alloy) space saver plonked on the boot floor, the F-Type Coupe delivers worthwhile cargo space, with 310 litres on offer, rising to 408 with the load cover removed.
That's enough to swallow small (36-litre) and large (95-litre) suitcases together, and there are two (nicely chromed) tie-down anchor, as well as elasticised retaining straps at either end of a small ledge on the bulkhead.
Short answer? It's not. People are unlikely to test drive an X-Bow R and start looking for cupholders and storage space, but if they did, it wouldn't take long.
Aside from the twin seats, a four-point racing harness, a high-mounted gearshift, a pull-lever handbrake, and detachable steering wheel, the cabin is as bare as Old Mother Hubbard's cupboard.
Luggage space is limited to what you can carry in your pockets (though wearing cargo pants will help) and even getting in and out of the thing takes some fleet-footed antics. With no doors you need to literally jump in. And the side sills are only rated to 120kg, so heavier types will need to avoid stepping on them at all, and instead attempt a kind of running leap into the cockpit.
Price and features
It's hard to pin down direct competitors for the $262,936 F-Type R, except one; Porsche's 911 Carrera S, a clear price and performance rival at $274,000.
With a 3.0-litre, twin-turbo 'flat' six producing 331kW/530Nm the 911 is capable of accelerating from 0-100km/h in just 3.7sec, which (surprise, surprise) exactly matches the Jag's claimed performance number.
Cast the net a little wider and you'll snag the likes of Nissan's GT-R Track Edition on the low side ($235,000), and the Mercedes-Benz S 560 Coupe ($326,635) for around $50K above the F-Type's asking price. So, the standard features list needs to be impressive, and long story short, it is.
Drilling down to the depths of detail on this car's equipment spec would need a review of its own, so here's the highlights package.
The 10-inch 'Touch Pro' multimedia screen manages a 380-watt Meridian audio system featuring 10 speakers (including subwoofer), digital radio, dynamic volume control and a 10-channel amp, as well as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth connectivity.
It's also the gateway to the car's configurable dynamic set-up, 'Navigation Pro', phone connection, ambient lighting, reversing camera, and a lot more.
Full-grain 'Windsor' leather is applied to the 12-way, electrically-adjustable (plus memory) performance seats. There's also a 12.3-inch customisable digital instrument cluster, cruise control (and speed limiter), keyless entry and start, auto rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming and power folding heated door mirrors (with memory), a switchable active exhaust, LED headlights, DRLs and tail-lights, as well as an electrically adjustable steering column (with memory), climate control, powered boot lid, 20-inch alloy wheels, racy red brake calipers, and specific 'R' branding on the leather-trimmed sports steering wheel, door tread plates, and centre console.
Keen readers of this site will recognise this as the area where we outline the many and varied features that come along with a normal new car purchase, but that's just not going to work this time. In fact, it'll be considerably easier to talk about what's missing, so let's start with the obvious: doors, windows, roof, windscreen. All conspicuously absent from this weird and utterly wonderful X-Bow.
Inside, you'll find two thinly (and we mean thin - we've seen thicker contact lenses) padded seats fixed into the tub. You'll also find push-button start, a digital screen reminiscent of those found on motorbikes (KTM is an Austrian-based motorcycle company, after all) and a pedal box that slides backward and forwards to offset the height of the pilot. Oh, and that steering wheel can pop off to make getting in and out easier.
Climate control? Nope. Stereo? Nope. Proximity unlocking? Well, kind of. With no doors, you'll always find it unlocked when you enter its proximity. Does that count?
But what it does have is a turbocharged two-litre engine. And in a car that weighs a sprightly 790kg, that means it's quick, pulling like a rabid sled dog in every gear, rear tyres chirping with every change.
Engine & trans
The F-Type R is powered by Jaguar's all-alloy (AJ133) 5.0-litre supercharged V8 engine, featuring direct-injection, variable (intake) cam timing, and an Eaton (Roots-type) blower to produce 423kW (567hp) at 6500rpm, and 700Nm from 3500-5000rpm.
