Late last year, I reviewed what was the last of the blown-V8 rag-top Jaguar F-Types in the Brit sports car’s seven-year lineage. A model set to be put to pasture mid-2020 with the arrival of a newly vamped, more streamlined MY21 model range.
So, I was a little surprised when this 2020 Jaguar F-Type P300 R-Dynamic RWD Coupe, to give it its full name, arrived at CarAdvice HQ in the existing pre-facelift guise.
It turns out a certain recent global calamity has wreaked as much havoc with Jaguar’s UK production as it has with many things virtually everywhere else. That has caused, at the time of writing, indeterminable delays in the fresh-faced F-Type’s arrival Down Under.
Enter our test subject, in with a hard roof, striking Ultra Blue paintwork, 221kW of turbocharged four-cylinder power under its seductively lengthy bonnet lines and body curves now oh-so ‘eight years’ familiar.
It maintains the fetching vertical headlight front end that, eventually at least, will be replaced by a sharper ‘horizontal light’ look slated for the model year of 2021.
The P300 R-Dynamic lobs at $122,000 list, just a smidgen above the Standard (non-R-Dynamic) twin at the bottom of what, at the time of writing, remains a dizzying selection of variants – some 28 at last count – that climbs from a Porsche Cayman-competing pricepoint way up to the supercharged-V8 all-paw SVR gear sailing north of $300K that’s well deep into fast Porsche 911 territory.
That’s long been part of the F-Type charm: the scale upwards from base to peak is ginormous, and you can have one as a humble sportster or manic super sports car, at thrice the price, depending on whim and budget.
Our time with the humble P300 R-Dynamic does remind us, though, the F-Type’s inherent goodness runs deeply through its core DNA. And it’s stuff that doesn’t dilute down into nonexistence when you’re trying to cut the cost of the thing to create a fairly basic version, such as the test car before you.
Well, to a point. While $122K gets you into the P300 R-Dynamic before on-roads, our example’s ‘fiscal creep’ nudges the bottom line upwards to $133,860 list. And I’m inclined to feel like some of the options ought to be standard issue.
Okay, so the extra sting for fancy Ultra Blue paintwork ($2950) and some added Design Pack visuals ($3390) and six-way-electric, heated, grained leather and Suedecloth sport seats ($620) perhaps warrants a splurge, but at this price point, should you be charged extra for keyless entry ($1200), dual-zone climate control ($1040), privacy glass ($650), digital radio ($640), power-folding heated mirrors ($620) or ‘sport carpet mats’ ($410)? Even fitting a flat-bottom steering wheel ($340) is considered an excess.
You could perhaps lose all of these options and end up with a slightly ‘less nice’ F-Type, if one that lacks nothing in comparable mojo. Age and heartbeat notwithstanding, the two-door Leaping Cat remains 107 per cent sports car. Looks it, feels it.
That’s not to confuse sportiness with performance, because, putting it delicately, this isn’t the F-Type for you if you’re in it for head-pinning, head-smacking acceleration. You need to dig deeper in the hip pocket for those properly quick versions.
Still, 221kW and 400Nm are healthy numbers for a 2.0-litre turbocharged four – a friskier level of tune compared with the 184kW and 365Nm numbers in Jag’s softer-edged ‘25t’ unit in the F-Pace SUV.
Through the sports car’s active switchable exhaust system, this high-boost unit sounds bolder, angrier and more vocal, too. It’s a satisfying soundtrack, if one that won’t exactly make your arm hairs stand on end. Fine enough, then.
It hooks up well, the eight-speed auto is eager on the upshifts, and acceleration is quite assertive even though the rear-wheel drive has to negotiate an open differential and torque control between the wheels is via braking (limiting the feed) rather than mechanical slip regulation (proportioning the feed).
It’s a best of 5.7 seconds 0–100km/h for nigh on 300 old-school horsepower thrusting a tonne-and-a-half. Nothing heroic by today’s measures, but nonetheless a tidy equation capable of injecting decent fun factor.
There’s enough honk to threaten traction without lead-footed theatrics, with some faint scrabbling at the rear as a reminder that this is a proper sports car that can be driven with the hips as much as with the hands and eyes. Its classic driver’s car vibe is amplified, too, through the concoction of the long bonnet and quite rearward seating that perches your rump near the rear axle line.
As if all the action happens at the rear of the car, and the front end, with its lovely steering and quick point, is there simply to correct the trajectory.
Find a succession of curves and there’s a nice flow between the chassis balance, the measured lateral grip, and the generally obedient yet tempered engine output. Sure, I’d have the V6’s lustier 250kW poke and richer sonics in a heartbeat, if the extra $14K-odd investment weren’t of any hindrance.
The firmly set, passively damped suspension is clearly of a tune favouring engagement and thrills – as it should be in this sort of steed – and the ride quality, while a bit pitchy and unforgiving around town, is tempered enough for daily driven friendliness. Just. In fact, two-up with a bit more weight on board, its grand-touring chops are impressive provided the low-slung seating doesn’t start to wreak havoc with your vertebrae after a few long hours in the saddle.
It’s a neat cabin space, ageing as gracefully as the exterior design, and doesn’t really suffer for it save for, perhaps, the look of the analogue instrumentation. The forthcoming facelift looks to replace the ‘old dials’ with a flat and featureless digital screen, à la Benz gear, and I’m not sure I’d call that an upgrade, per se.
Low slung, tricky to climb into and exit, and with its somewhat laid-back driving position, the cabin is inherently sports car in vibe. The leather outer/suedecloth inner seat trim is sumptuous, while the faux-leather Luxtec instrument panel topper, chunky flat-bottomed wheel and ‘graphite effect’ vent surrounds bring an upmarket lift.
Even the thoroughly mainstream switchgear doesn’t seem too awkwardly out of place. There’s ample metal-effect brightwork – the central stack, the tread plates – befitting a $130K two-door indulgence.
I still reckon the 10.0-inch Touch Pro infotainment, the package’s most recent update, lacks some of the processing speed and intuitive ease of rival premium marques – navigating the radio, alone, is a confounding chore – but the sat-nav is decent and the reversing camera is crisp and clear.
The F-Type is covered by Jaguar’s three-year/100,000km warranty, which can be extended through to up to five years and 200,000km at extra cost.
As something of an ownership bonus, the marque’s F-Type – and XJ, coincidentally – gets five years/130,000km of free servicing. Value to the tune of thousands that you’ll otherwise inevitably spend on ‘options’ such as $1200 keyless entry no doubt…
Meanwhile, consumption hovered around the 10.0L/100km mark. Not terribly shabby, if well short of its 7.2L/100km combined claim.
Is the turbo-four P300 R-Dynamic rear-drive coupe the pick of the F-Type litter? Probably not. It’s a fine, convincing and even compelling package, though you sense its 2.0-litre format specifically targets markets that apply stringent emissions and economy legislation. And a big country deserves a larger heartbeat.
That’s not to deter terribly from a coupe that stacks up well on its own merit. It’s just that the extra $14K stretch – not a huge lease adjustment – for the equivalent R-Dynamic trim with six-cylinder power, at $136K-ish, represents a substantial and worthy step up in the pace, enjoyment and mojo stakes.
That said, it’s good to have a choice, right?