The 2021 Jaguar F-Type R is perfectly imperfect
This supercharged V8 beast gives off true supercar vibes in every sense.
Few cars on the road today manage to make quite as much of a statement as the Jaguar F-Type R. This isn’t a car you buy thinking with your head, or with any sense of rationality in mind – this is a car you buy with your heart, as it’s one that draws you in with emotion the way few cars manage to today.
It might have been around for the better part of a decade now, having first launched in 2013, but when you create a car this special, it’s one that’s bound to have lasting appeal. Oh, and it does, and that appeal is broad as well – young or old, male or female, this is a car that’s got everyone uttering prolonged vowel sounds as they glance over it.
For the 2021 model year it’s only got even better with age, as its distinct front-engined two-door silhouette has been given a properly stunning rework at both the front and rear to keep it in-line with the wider Jaguar lineup, and although Australia is late to the party, as the UK and US got this new look for 2020, it’s absolutely a case of better late than never.
I’ve heard some level it as being “too pretty” – although last time I checked that was a bit like saying a dish was too delicious, or a holiday (remember those?) was too relaxing – but if you ask me, it looks more mysterious and cheeky than before. It was a gorgeous thing pre-facelift, but with the winged eyeliner effect of these new headlights, it just amps up the sexiness big time.
It looks more modern now, too, meaning it’s hiding its years incredibly well. The more angular taillight design and complex design within them, for instance,leans right into the 2021 design playbook while still retaining the characteristic overall profile of the lights that was there. To quote the great Jeremy Clarkson, when he described the now-dead XJ, “It’s a Jag, but it’s sort of modern.” The same can certainly be said about this.
The F-Type’s cabin remains a very familiar place, however, save for a new digital instrument cluster which, while I loved the old mechanical dials, really looks the part thanks to its crystal-clear display and feels bang up to date as it can even be configured into a full map view.
The central infotainment screen has grown in size over the years, too, with it now up to 10.0-inches in size. It still uses the older InControl Touch Pro operating system, not the new Pivi Pro OS seen in the new Land Rover Defender, but it’s still a fine system for the most part, if feeling its age by comparison.
To dress the F-Type’s interior up a bit, my tester had been fitted with the optional extended leather package (one of only a surprisingly small number of options fitted to it) which really makes it feel plush and high-quality inside as you feel how the supple Tan Windsor leather wraps the top of the door cards and stretches across the dashboard. The racy bucket seats that are also clad in it look striking and feel incredibly comfortable and supportive, too, finding a nice balance between sporty and luxurious.
There are some things that let the interior quality down, though. One was the misaligned leather trim on the centre console in this particular example, but others will apply to all F-Types. Chiefly, the indicator and wiper stalks, which you’ll be using all the time, still feel incredibly cheap. The paddle shifters make a bit of a cheap-sounding click, too, although the feel of them at least is fine.
I must say, dual-zone climate control being a $1040 option is a bit of a rich expectation, though, and the fact there were no heated seats, while not the end of the world and still optionally available, is also disappointing given this is no cheap bit of kit. However, these sort of things still being optional in its more expensive rivals that bear Porsche, Aston Martin, and Mercedes-Benz badges means it at least gets a pass in this company.
However, there’s an easy way to forget about the fact your bottom will freeze on a mid-winter’s morning or that you’ve been gouged a grand for a feature that’s standard in most Hyundais – that’s by firing up the beast of an engine that resides under the long bonnet of this thing.
And when I say it’s a beastly thing, I mean it. A brawny 5.0-litre supercharged V8, it growls into life in a way that means you can’t help but smirk every time. Developing a mammoth 423kW at 6000rpm and 700Nm from 3500-5000rpm, it helps dispatch the F-Type from 0-100km/h in a mere 3.7 seconds, before thundering on to a top speed of 300km/h – not that you can do that anywhere in Australia these days.
Helping it achieve those numbers is the renowned ZF 8-speed torque converter automatic transmission which channels the power to an all-wheel drive system that’s standard on this R model, and is also optional on the lesser V6 S.
The ZF auto ‘box is a real jem of a thing – being a torque converter, it truly fits the Grand Tourer side of the F-Type’s feel thanks to its in-the-background smoothness, but chuck the car into Dynamic mode and play with the paddles, and the shifts are seriously brisk. The downshifts might let you know it’s still a torque converter, but upshifts are dual-clutch fast.
Having previously driven a V6 S AWD a few years ago, I was actually a bit worried about the all-wheel drive system’s potential performance, as in that pre-facelift model it felt clunky, unresponsive, and poorly-tuned. Not so in this 2021 R model, though – it puts the power down in a straight line, when you want it to, but it still allows for a pleasant and natural degree of slip when you’re letting it flow between corners. Sure, you can still catch it out on occasion as I did once on a particularly rainy day, but on the whole it’s much, much better than it used to be.
But it’s the engine that’s the real star of the show here. Thanks to the big supercharger, it delivers a huge wave of mid-range torque as it whines into action. It’s a very old-school engine – some FoMoCo-branded bits on it are a clear sign of just how old it truly is, given Jaguar was snatched up by Tata 13 years ago – but that only adds to its charm, as its linear power delivery makes it predictable in a way even modern turbocharged engines won’t.
Between the power and the grip, it really is a neck-snapper, hurling you back into the seat as you punch it off the line, and then there’s the noise it makes as it’s doing it. It’s somewhere between an old muscle car as the supercharger whines and the V8 bellows in the lower half of the rev range, and a supercar scream as you motivate it up towards the redline.
And I don’t use the word supercar lightly here, because it technically won’t be in the eyes of many given the engine isn’t in the back, but it really does deliver a supercar vibe from behind the wheel. The power and the noise and the drama is one part, but the handling is another.
It might not be as back-breakingly brittle as some supercars, but there’s no question the ride in this is firm and jittery, although for what it’s worth, it does handle potholes much better than you might expect.
Throw it into a corner and you won’t be concerned about how stiff the ride can be, though, as it feels seriously balanced, poised, and responsive to command. In this regard, it really doesn’t feel its 1818kg weight, although when you realise just how heavy the steering is, that does make it more apparent, taking away from its nimbleness in a sense.
Consider the small imperfections of its drive – along with those of its interior – to only make it even more endearing and charming, though. After all, ‘imperfect’ is every great supercar’s middle name.
But with the supercar feel comes a supercar-like price tag. With a starting price of $262,936 for the 2021 F-Type R and an as-tested price of $272,849 it’s hardly what you’d call a good value purchase in the traditional sense.
However, compare this price tag to that of a Porsche 911 Carerra S, Aston Martin Vantage, or Mercedes-AMG GT S and it does make the F-Type a truly appealing proposition that offers plenty in the way of entertainment and drama for the money. It’s the prettiest of the lot, too, as good looking as the rest may be.
Sure, it might be a bit old, but it’s an unbelievably charming thing that is truly unique in the 2021 market space. Long live the F-Type, I say. It’s perfectly imperfect, as it should be. It’s one of the few absolute gems left in the modern motoring scene.
This article originally appeared on drivesection.com on July 31, 2021. Photography by Marcus Cardone. The vehicle tested here was provided by Jaguar Land Rover Australia. All noted prices are in Australian dollars (AUD).