The AWD system is based on an electro-hydraulic multi-plate (wet) clutch, controlled by a centrifugal electro-hydraulic actuator. Default front/rear drive balance is 10/90, although Jaguar claims even a full shift of power from 100 per cent rear to 100 per cent front takes just 165 milliseconds.
The IDD system continuously monitors each wheel's speed and traction, suspension compression, steering angle and braking force, as well as the car's rotational state.
It then uses an algorithm to determine which wheel(s) are likely to lose traction, and before grip is lost, transfer drive to the wheels that can make best use of it.
The X-Bow R's power comes from an Audi-sourced, turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, paired with a VW Group six-speed manual transmission (and one of the stubbiest gearsticks in existence). That mid-mounted marvel produces 220kW at 6300rpm and 400Nm at 3300rpm, and ships it off to the rear tyres with the assistance of a Drexler mechanical limited-slip differential.
Thanks to its lithe and lightweight body, that's enough to propel the X-Bow R from 0-100km/h in a blistering 3.9 seconds, and on to a top speed of 230km/h.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 11.3L/100km, the F-Type R emitting 269g/km of CO2 in the process.
Despite the standard auto stop/start function, over close to 350km of city, suburban, and freeway running we recorded a (dash-indicated) average of 16.1L/100km.
That's a solid drinking habit, but it kind of goes with this performance territory, and we did lean into the throttle on a regular basis.
Recommended fuel is 95 RON premium unleaded, and you'll need 70 litres of it to fill the tank. That equates to a range of 619km in line with the factory claim, and 434km using our real-world number as a guide.
KTM lists the X-Bow R's claimed/combined fuel figure at 8.3 litres per hundred kilometres (though we were managing mid-12s after an, ahem, very spirited test), with emissions pegged at 189 grams per kilometre.
The X-Bow R is also fitted with a 40-litre fuel tank, accessed via a side-mounted inlet. Instead of a fuel gauge, expect a digital reading showing how many litres you have left.
Yep, no surprise, the 2021 Jaguar F-Type R is a proper, rip-snorting, beast of a machine. Weighing in at just over 1.7 tonnes, with 423kW/700Nm to propel it forward, in terms of straight line acceleration, it's every bit the scalded cat.
Bury the right foot and it will storm from 0-100km/h in just 3.7 seconds, with furious aural accompaniment courtesy of the 4.0-litre supercharged V8 and sports exhaust system. Electrically-actuated bypass valves in the latter's rear silencer remain closed until they automatically open under load, and boy, do they open up.
Prospective F-Type R owners wishing to remain on good terms with their neighbours will be pleased to know there's a 'Quiet Start function', but once you're a few blocks clear the engine is capable of alerting the entire suburb to you presence, complete with raucous crackles and pops on the overrun.
All 700Nm of maximum torque is available from 3500rpm through to 5000rpm, and mid-range thrust is ferocious. If you have access to a long enough private road Jaguar claims this car will storm on to a (electronically-limited!) maximum velocity of 300km/h.
The eight-speed auto transmission has picked up several tweaks courtesy of the XE-based SV Project 8, and it's brilliant. A conventional torque-converter based unit, rather than a dual-clutch, it's dubbed 'Quickshift', and that it does. Manual flicks between ratios, using the wheel-mounted paddles, are rapid and positive.
Head for your favourite B-road, and it's the F-Type R's ability to put every bit of its power down, without fuss, that impresses next. Push into a series of tight corners and the car grips, settles, and simply surges from one bend to the next, the tricky AWD system seamlessly shuffling torque between the axles and individual wheels.
The standard electronic active diff, and torque vectoring (by braking) also help keep everything under control, turning backroad tryhards into apex hunting virtuosos.
Suspension is by (aluminium) double wishbones front and rear, with revised springs and anti-roll bars added in the 2019 upgrade. Continuously-variable dampers underpin the 'Adaptive Dynamics' system, learning your style and adjusting accordingly.
The electrically-assisted power steering combines great road feel with satisfying accuracy, and the car feels balanced yet agile and responsive in enthusiastic driving.
In a more relaxed mode the adaptive set-up detects rough road conditions and adjusts the suspension settings for greater ride comfort. According to Jaguar, the damper valves and control algorithms have been recalibrated to improve low-speed comfort and high-speed control, and I can vouch for their effectiveness.
