Jaguar F-Type long-term test: the half-year verdict

Published: 27 September 2021

► CAR lives with a P450 F-Type
► Editor Ben Miller is reporting
► How does the detuned V8 fit in?

What a difference a year makes. January 2020 I was in Portugal, on the launch of the new F-Type, driving sensational and largely deserted mountain roads in a P300 Coupe and thinking, ‘Gosh, wouldn’t an F-Type be a lovely thing to have?’ I know this because the photos are there on my phone as proof, though they look for all the world like postcards from another planet.

Those bright, chilly and dry days in southern Europe were a joy, and while majoring on the four-cylinder, I also snuck a drive in the flagship R, marvelling at how – in much the same way as the 3-series spans 318i to M3 – two versions of fundamentally the same car can feel so entirely different. Twice as many driven wheels, combined with nearly twice the power, will do that for you.

When, less than 12 months later, an F-Type arrived in my world, the world in the broader sense was a very different place, and not just in the obvious way. Much had changed at Jaguar, too. After a 10-year stint at the wheel, CEO Ralf Speth stood down. His successor, Thierry Bolleré, then confirmed that Jaguar will lose its engines to go all-electric from 2025, and that Gerry McGovern would be given free rein to plot New Jaguar’s brave, design-led and zero-emissions future.

f-type ltt side pan

In a matter of months, the bright young P450 on my driveway, with its supercharged V8 petrol engine and flawless Ian Callum/Julian Thomson design (the former left long before McGovern’s appointment; the latter shortly after) suddenly looked like a time capsule documenting a Jaguar Land Rover that no longer existed. Sad times.

But sad only until I found another excuse to climb in and drive – for when your mood needs lifting, few cars are so reliably capable of doing so as this one. You have eyes, so I won’t bore you with how beautiful I think it looks, but I think it looks beautiful. You have ears, too, and if they haven’t yet heard a P450 at full cry, Dynamic mode gleefully lobbing crackles and bangs into the exhaust soundtrack like a kid chucking firecrackers, then, well, they’re missing out.

Sure, expressing a love for engines like this one is becoming frowned upon at a rate unthinkable just five years ago. But if you’re at all like me – and that you’re reading this would suggest you are – then you will find this thing bewitching, as much for its exuberance and charm as its cultured power delivery, a lusciously linear and usable seam of drive that chimes in from no revs and persists to the redline. It’s astonishingly adept at finding traction and mighty acceleration.

But the F-Type’s qualities don’t end there. The ride and body control, particularly under duress on lumpen roads, are remarkable, the damping keeping both the chin off the floor and this not particularly lightweight two-seater convincingly tied down. The steering, too, is confidence-inspiring; direct and largely slack-free, if a little short on actual feel. If there are dynamic frailties, they’re an auto gearbox that, while superb 95 per cent of the time, undoubtedly lacks the drama and shift speed of a good twin-clutcher (not to mention the involvement of a really great manual) and that generous kerbweight.

Mostly the car’s mass lurks out of sight, almost out of mind, but really crack on and it’s there in the effort the brakes have to make into hairpins, in that sense of the nose arcing around rather than the car pivoting around its middle, and – should you have wound off the electronic leash – a sense that slip angles beyond the subtle are indulgences to be pursued only if you’re convinced you have either the skills or plenty of space, and ideally both.

On that point though, the Trac setting is superb, letting you play with the car’s weight transfer and attitude without fear of a complete – and completely disastrous – pirouette or two.

f-type ltt interior

More practically, this is a nicely appointed machine in which to do big miles, as I did several times, notably from Peterborough to Newcastle and back almost non-stop, and over to Wales, to shadow/assist/impede our great Alfas cover story a couple of months ago. The cockpit’s cosy, classy and convincingly built, if now a shade dated versus Porsche’s spring-chicken 992-gen 911. The main interior upgrades for this generation – digital driver’s display and CarPlay-compatible Touch Pro infotainment – are very welcome additions, just brace yourself for plenty of tyre roar on some surfaces, and for the inevitable thirst (20-25mpg, though in our experience the P300 four-cylinder is barely any better). At least the pandemic’s slashed my monthly mileage, which gave both the Miller family accounts and the planet an easier time than would otherwise have been the case.

