Jaguar F-Type 2020: The full TG review
OVERVIEW - What is it?
After seven years on sale, the Jaguar F-Type has had its biggest update yet. You’ve probably spied the newly squinting headlights already, and if the bottom half of the internet is any kind of barometer, you might not like them very much. But please, reserve full judgement until you’ve seen one of these in person. This remains a wildly good-looking car in both coupe and convertible shapes, and the rest of its styling has largely been left well alone. Wise.
The F-Type’s biggest stories also lie a few feet back from those lights. Chiefly, its V6 engine has gone – in the UK market at least – replaced by a new tune of supercharged V8. Yep, Jaguar has bucked all current motor industry trends and upsized the mid-range F-Type’s engine. Whatever will the climate change protestors think.
At least they’ll be marginally appeased by the ongoing existence of the entry-level four-cylinder F-Type ‘P300’, whose 296bhp 2.0-litre turbo engine continues untouched. Last year, it garnered 42 per cent of F-Type sales, but Jag does expect the new 444bhp 5.0-litre V8 ‘P450’ to chip away at that share significantly.
Sitting atop both is the also-V8 567bhp F-Type R, which is the range halo now that the wild SVR has gone off sale, but not before donating its engine tune and suspension components to the R.
All use an eight-speed automatic transmission, with the F-Type manual dropped from sale after a mere seven were sold in 2019. Sad, but we’ll cope: the ZF-derived paddleshifter is superb and was always our favourite anyway.
The P300 and P450 are rear-driven as standard, the latter getting all-wheel drive as a £5000 option, while the R is AWD only.
The F’s update also sees some tweaks inside, with an updated media system and new, fully digital instrument display that cycles between single and double dials or a big widescreen map just like the one Audi pioneered six years ago with the TT’s Virtual Cockpit.
Prices start at £54,000 for the coupe and a whisker under £60,000 for the convertible, topping out at £102,000 for a drop-top F-Type R. So once again, the F-Type lives in a curious middle ground slap-bang between both Porsche Caymans and 911s, seemingly a rival to both with a broad spread of power outputs. It’s got Alpine A110s and Toyota Supras to fret about these days too, as well as a reborn TVR. If the new Griffith ever actually arrives.
Will there be another F-Type SVR, to bait the next 911 Turbo or GT3? “SVO are continually committed to amplifying performance attributes and bringing more SV vehicles to market in the future,” is the official company line. Our fingers are firmly crossed for a batsh*t Project 9.
DRIVING - What is it like on the road?
The big news is the arrival of the V8-powered P450, replacing both V6-powered P340 and P380 versions of old. Quite a task, given the latter was the absolute sweet spot of the F-Type range: way more character than the company-car-special four-cylinder, and little of the unhinged madness of the larger V8s.
In short, it’s absolutely nailed it. It feels nowhere near its 123bhp deficit on the F-Type R above it, makes nearly as much naughty V8 noise on full throttle, but is civilised and gentlemanly at low speed and on start-up, thanks to a neighbour-friendly ‘quiet mode’ on the exhaust.
It drives in a gentlemanly manner, too. Back in 2013, the F-Type arrived from a cloud of tyre smoke, feeling madly exciting but a little TVR-ish when the weather was bad or you turned your attention for a second on a twisty road. Incremental improvements from JLR’s annual model year updates have tidied things up a bit, while this new 2020 model gets a few chassis tweaks too. You end up with a car that isn’t night-and-day different to those before it, just classier. Better.
So much so, we’d advise sticking to the standard RWD on this engine and saving both money and weight. AWD is no longer needed to keep things reined in. Mind, it does make the more powerful F-Type R uncommonly neat to drive for a car so powerful, with its mischievous side only revealed at the driver’s behest. A halfway house stability control mode gives you more than enough high jinks on the road and this remains a car of huge heart and humour. Just one that’s £27,000 more than the very-nearly-as-good P450.
And what of the cheapest, the P300? It’s actually the neatest and lightest F-Type to drive, in objective terms, but even though its 2.0-litre engine is refined and pretty strong, it simply can’t live up to its surrounding cast. You can drive the entry-level F-Type with the commitment of a hardcore hot hatch, but it’s never a truly dazzling sports car. A fine option if you love the looks and its friendlier CO2 figure allows it to slot into your life in a way quicker, pricier F’s won’t, however.
Problems are few, but given this is a heavy facelift rather than a brand new car, the F-Type’s mass and girth still continue to rankle when the vast majority of its rivals are lighter and narrower. Porsche 911s are big these days, but will still slink through traffic and up narrow lanes with less fuss than the Jag.
ON THE INSIDE - Layout, finish and space
So the F-Type is wide, but it’s not especially cavernous inside to compensate. It never has been. And in truth, the tweaks feel lighter in here than on the outside.
Which we mostly rather like. We wouldn’t have bet a single pound on the interior aging one iota as well as it has done, such were the flourishes applied to it when new. And yet it’s not dated at all in here, the joystick controller and toggle switches still fun to use and those ongoing model year changes meaning the media system is as modern as can be. And crucially, it speaks easily to Apple and Android phones.
The biggest news concerns new digital instruments with numerous levels of customisation. But as ever with these things, if you like to drive briskly then a traditional pair of circular dials – one for revs, one for speed – is still best, making the whole effort seem a little in vain. Upgrading from analogue makes switching between mph and kph simpler, though, so you can see why it probably helps cut costs when you’re trying to sustain sports cars in a tumultuous market. A movement we can all get behind.
OWNING - Runnings costs and reliability
No question, the P300 is the one to have if running costs are an issue. The P450 may be the range sweet spot and a surprising bargain at just under £70,000 – only a Mustang, Lexus RC F or Mercedes C63 gets you in a V8 sports car for less – but its mpg and CO2 figures are negligibly better than the full-strength F-Type R’s, on paper at least.
But hey, you’re buying a sports car. Live a little. Prioritise such sensibleness only as much as you need to.
Again, the relative lightness of this update brings issues. The F-Type has always had infamously bad boot space – in convertible trim, chiefly – and a new set of lights, wheels and grilles can’t change that. So poke around one properly before buying, because it won’t swallow bags and cases with quite the aplomb of an equivalent Porsche.
Oh, and while there’s a modicum of active safety equipment on offer, it’s an area the F lags behind its rivals. There’s no active cruise control. You can’t even have a head-up display. Not big issues if you relish its old-school appeal, but it does distance the Jag just a little further from its rivals as those technologies progress so quickly elsewhere in the market.
The F-Type is a great sports car. It has been for seven years now, and a relatively light rejig doesn’t rock the boat at all. Great if you relish a mildly brutish coupe or cabrio with a large engine up front, less good if you want something stuffed to the gunwales with technology.
It continues to sit in its own little segment, though, priced between Caymans and 911s while doggedly offering something a little different to both. And with neater, more trustworthy handling than ever, a charismatic new engine and a sheen of extra modernity inside, it’s no harder to recommend than it was back in 2013. Whatever you think of those headlights.
Slightly sharper looks, slightly sharper chassis... but otherwise refreshingly old-school. The new F-Type doesn't cause any upsets. Phew
|Sharper yet more gentlemanly to drive, great new V8||Lacks the sophisticated safety systems of key rivals|