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What we’re driving: Jaguar F-Type P380 R Dynamic
What it costs: $158,778 (plus on-road costs)
As tested: $173,598 (plus costs)
Why we’re driving it
Jaguar’s award-winning design boss Ian Callum recently announced he would be putting down the crayons after more than two decades redefining the look of the iconic Brit car maker.
The canny Scot dragged Jaguar from a retro-obsessed focus into an era of forward-looking design, albeit with a respectful nod to the brand’s storied past.
It seemed fitting to take one of his most stunning creations, the muscular F-Type sports car, for a memorial spin; the recent addition of some 2019 upgrades was entirely serendipitous.
What it costs
Starting at $107,012 for a basic 2.0-litre turbocharged coupe, the F-Type stretches across some 32 variants encompassing three engines, two body styles, rear- and all-wheel drive, manual and automatic, topping out with the $309,212 V8 SVR AWD convertible.
Our ride, the F-Type P380 R Dynamic, sits mid-range in price and performance – $158,778 in its birthday suit, or $173,598 as tested.
That buys you a rear-wheel-drive F-Type equipped with a 280kW/460Nm 3.0-litre supercharged V6, mated to an eight-speed auto.
Similar coin gets you into the fitted leather seats of Porsche’s brilliant 718 Cayman GTS ($178,680), or the track-focused Lotus Exige Cup 430 ($199,900).
The extra coin buys metallic paint ($2950), tasty 20-inch split-spoke alloys in gloss black ($1790), bigger 380mm front and 376mm rear brakes ($1690), and racy red seat belts ($270). Perhaps most importantly, given how hard it is to see out of the snug cabin, it also adds a rear camera ($1060), blind spot assist ($900), and front parking aid ($710).
On the outside
In physical terms, the F-Type sits somewhere between the diminutive Mazda MX-5 roadster and larger executive-class coupes such as the BMW 4-Series.
Unlike the latter, however, the F-Type is a ‘proper’ sports car, with room for two, meaning its nearest natural rivals are the aforementioned Porsche and Lotus.
Chief designer Callum is on record as saying the F-Type is among his favourite creations in a long line of great-looking cars, and it’s easy to see why.
It’s as if someone has taken sheet metal and wrapped it as tight as possible around the mechanical bits, creating a beautifully taut and muscular-looking coupe that reveals new and intriguing angles as you move around it.
In rear view, the F-Type’s big, bold hips flare extravagantly from its pinched roofline to flow over powerfully contoured guards housing big 20-inch alloy wheels.
Its long nose, short overhangs and shallow glasshouse create a signature contemporary sports coupe stance that clearly mark it as a successor to the legendary E-Type.
Under the bonnet
The 3.0-litre supercharged V6 is a busy, fizzy unit that always feels primed and ready to deliver. There’s enough oomph from step-off on a light to mid throttle, but it’s not until revs rise above 3500rpm that you realise how explosively responsive the F-Type is.
It nails the 0-100km/h dash in a sharp 4.9 seconds. It’s quick, but not that quick, thanks in large part to the Jag’s circa-1594kg kerb weight. By way of comparison, the 200kg-lighter Cayman GTS packs slightly less power and torque, but shaves six-tenths off the Jag’s time.
On the inside
The F-Type’s compact dimensions ensure it’s fairly snug inside. It has the typical sports car compromise of needing to slide and fold yourself down into the sports buckets to get comfortable, and the opposite procedure to disembark.
There’s just enough room for two (close) friends, separated by a wide center console which on the passenger side features an exaggerated flying-buttress-style grab handle – useful, given the Jag’s cornering prowess and very firm ride.
Ahead of the driver is a hooded instrument panel featuring an analogue-style digital speedo and tachometer; the former clocks to 300km/h, despite a claimed top speed of 275km/h, while the latter reaches to 7000rpm.
A 10-inch touchscreen, new air vents, and a frameless rear-view mirror are part of the MY19 upgrades, adding to the existing hard shell sports seats with integrated headrests and a nice chunky leather-clad wheel with the Jaguar leaper in pride of place.
On the road
Press the start button and the blown V6 fires with a brisk, sporty blip, sending the tacho racing across the rev band before settling into an easy idle.
There’s a reversing camera, but you still need to take care when backing out of a driveway or car spot, as over-the-shoulder visibility is poor due to the snug cabin and large B-pillars.
Once moving, though, you quickly get into the groove of things. The steering feels precise and satisfying, the body control excellent.
As befits a proper sports car, the F-Type’s suspension has been tuned for grip and cornering performance, rather than comfort, so the jittery ride comes as no surprise.
But tip the F-Type into a corner at speed and you realise there’s some fundamentally rightness to the setup, helped by quick steering, disciplined suspension and strong grip from 20-inch Pirelli P-Zero rubber.
The 2019 update means all F-Types now get torque vectoring as standard, while this P380 model also gets a limited-slip diff and adaptive dampers. So you need to be really bold – or cack-handed – with the throttle and wheel to upset it.
The supercharged engine note is less-than-sonorous at low to middling revs, but finds its voice in the upper reaches, so that by the time you achieve peak power at 6000 rpm, it’s bellowing in a rich, metallic timbre.
The Jaguar E-Type stands as one of the most iconic automotive designs of the 20th century, even if safety regulations mean we’ll never again see a production car as sensually slinky.
When looking back on Ian Callum’s towering legacy at Jaguar, the F-Type will definitely stand as a high-water mark, and quite possibly stand the test of time.
It’s a gorgeous-looking machine that in this guise, packs some proper mongrel. The modest changes improve on an already impressive package, but can’t entirely hide the fact the F-Type is now entering middle age. Still, that hasn’t held back George Clooney, has it?