Where does all this leave the F-Type? Where it’s always been – out on a limb as the talismanic modern Jaguar closest to what most still perceive as the marque’s centre of gravity. That’s changing, certainly, but this remains a car to buy with your heart and not your head – a car you choose despite the 911’s existence. But the P450 makes shunning that Porsche a genuine option, helped by the 911’s price rise with this generation (to £85k for a Carrera without options, £10k more than our nicely optioned P450). The flat-six benchmark remains just that, but a supercharged V8, true front-engined beauty and a stack of change in your back pocket are not to be turned down lightly.

By Ben Miller

Logbook: Jaguar F-Type P450 R-Dynamic

Price £69,990 (£76,635 as tested)
Performance 5000cc supercharged V8, 444bhp, 4.6sec 0-62mph, 177mph
Efficiency 26.1-26.8mpg (official), 25.0mpg (tested), 239g/km CO2
Energy cost 21.9p per mile
Miles this month 230
Total miles 10,003

Month 6 living with a Jaguar F-Type: auto, obviously

f-type shifter

Remember the manual F-Type? No? Don’t blame you. I had to check three times when Jaguar told me that, in the last model year in which it was offered (2019), seven buyers ticked the box. Seven! I’ve just searched F-Types for sale nationally. There are 557, of which less than one per cent (five cars) have the manual ‘box. How so? Well, it wasn’t the sweetest of shifters. Not a patch on, say, the Honda Civic Type R’s six-speeder. And to be honest the auto just works well and really suits the car. It handles the V8’s potentially shunty 428lb ft deftly in everyday driving while also bearing up well when the mood strikes and you decide to get busy on the paddles.

By Ben Miller

Logbook: Jaguar F-Type P450 R-Dynamic

Price £69,990 (£76,635 as tested)
Performance 5000cc supercharged V8, 444bhp, 4.6sec 0-62mph, 177mph
Efficiency 26.1-26.8mpg (official), 25.0mpg (tested), 239g/km CO2
Energy cost 21.9p per mile
Miles this month 1281
Total miles 9803

Month 5 living with a Jaguar F-Type: the long shadow

f-type garage

We climb into the F-Type, pick our way through The Splined Hub’s bustling workshops, careful not to dent any long, delicate E-Type noses as we go, and head out onto near-empty Northamptonshire roads. The Splined Hub is a humming centre of Jaguar restoration excellence, with E-Types a speciality, based in Oundle, Northamptonshire. Director Oliver Winbolt is an incorrigible car and motorcycle enthusiast. Who better to help us decide if the F-Type, and our P450 coupe in particular, stands as a worthy successor to the E?

The E-Type was never fitted with a V8, of course. Your options were a straight-six (please) or the Series 3’s V12 (nein danke). But the F-Type’s long been synonymous with JLR’s supercharged eight (these days your options are simple enough; four-cylinder P300, or the V8 in two states of tune – ours is the meeker), and Winbolt’s keen to discover for himself why it’s considered the must-have engine.

Knock the shifter over to manual, persuade the pedal to the floor. There’s a moment’s wheelspin as the cool rubber struggles on wet roads. Then the supercharged V8 digs deep and shoves the two of us up the road, filling the cabin (and quite a lot of the world beyond, it should be said) with an undeniably addictive orchestral/mechanical overture.

‘It’s pretty special, isn’t it?’ grins Winbolt, already at home in this unusually (for him) contemporary cockpit. ‘There’s a sense of occasion I did worry it wouldn’t have. And that goes up a notch when you start the engine. I love the little details too, like this ‘Est. 1935, Coventry’ badging on the dashboard. If feels like Jaguar’s proud of itself again, as it should be.’

Blurred trees stand against a patchwork sky of bright blue, bruised black and roaming downpours as we drive on, tyres coming up to temperature and Winbolt getting a feel for the F-Type. ‘The transmission’s nice: smooth and responsive, if not quite as direct as twin-clutch stuff like Porsche’s PDK and Audi’s DSG. I love a paddleshft when it’s done properly. But what really hits you here is how agile the Jaguar feels – I’m surprised. For some reason I thought it might drive a bit like a modern Porsche 928.’ (Stands to reason; the 928 was a rear-drive sporty GT with a V8 engine.) ‘For me that was a sledgehammer of a car. I thought this might be the same, but it really isn’t. It feels nimble and light.’

