What is it?
When Jaguar launched the original F-Type in 2013 the hype that surrounded its arrival was palpable. Why wouldn’t it be? Here was one of Britain’s most revered sports car marques launching what was, well, its first bona fide two-seat sports car in what felt like forever.
This was no mere replacement for the long-standing XK; the F-Type signified something much bigger than that. Not only did Jaguar know that its name would explicitly mark it out as a spiritual successor to Sir William Lyons’s legendary E-Type, but it was also the car with which it would very successfully, and with a healthy dose of supercharged British attitude, take the fight to the likes of Porsche and its formidable 911.
Fast-forward to 2020 and it’s tricky to shake the feeling that the excitement that frames the arrival of a driver’s car such as the F-Type has morphed into something a degree more cautious and reserved. This shift has nothing to do with the ability of this new, heavily facelifted model in particular, however; it’s more a product of the wider context in which cars of its ilk now exist.
A few hours before I sat down to write this, news of the government’s intention to bring forward the 2040 ban on the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars first broke. We could now be looking at a 2035 cut-off point – and potentially sooner if the powers that be see fit to tax the internal combustion engine so severely that it’s no longer a financially viable option.
Either way, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that cars like the F-Type are on borrowed time. And while environmental concerns might mean such moves are a necessary evil, the fact remains that their demise will be a sad eventuality for petrolheads the world over. At the same time, however, it makes the process of examining this latest F-Type’s technical specifications that much more of a ritual to be savoured.
Admittedly the entry-level 296bhp 2.0-litre four-pot model isn’t the most exotic starting point, and the coupé’s £54,060 price tag (the convertible is some £5500 more) does put it in direct competition with the likes of the excellent BMW M2 Competition, Alpine A110 and Porsche’s faster 718 models.
Nevertheless, the significance of the four-cylinder F-Type should not be underestimated: its immense popularity with customers and comparatively lower emissions helped Jaguar justify the continuation of its rather more unhinged eight-cylinder models – of which there are now two. The first makes use of a 444bhp, 428lb ft version of the marque’s tremendous supercharged 5.0-litre V8. This £69,990 model in effect replaces the old supercharged V6 in European line-ups, although it’s worth pointing out this is still offered in the US. Like the four-pot, the ‘P450’ V8 is available in both coupé and convertible guises, but where the lower-powered model is exclusively rear-driven, this V8 can be bought with all-wheel drive as an option.
Talk to Jaguar’s engineers, however, and they’ll tell you it’s the rear-driven, 444bhp coupé that’s the new sweet spot of the range. That may well be true, but until we get the chance to have a go we’ll have to take them at their word. Our test car for the duration of our time in sunny Portugal was the other V8: the range-topping all-wheel-drive only ‘P575’ F-Type R. You can expect to pay £97,280 for the coupé and £102,370 for the rag-top.