The Jaguar F-Type is arguably best experienced with its rip-snorting 575-horsepower V8. But the lesser I4 and V6 models are still party monsters in their own rights, too. That’s evident from the moment I fire up the supercharged 3.0-liter V6 in this P380 R-Dynamic test car. With the center-mounted exhaust pipes belting out a sonorous wail, I know that, even with just six cylinders onboard, this F-Type means business.
- Strong supercharged V6
- Nicely tuned suspension
- Good roster of infotainment and driver-assistance tech
- Styling update is hardly an improvement
- Not as entertaining as a Boxster
As its name suggests, the P380 makes 380 horsepower, in addition to 339 pound-feet of torque. That’s enough to scoot this two-seater to 60 mph in a Jaguar-estimated 4.9 seconds, which is hardly slow, but it also lacks drama. Since the full brunt of the engine’s horsepower and torque don’t arrive until 6,250 and 4,500 rpm, respectively, you’ve got a pretty big dead zone in the lower part of the rev range before the V6 really wakes up. Then again, this means the F-Type P380 is super-easy to drive in traffic — it never feels like a puppy on a leash, constantly trying to bolt. In fact, this F-Type is downright sedate at times, but I think that’s OK for a sports car you might want to actually drive every day.
Keep the engine on boil, however, and the F-Type really comes alive. The eight-speed automatic transmission will hold gears all the way to redline and drop a cog or two under braking. Adaptive dampers and a well-sorted chassis result in flat and composed handling through tight corners, though the steering is a little light for my tastes. A limited-slip differential and brake-based torque vectoring do a good job of shuffling power side to side as needed for maximum grip. The P380’s standard all-wheel drive adds an extra level of surefootedness, too.
The ride quality is surprisingly compliant, even on my R-Dynamic tester’s 20-inch wheels with low-profile tires. On crappy Los Angeles highways, I’m impressed with the suspension’s ability to soak up most minor ruts and undulations. I’m not really one to encourage splurging on big wheels or tires with rubber bands for sidewalls. But then again, the F-Type really needs large rollers to make the overall design work. Ever seen one of these things on the base 18s? Yeesh.
Speaking of appearance, the F-Type receives a few visual updates this year, and after a week of staring at this thing in my driveway, I can’t say I’m a fan. The original F-Type was beautiful. Beautiful. And every part of its design worked in perfect harmony. Tweaking a car this gorgeous is not an easy job, I know, but the lower, wider headlights just look like a bad grafting job, and make the hood’s cutline even more obvious. The front end of this P380 R-Dynamic tester isn’t as egregious as, what with its larger air intakes that don’t have the body-colored insets seen here. But I still don’t like it. Thankfully, the other changes aren’t nearly as obvious (or bad), like the thinner, sharper taillights flanking the F-Type’s clean rear end.
The interior is barely different than before, with some redesigned seats that offer better support without sacrificing comfort. All of the major touch points are lined with fine leather, though some of the plastic switchgear like the wiper and turn signal stalks do feel a little flimsy. The electronic gear selector is… fine, and the simple buttons for drive modes are easy to understand. A row of vents electronically (and slowly) raise from the dash, which still feels like a gimmick after all these years (and I still can’t help but wonder what happens if and when it breaks). The climate controls are housed on a trio of dials with digital displays, which look pretty cool, but it only takes a few rounds of having to press and turn to activate the heated seats before you realize there’s probably a simpler solution to be had.
There’s a new 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster behind the steering wheel, the same one you’ll find in other Jaguar models. The screens are colorful and reconfigurable, though perhaps not as flashy as what Audi offers with its Virtual Cockpit. Move to the center screen and you’ll find Jaguar’s Touch Pro infotainment tech housed on a 10-inch display. It’s better than what Jaguar used to offer, but this software continues to be a hit-or-miss affair — occasionally taking its sweet time to respond to commands. Happily, navigation is standard, and if you’d prefer to let your smartphone do the heavy lifting, , and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot are included, too.
Most two-seat sports cars aren’t exactly flush with driver-assistance tech, though the F-Type offers a decent roster of equipment. Non-adaptive cruise control is standard, as is lane-keeping assist and traffic-sign recognition. Blind-spot monitoring is the only available safety option, though at (relatively) measly $500, it feels like it should just be thrown in with everything else.
The 2021 Jaguar F-Type Convertible starts at $65,725 for the rear-wheel-drive, four-cylinder P300 model, including $1,025 for destination. Stepping up to the P380 R-Dynamic with the supercharged V6 and all-wheel drive requires an extra $20,000. Equipped with the Interior Luxury Pack, Mars Windsor performance seats, special paint, red brake calipers and a few other goodies, the Eiger Grey car pictured here tops out at $94,345, which is… a lot.
As for competitors, you could certainly consider the BMW Z4, but I can’t help but think back to , which came out to $89,520 including destination. No, the Boxster doesn’t offer the same level of driver-assistance features, and its infotainment is a little outdated. But those aren’t the reasons why people buy two-seat sports cars. The Porsche has less power, but the torque delivered way down low, making it half a second quicker to 60 mph than the Jag. The Boxster’s mid-engine layout means it’s better balanced, though the turbo flat-four doesn’t sound even a quarter as good as Jaguar’s V6. Still, the Porsche’s steering is better. It’s more fun to drive. Its dual-clutch transmission is better, too, and hell, you can still get the Boxster with a manual transmission, something Jaguar no longer offers.
The new F-Type is better in some ways (cabin tech) but also a little worse for the wear (that face). Overall, my feelings about the 2021 model are no different than before: It’s entertaining, stylish and comfortable, and the V6 offers plenty of punch. But as far as two-seat roadsters are concerned, it’s still not my first choice.