As if to demonstrate the point we slink through a downhill set of corners, the Jaguar relishing the now dry tarmac almost as much as Winbolt. We’re on his favourite post-restoration shakedown loop, the longest of several.

‘I come out here when I have a little more time. This one has it all, including every kind of road surface. I do around 200 miles in every car we build.’

Build? It’s a more accurate term than restoration, given how involved the processes are. Since opening, The Splined Hub’s completed 22 full restorations (it typically builds six cars a year) and the partial restoration of another 22. A typical bill? There’s no such thing, obviously, though expect to pay some £195,000 for a full restoration (that price includes an original, starting-point car). So, that’s a perfect, as-new E-Type or nearly three P450 F-Types – though your Splined Hub-restored E-Type won’t depreciate.

By semi production-lining the process and carefully accounting for every last washer and hour of work, Winbolt can give an accurate estimate, account for the unknown and offer a 12-month warranty. ‘You have to account for every pitfall. We build in the cost of replacing the floor, for example. If it doesn’t need doing now, it soon will. And I wouldn’t be comfortable putting a warranty on it without a new floor. We cost everything, including the bill of materials – I couldn’t sleep at night if we didn’t.’

How bad are some of the cars they start with? ‘Some of them are pretty disgusting! But you’ve got to consider the fact that for 25 years they had no value; they were at the bottom of the curve. They just sat in fields.’ To put them right Winbolt’s team disassembles each car, sends the body for repairs, chemical dipping and paint, and then reassembles the Jaguar with every wear item replaced and everything else refurbished.

f-type ltt front tracking 2

Back at the workshops, my eye’s caught by a nearly complete rear axle, the finished unit – inboard brakes, calipers refurbished in gold, chunky driveshafts and rebuilt differential – a small but stout-looking work of art. ‘They’re tough and compact,’ says Winbolt. ‘You can see why they were popular with hot-rodders. You can put 300bhp through them, no bother.’

Most classic car workshops are a mess; working boneyards big on grease, clutter, winter cold and chaos, without a moment’s thought to presentation or aesthetic. This place is different, from the Goodwood-esque attention to detail in the warm, tidy building itself to the first car I see, a Mk2 Jag running a transplanted XJ engine with Nissan Skyline throttle bodies and a bespoke fuel injection system for which Winbolt 3D-printed injector housings (in a carbonfibre/nylon blend). That’s the kind of stuff you can do when you’ve a wealth of engineering experience, including stints with Ricardo, McLaren (on the SLR programme) and Fairline boats.

But why Jaguars, and the E-Type in particular? ‘I bought an S-Type [the ’60s one] because I wanted a quick and affordable classic four-seater for the Goodwood Revival. It’d been sat around for 30 years but it was a breeze to recommission and impressively well-built. That got me into Jaguars, and it had to be the E-Type. From a business perspective, their value means that what we do – and what we charge for what we do – makes sense. And the E-Type was superbly engineered and so far ahead its time. For example, it was ambidextrous, so it could be built as a right-hand-drive or left-hand-drive car – Jaguar was at least a decade ahead of the curve on that. And they’re a joy to look at and to drive. All we’re doing really is putting them back together as they should have been. They were right in the first place.’

And the F-Type? ‘I’m impressed. It’s even more beautiful in the metal than I was expecting, the interior quality is impressive and it’s far more agile to drive than I was ready for. And the powertrain is great fun. A worthy successor? I think the name says it all – Jaguar knew it finally had a car that could wear that badge.’

The Splined Hub’s E-Type R

f-type splined hub

When CAR visits, Winbolt and his team are part-way through their first E-Type R build – the first in a limited run of uprated machines blending fastidious restoration with balanced upgrades. The car’s designed to appeal to both E-Type fans with a thirst for speed and owners of modern supercars interested in the classic style but with better brakes and utterly reliable turn-key running.

