Welcome to the new Jaguar F-Type. It isn't all-new – this is not a completely fresh-from-the-ground-up version Jaguar's sporty two-seater – but it's the first big overhaul since the F-Type was launched in 2013.
To the causal onlooker, the revised Jaguar F-Type R looks like a premium sports car, alongside, say, the base Porsche 911, or Audi’s TT RS, or maybe even the BMW Z4. But it’s really, really not in this category. Instead, in the absence of a replacement F-Type SVR, it is now Jaguar’s flagship two-seater, with JLR’s potent, 5.0-litre, supercharged V8 engine under the bonnet developing 575 horsepower and 700Nm of torque, and a lot of the SVR parts on board. That’s quite a lot of power for such an innocuous-looking sports car, and brings the model’s 0-62mph time down to 3.7 seconds.
Performance & handling
One of the delights of a Jaguar has always been old-school driving appeal, from big engines to sharp chassis engineering, and the F-Type fits the bill here.
The engine note promises good things when you press the starter button and, if you then press the dual-exhaust button by the gear level, you get a thunderous mechanical sound – how Jaguar gets away with such a loud noise is beyond us, but thank heavens they do: this is proper V8 motoring. On an open road, when you squeeze the throttle, the take-up isn’t instant, but rather the acceleration keeps building where the power curve in other cars would start to flatten out. The result is exhilarating, but keep an eye on the speed, because you’re in licence-losing territory before you realise, thanks to the deceptive manner in which the V8 reacts.
The F-Type R gets all-wheel-drive and many of the suspension parts from the discontinued SVR. If you like regularly pushing the boundaries of your car’s grip, you’ll appreciate the traction control system on the Jag: the combination of AWD and the traction control fully on will keep things neat and tidy through the corners, but you can choose a halfway house that allows you to slip and slide a bit, and ruffle a few feathers, before reigning it all back in. The steering matches the precision of the chassis well, but this is still a wide, heavy car compared with some of the competitors such as the 911, so you need all the help that the car’s systems can give to feel on top of things when you’re speeding along.
There are, of course, other versions of the F-Type to choose from: there’s a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engine, and a new tune of the 5.0-litre V8, with 444 horsepower, which replaces the V6 on offer with the previous generation. Both are rear-wheel-drive as standard, with AWD offered as an option on the V8. The F-Type R is almost double the cost of the base 2.0-litre car. But, if your budget will reach the R, do it. It’s a thunderous, old-school sports car, full of brooding intent, the likes of which are disappearing in favour of small, lightweight, breathed-on four-cylinder and V6 engines.
The vast swathes of black leather, black suede and black plastics inside our test car works as an indicator of how much the F-Type has matured into a serious high-performance car.
Unlike the successful exterior facelift, however, the interior remains such the same as the previous version – we’d forgotten, for example, about the air vents rising up out of the dashboard when you switch the engine on, which came as a sweet surprise.
There are electric seat controls situated on the doors, and a central bridge houses USB ports and storage space before rising vertically up the dashboard, where Jaguar’s familiar infotainment system sits. The boot, over which the long, deep rear window glides down to the active rear spoiler, is commodious – we got a week’s worth of family supermarket shopping in, plus extra bags for the neighbours and elderly relatives during this time of coronavirus. It rises when you press the key fob, and lowers via a button inside the boot lip.
Jaguar Land Rover’s infotainment system is now in need of a serious update to keep track with competitors such as Audi’s MMI, BMW’s iDrive and Mercedes’ new MBUX technology. It is saved only by the fact that when it came out, several years ago, it was markedly ahead of the curve at that point. You can now link it to your smartphone easily, and access apps such as Spotify and Deezer, and there are the usual safety features like lane-keep assist and a parking camera, but the system lacks eye-catching graphics and any augmented-reality functions. One useful update is the digital display behind the steering wheel: the graphics can separate into two digital dials for speed and revs, or the screen can show the car’s systems such as satnav.
The Jaguar F-type is often overlooked in favour of other sports cars, the feeling being that this model is slightly old-fashioned, due to its size and weight, but that in itself lends this car a rare charm. In these times of small, turbocharged engines, the F-Type R’s mighty supercharged V8 feels like a unique luxury, and it sounds the business. Really, this is an entry-level British supercar. Order it in stealth black and fly under everyone’s radar.