We’re saying goodbye a lot at the moment. Just in the last week, Dodge bid farewell to the Challenger with its bonkers SRT Demon 170, and Chevrolet confirmed that this generation of Camaro would be the last in its current format. The industry is slaying old dinosaurs at such an accelerated rate that Porsche feels the need to keep reminding us that the next 911 will actually retain a combustion engine. For Jaguar though, the luxury of choice is long gone. Behind closed doors, it is going all-in on EVs. The high-stakes gamble obviously means a great deal for the firm’s future, but it also requires numerous sacrifices in the here and now - first among them, the long-running and unashamedly old-school F-Type.
Needless to say, everything about the decision is telling. Were Jaguar humming along like Porsche, the F-Type might’ve been preserved like a bug in amber, slyly satisfying the brand’s core customer with V8 goodness while the masses descended on a sleekly electrified tomorrow. But plainly it isn’t, and arguably the F-Type is too outdated now to be worth saving anyway. Of course, were Jaguar merely doing okay, it might've plotted its farewell to 75 years of combustion-powered sports cars in more characteristic style, letting the F-Type flame out with tiny volume specials, each with the pin pulled from its output grenade by some grinning loon in an SVO polo shirt.
But even this final salvo was deemed a bridge too far. Unless there is one final surprise left to come, the F-Type - and the storied back catalogue of Jaguar excellence - comes to a rest in the 75, a ‘curated’ trim pack available for the 300hp four-pot and both 450hp and 575hp variants of the 5.0-litre V8. Inevitably, the result looks and sounds and drives like whichever F-Type it is, albeit with some ‘exclusive design elements’. Probably, this is not what anyone at Jaguar wanted: it’s merely what there is in the aftermath of its heart and soul (and every penny of R&D) being focused on the far horizon. We get it. C’est la vie.
Happily, that fact didn’t prevent an underworked and overly talented event team from working itself into a lather. A 20-minute blast up the Fosse Way might’ve told us all we needed to know about the 75; instead, we got a multi-day road trip extravaganza from Barcelona to Bilbao, taking in the foothills of the Pyrenees and, yes, two (count ‘em) oceans. The questionable appeal of the 75’s add-ons was barely mentioned: instead, we were there to pay tribute to a model that, for better or worse, has spent ten years (count ‘em) conveying much that was good and true and right about the old-school Jaguar way. Because - and no one said this either - some of that bathwater will inevitably be going with the baby. Drink it in, fellas.
We did, greedily. We upturned the keg. The sun shone. Northern Spain did its thing, parting its veil to reveal astonishing, apparently endless, near-deserted roads betwixt tree-dappled mountains. Much of the route is famous for attracting motorcyclists like flies in the summer, but emphatically it is F-Type country, too. After all, what are front-engined sports cars for if not sweeping from apex to apex like a hungry reef shark? No doubt about it, Jaguar chose the setting acutely well, and for much of its 491 miles it was easy to slip under the familiar spell of its final combustion sports car, convinced that the F-Type makes all kinds of sense in 2023 even as its maker decrees it unworthy of continued production.
Back in 2013, the message was very different. Adrian Hallmark, the firm’s global brand director at the time (now Bentley’s CEO) insisted the model was as essential to Jaguar as the 911 is to Porsche. He also reportedly declared it ‘Jaguar’s first true sports car for over 50 years’, which is the kind of hyperbole you expect at launch events, although not short on irony either, when you consider that it had taken Jaguar decades to get what it considered a true sports car from the drawing board to dealerships. The F-Type itself was previewed as far back as 2000, with Geoff Lawson’s open-top design laying waste to the eyeballs of all and sundry at the Detroit show that year - only to be nixed by Ford on cost grounds.