To the standard restoration recipe The Splined Hub adds powerful Fosseway brakes, extensive but lightweight cabin insulation (to keep it both quiet and cool), an uprated radiator, more serious suspension (uprated dampers all round) and a full leather interior. Sequential fuel injection and electronic ignition make the R both easy to live with and supremely fit and healthy – power and torque are both some 10-15% up on standard. £260k puts one in your garage, you lucky tinker.

And The Splined Hub’s future plans don’t end at the very combustion-engined R. Spied on our visit was a dummy battery-electric powertrain…

By Ben Miller

Logbook: Jaguar F-Type P450 R-Dynamic

Price £69,990 (£76,635 as tested)
Performance 5000cc supercharged V8, 444bhp, 4.6sec 0-62mph, 177mph
Efficiency 26.1-26.8mpg (official), 23.1mpg (tested)
Energy cost 24.6p per mile
Miles this month 453
Total miles 8522

Month 4 living with a Jaguar F-Type: the Great North Road? Great!

Hmm, which car?
Our 318d is great (and it works, unlike my 205 XS) but the Jag’s begging for a proper drive. It has a sense of occasion only a two-seater can offer. Our return-leg cargo (one student and bags) should just about fit. Set CarPlay to Waze, go.

f-type ltt grantham

The back way (part 1)
The Romans loved nothing more than to sally forth to Newcastle from Stamford, so there’s a straight line between the two – the A1. But the Romans weren’t driving F-Type P450s – the Jag and I settle on a wiggly bit first, up to Grantham via some classic lumpy Wolds tarmac.

The back way (part 2)
The F-Type’s poise on lumpy roads is remarkable, leaping off bridges without ever scraping its undercarriage or getting wayward. In Track ESC the Jaguar is huge fun too, neatly sliding out of tighter corners and accelerating in a wall of V8 noise and a speeding comet’s tail of dry cow dung. Oh, this is what driving feels like – I remember now.

One dial or two?
The F-Type’s recent facelift granted it an infotainment upgrade and customisable digital instruments. One dial, two dials or a huge map – your call. The only fly in the ointment is road noise. Vast rear boots mean the Jag struggles to keep its cockpit quiet on rougher tarmac, becoming noticeably more hushed on new, bitumen-rich stretches.

f-type ltt taycan

Welcome to the Toon
Newcastle’s a magnificent city to drive into, with some big views and a ring road keen on plunging corners, not unlike the Macau street circuit. Student-stuffed Jesmond is pretty at the front, alleyways full of bins at the back. Green Taycan catches the eye, but am I jealous? This trip’s one pitstop totalled eight minutes.

It fits!
The all-important golf bag slips easily into the F-Type’s big boot and, with Benj onboard, it’s a one-hit drive home for chicken and leek pie and an expectant washing machine. Thankfully non-adaptive cruise control is a boon on the now far quieter A1(M), and the auto high-beam lights make for similarly effortless nocturnal progress. Mission accomplished.

By Ben Miller

Logbook: Jaguar F-Type P450 R-Dynamic

Price £69,990 (£76,635 as tested)
Performance 5000cc supercharged V8, 444bhp, 4.6sec 0-62mph, 177mph
Efficiency 26.1-26.8mpg (official), 23.1mpg (tested)
Energy cost 24.6p per mile
Miles this month 529
Total miles 8069

Month 3 living with a Jaguar F-Type: E + F

f-type ltt heritage

If there’s one thing to make getting out of bed on a cold winter’s morning more bearable than the promise of driving a supercharged V8 F-Type, it’s the promise of driving two of them.

The 567bhp F-Type R is the flagship in a range that starts at just under £55k and, with the Heritage 60 Edition cars, created to celebrate/cash-in on the E-Type’s 60th birthday, temporarily runs to £122k (the R coupe is usually £97k). Impressive though the R’s rear-biased all-wheel drive and rampant straight-line performance are, I’m happy the F in my life summons a more modest 444bhp and drives only its rear axle. Its engine is the one you can enjoy more of, more of the time.

