A year after its debut, we're finally driving the new, facelifted 2021 Jaguar F-Type coupe.
COVID-19 hasn't been kind to anyone, let alone the United Kingdom, where this car is built. The daily COVID-19 case count in the UK has risen to over 50,000 per day, to give you some idea of the challenges brands like Jaguar are currently facing. Furthermore, with Brexit looming, complications continue to stack up.
In December, it shut down sectors of its Castle Bromwich manufacturing plant – in particular, the production lines that manufacture its XE and XF sedans. F-Type production remained unaffected, however.
So, in spite of a global pandemic, and the most complicated withdrawal of a nation from a political and economic union, a business must adapt. It must change its protocol, and continue to manufacture. It would've been no small feat to have been producing cars throughout 2020, let alone for a small-volume market like Australia.
Again, a frame of reference is needed. Less than 50 previous-generation Jaguar F-Types found homes in 2020. In the same time, Porsche sold well over 200 Boxsters and Caymans combined. Given Jaguar sold close to 100 F-Types in 2019, there's no doubt it's expecting a sales improvement with the new model.
It has streamlined the range, too, making it as simple as ever. The MY21 F-Type range starts with the 221kW, four-cylinder turbo, rear-wheel-drive P300 model priced from $126,035 before on-roads. This entry-level version is also offered as a convertible for an extra $18,700.
Up from here is what we're driving today – the 280kW, six-cylinder supercharged, rear-wheel-drive P380 model. Our hardtop version starts from $172,735 before on-roads. It is too offered as a convertible, this time for an additional $18,701, strangely one dollar more than the four-cylinder.
At the top sits the mighty 423kW, eight-cylinder supercharged, all-wheel-drive F-Type R. At $262,936 before on-roads, or about $100,000 more than our test car, it is a totally different proposition. It only comes as a hardtop, too, in case you're wondering.
|2021 Jaguar F-Type P380 R-Dynamic|
|Engine||3.0-litre six-cylinder supercharged petrol|
|Power and torque||280kW at 6250rpm, 460Nm at 4500–5000rpm|
|Transmission||Eight-speed torque-converter automatic|
|Drive type||Rear-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||8.6L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||11.6L/100km|
|Boot volume (rear seats up / down)||336L|
|ANCAP safety rating||Untested|
|Warranty||3 years / 100,000km|
|Main competitors||Porsche Cayman, Lexus LC500|
|Price as tested (ex on-road costs)||$172,735 RRP / $199,835 as tested|
What we're driving is a middle-of-the-road F-Type, then.
The main reason to spend $46,700 stepping up from the four-cylinder is the powertrain.
The F-Type P380 features a supercharged V6 engine with 280kW of power and 460Nm of torque. Interestingly, despite being supercharged, the latter figure is offered in full between 4500 and 5000rpm. That's high RPM for peak torque considering it's force-fed. Zero to 100km/h takes 4.9 seconds.
Whereas the four-cylinder F-Type lacks pizzazz in terms of sound, the six does not. Upon startup, it barks, and even pops, too. Right from pressing the start button, you realise where your near-on $50K has gone.
The engine itself is mighty, and its heightened ramp-up of torque does well in emulating something naturally aspirated. There's zero supercharger whine to highlight its inclusion, for better or worse.
Tapping the exhaust does increase the ruckus, however not blatantly. During moments of partial throttle input at lower RPM, it almost sounds identical. Only up high, with the boot fully in, does its sound become more pronounced.
You can cut this point two ways: it's great the quietest setting is not overly pedestrian, or it's a shame the V6 isn't given the chance to howl like the eight does. I'm in the latter camp.
Another key point about this driveline is in-gear responsiveness. Having to only drive two wheels, instead of four like the V8 does, creates a clearer reaction to throttle input. The eight-speed transmission is not Porsche dual-clutch PDK fast, but it's quick enough to keep you tangled up in the drive. It also means that power is fed directly to the rear wheels, remaining unprocessed by the likes of a transfer case or centre differential.
All-wheel-drive systems can sometimes dilute the feel of a sports car. Some bigger, more GT-oriented cars do not suffer from this burden. Conversely, you could argue that a sports car, more pure and clear in its brief, such as this F-Type, actually benefits from lacking all-wheel drive. The chassis itself remains fantastic, and the facelift model introduces a whole host of upgrades to make it better.
