Along with minor styling tweaks for 2021, the F-Type R now boasts 575 horsepower. It also has a Quiet Start mode. Your neighbors will thank you.
The Jaguar F-type has always been a little bit of an enigma. Most people agree it’s a beautiful car, but it competes with the memories of its predecessors more than it does any modern car out there right now.
Consider the least expensive F-type, the $62,625 P300 coupe: Perhaps car buyers aren’t always rational actors—if they were, Honda would sell 5 million Accords per year—but at that price, you’d have to be a pretty committed Anglophile to go for the four-cylinder Jag over a Chevy Corvette C8 or a Toyota Supra. The more robust flavors of F-type face the same problem. The V-8-powered R model is up against the Porsche 911, not to mention the 760-hp Ford Mustang Shelby GT500. And the 380-hp V-6 R-Dynamic competes against . . . well, we’re not sure. Cosmetic surgery? A trip to Antarctica? Cosmetic surgery in Antarctica? Anyway, for 2021, Jaguar knocked $5500 off the price of that one.
More Power, Less Noise
There are other changes, mostly minor, to this Jaguar. A new 12.3-inch display in the instrument cluster is the highlight of the interior tweaks. Aesthetically, both the F-type coupe and convertible still cut a clean, pretty shape; there’s not much to change without messing it up. Jaguar reskinned the front end with narrow horizontal LED headlights flanking a bigger grille and a hood with repositioned vents. But the other visual changes are mostly the stuff of spot-the-difference illustrations on a kids’ menu: “Dad, the 2021’s taillights have a squared-off accent and the 2020’s have a round one!” “Okay, good catch, Timmy. Now eat your chicky nuggies.”
Mechanical upgrades are likewise subtle, with the R model getting the most attention. A 25-hp bump, to 575 horsepower, means that the R now matches the output of the old SVR, which is gone (for now). Jaguar also finessed the suspension and steering, with an emphasis on improving feel. New rear suspension uprights, ball joints, and wheel bearings increase wheel camber and toe stiffness, helping to better control the tires’ contact with the road. Those tires, Pirelli P Zeros, are now wider by 10 millimeters both front and rear (to 265 and 305, respectively). With standard all-wheel drive and the ubiquitous ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, the updated F-type R coupe should run to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds, quicker than the last one we tested.
We drove the revised F-type in Portugal, where the roads were great but the weather wasn’t. The route from Porto to Lisbon presented nary a patch of dry pavement and more than a few incautious sheep wandering out of the fog. So, we can’t really say how Jag’s revisions affect the handling when you’re pushing hard.
We can say, however, that the V-8’s retuned exhaust is much more aurally subdued. On overrun, the outgoing V-8 cars always sounded like someone tossed a string of firecrackers into a drainage culvert—fun till the cops show up. There’s still a snarl when you back off the throttle, but you no longer expect the exhaust to leave a trail of lightly smoldering shrubs in your wake. There’s even a Quiet Start mode, so you can turn on the car without becoming the 575-hp rooster of your neighborhood. Dig deep enough into the throttle, though, and the pipes will open up regardless of the mode.
A Tamer Cat
The four-cylinder F-type, dubbed P300, doesn’t need a Quiet Start mode. For that model, Jag pumps in extra sound through the stereo speakers. At least it’s honest fakery. Unlike sound-augmentation systems that remix the engine note, Jaguar engineers recorded the 296-hp 2.0-liter inline-four’s soundtrack and amplified it; that’s what you’re hearing through the speakers. In the music industry, this is what’s known as a backing track.
Jaguar didn’t have any V-6 models in Portugal for us, but the four-cylinder F-type is a pleasant surprise, reasonably quick, and roughly 450 pounds lighter than the R. Jaguar says the P300 actually is slightly quicker than the old 340-hp V-6 model (named P340) with the manual transmission, which is probably one reason why the row-your-own F-type was discontinued after 2019. The P340 model is a goner, too. All V-6s are now in the 380-hp flavor and come with standard all-wheel drive.
With Jaguar moving toward electrification—the next XJ flagship will be electric only—it feels as though the F-type got just enough of a refresh to carry it through until a total rethinking. Yeah, it’s quieter. Maybe we’d better get used to that.