Read our review of the F-Type Heritage 60

By Ben Miller

Logbook: Jaguar F-Type P450 R-Dynamic

Price £69,990 (£76,635 as tested)
Performance 5000cc supercharged V8, 444bhp, 4.6sec 0-62mph, 177mph
Efficiency 26.1-26.8mpg (official), 20.1mpg (tested)
Energy cost 28.0p per mile
Miles this month 320
Total miles 7540

Month 2 living with a Jaguar F-Type: snug as a bug in a Jag

f-type ltt front tracking

Faced with the threat of an icy, low-mu winter, people can take leave of their senses. Terrified of snow, my own mother swapped her R53 Mini Cooper S for a far less supercharged Rav4. I grieve still.

With 444bhp, rear-wheel drive and little more than an electronic diff, an empty boot and a very pert rear end over the back axle, the bald facts would suggest I immediately trade the F-Type for a Toyota SUV, for fear of becoming a permanent part of the snow-bound Lincolnshire landscape.

But the truth is the Jaguar is proving itself an unlikely but formidable winter car. In an inch or two of snow the Rain/Snow/Ice drive mode gamely summons forward motion where by rights there should be none, and life in the cockpit is peachy. The heated seats are monumentally powerful, able to roast a shoulder of lamb in the blink of an eye, and they’re warm before you’re even out of your village. The heated steering wheel, too, is a beautiful thing, particularly if, like me, you like your extremities warm but your cabin relatively cool and fresh. The F-Type also enjoys electric heating for the front and rear screens, so there’s no extended idle (love thy neighbour) or warm-water-in-a-kettle shenanigans required.

Then there’s the less obvious but if anything more impressive stuff. Modern Jaguars mostly enjoy a very impressive ride/handling balance that works brilliantly on UK roads. In the normal drive mode the F-Type deals with rough roads nicely, and even in angry Dynamic it stops well short of becoming a bone-stiff plank.

The advantages of this are, primarily, a very un-sports-car-like ability to shrug off rough and lumpen roads. But the same well-damped yet pliant wheel movement also plays a key role in the P450’s really impressive grip and traction, even when the tarmac’s frozen and the surface mirror-like with rainwater and filth. Couple that with the very supercharged power delivery (linear and consistently torquey) and you find yourself not pussyfooting around in poor weather but really driving – and loving every minute of it.

By Ben Miller

Logbook: Jaguar F-Type P450 R-Dynamic

Price £69,990 (£76,635 as tested)
Performance 5000cc supercharged V8, 444bhp, 4.6sec 0-62mph, 177mph
Efficiency 26.1-26.8mpg (official), 20mpg (tested)
Energy cost 29.0p per mile
Miles this month 210
Total miles 7220

Month 1 living with a Jaguar F-Type: hello kitty

f-type ltt rear static

Chances are Jaguar’s F-Type entered your consciousness about the same time it entered mine – with 2011’s tongue-dropping C-X16 Frankfurt show concept (remember them?!). The 16 took much of what made the unutterably gorgeous, mid-engined C-X75 so special (you remember, the one with micro gas turbines for the purposes of recharging its battery that went, in fairly short order, from concept car to limited-run production car to recession casualty to Bond car) and stretched it over the classical, long-bonnet proportions of a front-engined GT. The CX-16 was also a barely disguised production car if ever we’d seen one. ‘Ooooof!’ I thought, in monosyllabic appreciation of Ian Callum’s design genius, for the 16 was a kind of 21st century, four-wheeled remix of Boccioni’s sculptural Futurist tour de force Unique Forms of Continuity in Space. One that, over the subsequent decade, obstinately refused to age.

‘Oooof!’ would become synonymous with my F-Type experiences. In 2013, for what would have been this magazine’s first group test of the car Jaguar had finally deemed worthy of being badged as the E-Type’s successor, our man Georg Kacher stuffed one into a wall. ‘Ooof!’ indeed.

In 2014 I drove one – a couple of enraptured hours in the company of a V8, all-wheel-drive F-Type R, mesmerised by its total traction and vein-popping V8 shove. It was the first car I drove with the straight-line punch to overtake like a motorcycle – on a whim but in complete confidence. No one-trick pony, though, as the R proved equally impressive on tricky back roads; grippy, balanced and with that near-miraculous ride/handling balance Jaguar’s chassis engineers have since made their calling card.

