Jaguar F-Type long-term test: celebrating E with an R F

Published: 02 June 2021

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

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