Jaguar has given its F-Type the most significant update of its six-year life yet, bringing a new face, slipperier aerodynamics and enhanced performance, despite the culling of the V6 engine and range-topping SVR. Before you mourn the loss of those versions, though, know firstly that an inline six is expected later on, and that the departures have encouraged the R’s promotion to 575hp supercharged 5.0 V8 power and all-wheel drive. They’ve also cleared space for a new rear-drive eight-cylinder version that has a 911 Carrera S-rivalling 450hp. Although, disappointingly, demand has ensured the entire F-Type range is now eight-speed automatic only.
Following an early viewing of the new car, it seems that for everything it loses in tech compared to Porsche’s 992, the 2020 F-Type range fights back with added character and enhanced driver appeal. There is new infotainment, yes, but the upgrade is small by today’s standards, so it’s a real relief to see powertrain options that will genuinely excite – particularly when the turbocharged 911 has (at least in its Carrera forms) yet to engage the soul like its predecessors. From a driver’s point of view, Jag has been presented with an open goal at which to take its best shot.
The engine line-up will certainly interest. At the base remains a 300hp Ingenium four-pot for £54k, but the loss of the V6s means things at launch are swiftly elevated to V8 power. Accordingly you’ll only need to step one rung up the ladder to be given a 450hp Jag that can hit 62mph in 4.6 seconds, both in coupe and convertible forms, and costs from £69,990 - so it's only a couple of grand more than the old 380hp V6. That sprint time is the same for both RWD and AWD variants, presumably thanks to the 80kg weight saving of the two-wheel drive car, so aside from traction there’s no measurable loss in performance for opting for the hero-spec machine.
If you’re wondering why this isn’t dressed as a proper SVR, Jaguar exterior design director, Adam Hatton, told PH during our studio visit that it all relates to cost and customer demand. He said the promoted R gets the engine, eight-speed gearbox and all-wheel drive hardware of the old SVR, as well as its adaptive damper chassis. But without the Special Vehicle Operations link pricing can be reduced from the old top model’s £113k starter to £97,280. Given that the Audi R8 RWD costs from about £120k, we suspect this change will prove to be a vital one in ensuring the Brit remains competitive at both ends of its range. The fact both the coupe and convertible Rs can hit 62mph in 3.7 seconds might help, too.
Still, a shuffling of engine specs can’t outweigh the significance of the F-Type’s new front end. Hatton said the car uses new, super slim pixel LED lighting technology (with new J-shaped day running lights), and a re-engineered design. They give the 2020 car a “better crash structure, slipperier aerodynamics and more efficient cooling” and have allowed for the removal of a horizonal bar behind the intake grille. It’s helped to clean up the look, accentuating that enlarged grille all the more – something Hatton said was vital to address the F-Type’s global ambitions.
“We want to do things in a Jaguar way, so we don’t want to be brash, but we have to take into account the tastes of our markets,” he said in reference to the new nose. “In places like America and China, it’s getting even more ‘look at me’, so we’re trying to mix boldness with Jaguar elegance”.
You won’t be surprised to hear that the US is the F’s second biggest market after Britain, although arguably China represents the company’s biggest opportunity for growth. The demand for enormous grilles in those countries is clear – we’re looking at you BMW – so while the loss of the old F-Type’s butch visage will be divisive, Hatton’s team has done a commendable job of retaining an air of elegance. Elsewhere on the car, the updates are much smaller and largely amount to detail alterations – which come thanks to Jaguar’s newly established design detail team.
Note the restyling of the front grille pattern to incorporate polygon shapes, which hark back to the original Jaguar badge. Or the new Leaper on the wing vents in place of Jaguar lettering and R-specific etching on the exhaust tailpipes that signals this particular car’s top ranking. It’s all there thanks to that detail-orientated department. At the back, the most noticeable change is the ‘chicane’ lighting in the taillights, pinched from the I-Pace. The broad shoulders, sloped roofline and – in the case of the V8 – upward angled quad pipes remain for maximum muscle. This is still unmistakably an F-Type.
Inside, the aesthetic updates are even slimmer, with the front grille’s badge pattern carried onto the stitching of the door cards and seats, while a new embossed Leaper is located on the headrests. There’s also a new suite of digital tech, JLR’s 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and wide touchscreen, as well as – as Hatton puts it – “a significant upgrading of materials, fit and finish”. Having sat in the Launch Edition car, PH can confirm the leathers, metals and plastics do all seem to have taken a notable step up in quality. Although the setting is still clearly that of an F-Type, with buttons and rotary controls retained where rivals have integrated more screens.
Like the rest of the car, that means the F-Type feels like a convincing meld of old and new. That’s unsurprising, given that it only has to survive until around 2023, when an all-new version is rumoured for arrival. It means that in the face of fresher competition, the F-Type appears long in the tooth, although those aforementioned engine changes ensure it still holds plenty of appeal for traditionalists, who’ll no doubt value the survival of the 5.0 V8 before the BMW engine deal spells its demise. That Jaguar has also gone against the trend to introduce a rear-wheel drive V8 model with 450hp makes us all the more excited to try it for ourselves.