Ian Callum’s effort, trailered by the C-X16 in 2011, was certainly no slouch in the looks department. The petrol-electric concept might’ve been overshadowed by BMW’s slippery, forward-thinking i8 at Frankfurt that year - not to mention an all-new generation of 911 - but it exemplified the mindset of a much more confident, Tata-owned Jaguar. And while the production version fell short of universal acclaim in 2013, it was just the kind of glossy, halo-wearing presence the showrooms needed. The coupe went on sale less than a year later and was proclaimed a genuine alternative to the usual suspects - the 991 included.
Of course, the problem with pitching your tent on Porsche’s lawn is that you have to compete with its knack for relentlessly turning the engineering screw. Jaguar needs no lessons in how to make a car drive impressively well, but there was no denying the fact that the 991 was underpinned by an entirely new architecture - a cutting-edge cocktail of high-strength steel and aluminium and composite, custom-made for the job of being a rear-engined sports car in the 21st century. The F-Type, meanwhile, was built on an abridged version of the outgoing XK’s platform, and widely considered overweight (and possibly not quite as stiff as it might have been) from day one.
Accordingly, it’s impossible to drive any variant of F-Type now without immediately reflecting on its maker’s reluctance to solve some of its long-standing issues. It still doesn’t ride as well as it should at low speeds. It still doesn’t steer quite as well as it should at any speed. The roll centre still seems a fraction too high. The interior still seems a fraction too small. And the less said about the decrepit infotainment system, the better. As an opening salvo, the current iteration of 911, in virtually every coupe-based format, gives the impression that it has been meticulously assembled to exceed your expectations. In the F-Type, it is obvious from the first minute that your expectations must be bent to fit the things it does well.
Fortunately for Jaguar, this has never proved particularly difficult. And definitely not when the F-Type in question is partnered with the outgoing V8. Previously we’ve suggested that the range sweet spot is now the P450 (and given it represents a saving of nearly £20k versus the flagship, we’re inclined to stick by that recommendation) - although it’s very hard not to develop a taste for the 575hp R if you’ve been repeatedly exposed to it for hour after hour in, say, the Basque region. Less for its outright power advantage than the 516lb ft of torque baked into the keyed-up throttle response. Hard to accuse a car of carrying too much timber when you’re busy smirking at the very real prospect of it slingshotting you into a Spanish holding cell.
In the UK you might be inclined to reflect on the futility of all this supercharged performance, but not among the sighted corners of theme park land. No reason to gripe about the wheel control either because Spanish A roads are laid with the scrupulousness of hospital corners. Here the F-Type is plainly best in Dynamic mode, where the chassis stops getting itself in a muddle trying to ‘breathe’ over long-wave undulations and busies itself instead with just being a sports car. The sterner settings make the steering seem more credibly weighted, too, and what it lacks in feedback it makes up for with a typically well-judged rate of turn. Jaguar’s adaptive all-wheel-drive system is sophisticated enough to seem rear-biased without causing you a conniption at every hairpin; the V8 is sonorous enough to have you celebrating its presence at every exit. Excess is encouraged.
True enough, the quickest F-Type doesn’t make its limit seem approachable (and knowable) like a 992 does - yet it is remarkably adept at making eight-tenths effort feel like a rewarding experience. Yes, because the R is loud and effortlessly fast, but also because it’s genuinely good to drive when there’s time and space to thread a few corners together - which is obviously what makes it seem like manna from heaven in Spain, with someone else picking up the fuel tab. If that feels like one too many provisos for a truly balanced verdict, then so be it; after all, this is not hello but goodbye. The fact-based reality is as it ever was: the equivalent 911 makes for a wholly superior everyday sports car. The F-Type R 75, meanwhile, remains a note-perfect companion for the sort of journey most of us only daydream about. Perhaps it’s a fitting farewell after all.
Specification | Jaguar F-Type R 75 P575
Engine: 5,000cc, V8, supercharged
Transmission: 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 575@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 516@3,500-5,000rpm
0-62mph: 3.7 seconds
Top speed: 186mph
Weight: 1,780kg (DIN)
MPG: 26.4 (WLTP)
CO2: 243g/km (WLTP)
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