Not long after steering this F-Type R I spent some time in the supercharged V6 F-Type P380 R-Dynamic, and this R is far more compliant.
Rubber is a specially-developed Pirelli P Zero (265/35 fr - 305/30 rr), and the supremely efficient brakes are ventilated 380mm at the front, and 376mm rear.
It couldn't be more Fast and Furious if it had Vin Diesel growling under its (non-existent) bonnet. We have technically driven faster cars, but we have never driven anything that feels quite so fast as this utterly insane X-Bow R.
Climb in, strap into the four-point harness and select first via the surprisingly easy-to-manage gearbox and clutch set up, and, at slow speeds, wrestle with the dead weight of the completely unassisted steering, and it's immediately clear that this is a driving experience like nothing else currently road-legal in Australia. Even at walking pace, the X-Bow R feels poised for an assault on the future, and it attracts attention on the road like nothing else we've ever driven.
Its road-scraping ride height and diminutive dimensions make tackling traffic an intimidating prospect, with regular hatchbacks suddenly taking on truck-like proportions and actual trucks now looking like passing planets. There's a constant concern that you're sitting well below the traditional blind spot, and that you could be crushed at any moment.
Combine all that with the bad weather that cursed our final day of testing, and the X-Bow R is all sorts of watery hell. It is truly homicidal in the wet, too, with the back end breaking grip at the slightest provocation. And the turbocharged 2.0-litre offers plenty of that.
But on a sunny day, and on the right road, it's pure driving bliss. The acceleration is brutal, the grip endless and the Audi sourced gearbox an absolute treat. And it pulls in every gear, tackling 35km/h corners in third and absolutely blasting out the other side.
Cornering is scalpel sharp, and the steering - so heavy at slow speeds - is light and efficient at pace, requiring only the most minuscule of movements to bite into a bend.
It is anything but perfect in the city, and even a light sprinkling of rain will have you seeking shelter (and a refund), but on the right road, on the right day, there are few if any cars that offer the kind of razor-sharp thrills and intoxicating excitement of KTM's monstrous X-Bow R.
The F-Type hasn't been assessed by ANCAP, but as well as the usual active safety suspects like ABS, EBD, traction and dynamic stability controls, the R features an AEB system operating at speeds above five km/h, Vehicle detection is in place at speeds of up to 80km/h, and pedestrian detection up to 60km/h.
The AWD system facilitates specific 'Rain', 'Ice', and 'Snow' modes, plus there's active high-beam, lane keep assist, a reversing camera, as well as front and rear parking sensors, and a 'Driver Condition Monitor.'
But cross-traffic alert (front or rear) is missing-in-action, blind spot assist is an option ($900), as is park assist ($700), and tyre pressure monitoring ($700). Any car that's crested the $250K barrier should have all of these as standard.
If an impact's unavoidable there are six airbags (front, side, and curtain). But remember, the front passenger seat is a no-go zone for a rear-facing child restraint. And Jaguar says, "A child should only travel in the front passenger seat if it is essential and national or state legislation permits it."
Next to none. There is no ABS, traction or stability control. No airbags, powered steering or ISOFIX attachment points, either. If you break traction (which, in the wet, is more than a little bit likely) it'll be up to you to ensure you straighten up again. Helpfully, there's a ton of grip from the Michelin Super Sport tyres.
As part of the compliance program, Simply Sports Cars (the company responsible for introducing the X-Bow R) actually crash tested two cars in Europe, and raised the ride height by 10 millimetres. Oh, and there's now a seatbelt warning sign, too.
Jaguar covers its Australian new car range with a three-year/100,000km warranty, which looks particularly stingy next to the mainstream market norm of five years/unlimited km, and lags other premium players like Mercedes-Benz and Genesis, both sitting at five years/unlimited km.
On the plus side, paint and corrosion (perforation) are warranted for three years, and roadside assistance is complimentary for 12 months.
And on the big plus side, scheduled servicing for the F-Type (determined by an on-board service interval indicator) is free-of-charge for five years/130,000km.