The dampers, springs, swaybars, and even rear hub assemblies have been altered to improve its roadholding ability. The F-Type P380 features adaptive suspension as standard, but with a catch. The regular system included in the base price is not customisable, meaning the F-Type will make such judicious decisions on your behalf.
If you prefer a user-chooser environment, you'll have to take the option for 'configurable dynamics' at a cost of $3980. Our car featured the system, which I found quite puzzling. Despite flicking between suspension modes in a variety of situations, the spread of damping adjustment appeared quite shallow.
The ride quality in regular mode is already fantastic, so perhaps saving $3980, and letting the car manage things on your behalf, is the way to go. Cruising through the big smoke, it felt composed, calm and nothing short of what you'd want nine to five.
Out on the open road, windows down, exhaust set to maximum, it felt remarkably engaging to drive. The rear axle will wiggle if you provoke it. While it isn't as sharp as a Porsche Cayman, or as sedate as a Lexus LC500, it offers more duality than both. There's just enough to shift the dial away from grand tourer and more toward sports car in line with its looks.
Despite its hardpoints being seven years old, it still looks stunning. Its hind remains its best look, and the update manages to improve it. The rear tail-light clusters have been slimmed and squared off, and the licence plate area opened up. Modernised is a simple way to put it.
At the front, the changes are more obvious. Neater, prettier headlights have been integrated into the car, instead of being perched on top of it. This simple change allowed for its designers to include a deeply vented clamshell bonnet, and align its shut lines with the headlights, instead of against them.
It's all about the one per cent gains with a car this good-looking. In terms of pure kerb appeal, and gauged from the opinion of innocent bystanders, the F-Type still rules. Compared to an Audi R8, you'll command more attention in the big cat, if you care.
In the flesh, it dates the previous-generation F-Type. I'll admit my first impressions, gauged from two-dimensional images, led me to believe Jaguar may have spoiled the F-Type. However, like a modern Audi, who are masters of getting design basics right, or even a Bangle-era BMW, the results are best judged in person.
The cabin has benefitted from touches of modernity also. Changes include a new 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a larger 10.0-inch infotainment screen. Material selection remains quality; something which is evident with the technical-looking 'delta aluminium' centre console trim.
It's an interesting material, with its surface delicately milled in a vee pattern. Textural, cold to touch, and proudly stamped "Jaguar - Coventry - est. 1935", it is spot-on for this cabin. The same goes for the glovebox release button, which looks far too nice to be something so simple.
As this is a facelift, most of the important stuff remains untouched. The seriously low-slung seating position remains, as does the selfish lack of storage. The F-Type expects your attention and gives you no room to store your superfluous junk. Despite sitting low, and having your body hugged, it doesn't feel pokey. Our car's optional panoramic sunroof did its part to help, and is one of the more fairly priced options at $2110.
As for driver-assist systems, atypical of Jaguar, they're not free and quite sparse at the entry price. Blind-spot monitoring, which our car had, costs $900. Dual climate control hilariously costs more at $1040. Tyre pressure monitoring is even charged out at $790, believe it or not.
Adaptive cruise for those long drives with the better half? Well, no money can buy you such a convenience, as it isn't offered at all. In terms of options, our car was fitted with $27,100 worth, which increased its before-on-roads cost to $199,835.
That's a fair chunk of coin, even before realising half of the options list should be standard. I can just about wrap my head around the Meridian surround-sound system costing $7260, given how incredible it sounds even to my tatty ears.
However, $1010 for red brake calipers and $410 for carpet mats? Jaguar Australia needs to address a few things here still.
The boot, despite appearing narrow and long, is actually usable. At 336L, there's enough room for golf clubs, so long as you adjust the odd taller wood after the bag has been placed in. If you don't play golf or care about the size of clubs, you'll just about fit in a week's worth of groceries for three, as I did.
The new-generation 2021 Jaguar F-Type has been improved in key areas: styling, chassis and cabin. Nowadays, however, compared to a similar-priced Porsche, it lacks clarity. When compared to a Lexus LC500, it definitely lacks space, and quite possibly theatre, too.
However, for those who care not for extracting ten-tenths on a circuit, or about rear seats, then the F-Type remains compelling. Suit by day, tux at night.
If you're tempted by the four, try the six, and decide after you know what the difference in monthly payments will be.
I'd take a punt on the six having a better residual value also.