Then, in the first weeks of 2020, the ‘new’ F-Type arrived, the P300 four-cylinder version of which I drove for a couple of spellbinding days on some of the best mountain roads in Portugal. The new F-Type is of course nothing of the sort, being instead a midlife refresh. Design director Julian Thomson, previously wingman to Callum, evolved the time-proof aesthetic while inside the cockpit was updated with new infotainment and a multi-purpose 12.3-inch digital driver’s display (choose between giant central tacho flanked by secondary info displays, a classic twin-dial arrangement or a full-screen map) pinched from the i-Pace but running bespoke software and graphics.

Gentle evolution, then, but the chance to spend whole hours immersed in the P300 driving experience was joyous, and a timely reminder of the greatness within Jaguar’s sole current sports car. Refined, comfortable and well-appointed, the P300 waits until you’re about to pigeonhole it as a GT before revealing its true colours; an agility that beggars belief paired with an easy and benign on-the-limit adjustability that calls to mind another British sports car great: no, not the E-Type, the Caterham Seven. Expensive, yes, but ‘Oooof!’ nonetheless.

With this second-generation F-Type, Jaguar also took the opportunity to simplify the range, killing both the V6 engine and the manual gearbox option (just seven buyers went for the slightly clunky self-shifter in 2019…), its performance advantage over the newer P300 2.0-litre turbo four insufficient to keep it alive. Now the gap between the P300 and the flagship, all-wheel-drive 567bhp, SVR-inspired R is home to a new 444bhp V8 with a choice of four- or rear-wheel drive. Ours is a rear-drive P450 R-Dynamic, and just look at it: ‘Oooof!’

R-Dynamic spec is obligatory with the V8 engine – you can’t buy a P450 without it – but not all R-Dynamic packs are created equal. On a P450 it contains such must-haves as adaptive dynamics, the rear e-diff and a torque-vectoring by brake system, as well as a raft of cosmetic parts, from side skirts to kick plates. Option it on your P300 four-cylinder, though, and you’ll get the aesthetic upgrade but none of the under-the-skin stuff, Jaguar’s engineers having considered the extra weight and cost of such parts unacceptable on the P300, not to mention anathema to its back-to-basics chuckability.

F-Type LTT Ben driving

So really, the only big decision is rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. I’m no anti-AWD luddite, having grown to love BMW’s xDrive system over stints with an xDrive-equipped 530d and 850i, but the F-Type is going to fulfil a different role, with the luxury of staying home if the roads are white like a Christmas card scene. That being the case, and with four driven wheels bringing a £5k premium, increased fuel consumption and muddying the purity of the E-Type bloodline, our F-Type is rear-wheel drive. And it’s finally outside my house, in Premium Silicon Silver (£1310) and on the best wheels available (the Style 6003 20s): ‘Oooof!’

By Ben Miller

Up close with our F-Type

Coupe purity
Shunning all-wheel drive means we’ll have to engage our brain before our right foot, but the upside is less weight, slightly better fuel economy (it’s all relative…) and a lower price. Just as all-wheel drive costs some £5k, the convertible carries a premium of around £5k over the coupe. Before options our car is £69,990 on the road – a convertible would be £75,505.

Style and substance
Don’t dismiss the R-Dynamic bundle as a collection of cosmetic fripperies – there are some must-have bits among the warpaint, not least the switchable active exhaust, adaptive dampers, drive modes and e-diff with brake-based torque vectoring. It’s a £3k options pack on the four-cylinder P300 but obligatory on rear-drive P450 V8s like ours – this engine without the diff wouldn’t be a great idea…

Supercharged V8
Like an old pub with an open fire, there’s something immensely reassuring about a front-engined British sports car with a supercharged V8 under a bonnet longer than 1000 leap years. Zeitgeisty? Hardly. But already the V8’s very supercharged delivery – muscular in every part of the rev range, and wonderfully easy to modulate – is winning us over.

Logbook: Jaguar F-Type P450 R-Dynamic

Price £69,990 (£76,635 as tested)
Performance 5000cc supercharged V8, 444bhp, 4.6sec 0-62mph, 177mph
Efficiency 26.1-26.8mpg (official), 21.5mpg (tested)
Energy cost 28.0p per mile
Miles this month 334
Total miles 7010

By Ben Miller

The editor of CAR magazine, story-teller, average wheel count of three