This year marks the Jaguar F-Type’s first, long overdue, proper facelift in the evergreen sports car’s seventh year in production. But hold your leaping cats, Jag fans, because this 2020 R P550 AWD Convertible isn’t part of the revised, MY21 facelifted stable, due mid-year.
Jaguar Australia is looking to consolidate its current range spread from 28 different variations – 14 coupe, 14 convertible – down to a more streamlined choice of a facelifted six. And, initially at least, there’ll be just one supercharged V8 AWD offering, a flagship R Coupe.
Yes, no more V8 drop-tops. For the coming months at least, the rag-top R P550 before you will be the last blown-eight, all-paw, convertible F-Type available for the foreseeable future.
The R Convertible is $271,900 list, or $277,890 with a smattering of options fitted before on-roads, which puts the BMW M850i Convertible and Mercedes-Benz SL500 Roadster directly in its crosshairs on pricing and conceptual format (front-engined V8 two-seat sports car). Although, tyre-kickers might logically also cross-shop the Mercedes-AMG GT C, which is $60K pricier, or a Porsche 911 4S Cabriolet, which is quite a different sort of animal if powertrain format is of importance.
And yet, it remains an esoteric sports car that’s perhaps an inspired choice for petrolheads with particular tastes.
Yes, its contemporary lines are somewhat timeless, but its long-snouted proportions remain thoroughly classic and the supercharged 5.0-litre V8 format is downright old-school… Even if its 405kW and 680Nm output numbers, driven wheel count and sheer performance prowess are hardly behind the times.
Origins play some significance, too. Indian parents, perhaps, but the F-Type is still manufactured by Brit subsidiary JLR and assembled in Birmingham, UK. And while not exclusive province of the tweed flat-cappers, its overt Britishness, right down to our test car’s British Racing Green paintwork, is a particular drawcard not shared with any of the abovementioned rivals.
Crucially important, though, is that V8 F-Types have long been one part sports car, one part hot rod. It’s not simply that it’ll hit 100km/h from a standstill in a touch over four seconds flat, but it also growls its animalistic soundtrack to complement its slightly unhinged, equally animalistic nature that, top down, piles on enough spine-tingling fury and turbulence in the march towards its 300km/h top speed that it’ll blow your toupee – not mine, my hair’s kosher – clean off your head.
At least, that’s what you should be buying into for your three-hundred large.
That Jaguar Australia has whipped out the tranquiliser gun at the ready for the R Convertible suggests that simply not enough Aussies are after that particular experience for that sort of dosh. Or perhaps age and other areas of execution in this variant aren’t favorable enough all things – and all alternatives – considered.
One of those things is the F-Type itself. Back at its 2013 debut, the V8 S drop-top was a much more affordable ($202K) and compelling alternative to rivals such as the Porsche 911. And I can’t help thinking that the 2017 introduction of turbo four-cylinder versions, now entering at $114K, has aligned the Jag more closely with the Boxster and Cayman.
Performance and mojo notwithstanding, the R Convertible’s $272K doesn’t look like terribly compelling value from many angles, be it the roughly $30K premium over the R coupe version, or that you could buy a V6 coupe and V6 drop-top for different days of the week and still have some tidy change left over.
Last year saw a number of key updates in safety and infotainment to maintain relevancy in those departments, but extra expenditure for certain features at this pricepoint surely doesn’t sit right with some shoppers. For instance, our tester still wants an extra $1040 for dual- rather than single-zone climate control, $900 for blind-spot monitoring, $800 for power folding/heated mirrors, and $640 for digital radio functionality for just some of its cost options.
Sure, those flush enough to ‘blow’ $272K on a sports hot rod have all the right to choose or omit niceties at their whims, but it leaves the standard features list, in a premium motoring context, looking a bit lean by 2020 standards.
Then again, if it delivers the largest hot rod experience on the sports car block, rationale can go get in the boot.
Climb in, liberate the V8’s thunderous metallic bark, drop the full electric roof, and it’s amazing how objections and reservations immediately disappear, between the unsuppressed assault of the soundtrack and the leash-straining enthusiasm as the F-Type lunges forth at even a hint of throttle input. Its impolite manner is instantly edifying.
As this is the 17th – yes, one-seven – time we’ve reviewed a V8-powered F-Type of one trim or another, we’ve pretty much emptied our trick bag of gushing superlatives in describing five fulsome litres of forced-inducted bent-eight fury. What’s left to say?
Well, a few things. Supercharging presents a particular response to throttle input unlike today’s so-called ‘hot inside vee’ turbocharged eights outputting in the Jag’s 405kW and 680Nm ballpark.
Jump on the loud pedal off idle and there’s a slight pause, but response becomes instant with any rise in RPM and beyond its flat and assertive ramp up to peak torque at a quite high 3500rpm point. At once, it’s almost disconcertingly toey – and a downright chore in the peak-hour crawl – yet has an indicative ‘wind up’ sensation in blossoming its full-welly energies.
Result? A charmingly charismatic if likeable old-school character that feels more sizeable than slick. It doesn’t have the undertasked immediacy of, say, a BMW M or AMG eight, and that’s no bad thing.
You have to dig deeper and let RPM rise higher for full accelerative reward, and reward it most certainly does. More ‘hot rod’, then, just how you should want it, if at the trade-off that, frankly, it doesn’t quite feel 4.1 seconds quick by the seat of the pants.
The engine deserves a better eight-speed auto, or perhaps at least a cleaner and sharper calibration to the one fitted.
Upshifts under acceleration are smooth and assertive enough – it just becomes a little recalcitrant and un-synced to the engine’s character at part throttle or on lift-off negotiating corners, where there’s a strange, occasional ‘dead spot’ in the torque feed through the powertrain. That’s in regular drive mode, though the sheer toey-ness of the thing in its default setting renders the even sharper Dynamic drive mode far too hairy and lairy for sensible around-town driving.
Speaking of dynamics, the F-Type’s always had some sting in its tail. And in the march of progress over the years from what was once a 364kW and 625Nm prospect to today’s 405kW and 680Nm prowess – let alone the loftier 423kW and 700Nm in the SVR stuff – necessitated a move to all-wheel drive for prudence as much as it was for outright performance benefit.
For all those fair weather, clear-road situations when you relish all the F-Type R can give, there are others where its outputs and all-paw driveline seem excessive.
At times, I miss that rear-shimming scrabble for traction you could relish in with the old V8 rear-driver, where lower outputs were more than plenty. It was arguably a bit purer in intent and both a little more fittingly sports car and ‘hot rod’ at the same time.
Yes, the rather excellent blown-V6 rear-drivers fill this more conventional sports car space these days, and the lighter front end removes some of that lead-tipped sensation of the bent-eight gear, but of course you lose the guttural soundtrack in the (arguable) downgrade.
That said, the R Convertible strikes a likeable dynamic blend. It’s not as sharp-edged and planted as some, but get the mass of its nose turned in and it balances grip and agility with nicely rounded and lively manner that still works the rears nice and hard.
For as much hot rod as it ought to be, there’s still a spirited sports car underneath once you dig deep enough. I got the chance to punt the R Coupe recently at the old Eastern Cree… Sorry, SMSP… And I was pleasantly reminded just how natural and capable the package is once it’s run off its chain.
Some of this is clever tech. You’d have to back-to-back this MY20 with earlier versions, but I’m inclined to believe that at least some of driver augmentation – adaptive dynamics with configurability, rear-axle torque vectoring by braking – has been polished up over the life cycle. Their effects are natural and transparently subtle.
As a more daily driven prospect, the suspension damping is bloody firm. But a bit of general discomfort to enrich the sporty character can be a good or a bad thing depending on user preference. A softer ride could well push the F-Type’s vibe too far into grand tourer territory, and that’s not necessarily a favorable thing.
Nor, as you might reasonably expect, is the blown five-litre the most frugal machine around town, its 11.3L/100km claim a somewhat fanciful target, though, of course, there are numerous fours and sixes available in the stable.
The now longingly familiar cabin still lays on the panache in core design, if lacking a little of the celebration in the detail for a machine of its pricepoint. For instance, there’s a little too much plastic where you’d expect real metal, such as the door latches and some of the switchgear.
The pop-up air vent ‘pod’ remains a neat party trick, and the recent addition of 10.0-inch infotainment with a refreshed Touch Pro interface is an improvement, without diving into the techno tackiness that’s afflicted many German premium marques of late.
The stiff-backed sports seats and deeply set circular analogue gauges are hardly pillars of modernity and share more kinship to, say, a Ford Mustang or Nissan 370Z than anything else. Although, it remains to be seen how the F-Type gels with contemporary twists due for the imminent MY21 facelift, including the questionable me-too flat-panel digital driver’s instrumentation.
In fact, the ‘new’ F-Type’s arrival is imminent enough that Jaguar’s public website has little sign of its outgoing forebear's range. And, thus, you spend a good while to find recognition of this R AWD Convertible version so close to being put to pasture. But that’s a way of natural selection.