It’s a wonder what a new set of headlights will do.
The Jaguar F-Type is unabashed theater. Short, low and packing as much character as an early Robin Williams stand-up routine, the only thing that one-ups this sport coupe’s visuals is how it tackles curvy roads. The 2021 F-Type also packs a few new upgrades that improve its daily livability, but make no mistake — there’s still a whole lot of ridiculousness hiding under its svelte new sheetmetal.
LikeSounds like cannon fireAll-star hustleSurprisingly pliant in daily use
Don’t LikeQuieter than it used to beMediocre infotainmentLimited interior storage
I wasn’t exactly keen on the F-Type’s new face in photos, but now that I’m laying eyes on it in person, I’ve come around. The front end’s slimmer headlights actually give the car more visual width, making it look even more of a hulking brute than before. Some of the sharp body lines have been softened, too, bringing its overall silhouette closer to, say, a Mercedes-AMG GT. Throw in a heapin’ helpin’ of Sorrento Yellow paint ($4,550) and my tester’s optional 20-inch wheels ($1,100) and you’ll be turning necks in no time flat. And since there’s a V8 under the hood, there are four positively honkin’ tailpipes out back to project the song of its people far and wide.
Inside, a pair of redesigned seats offer solid support without feeling constricting, and as before, the leather feels premium on every surface it graces. The interior can feel a bit drab in its monochromatic hue, but the aluminum trim helps break things up a bit. Visibility is decent for a sports coupe, with a tight view through the rearview mirror, but it’s not as bad as the AMG GT, which has such a small windshield that it’s hard to see stoplights.
Jaguar and its sister company Land Rover haven’t ever really been top of the pops when it comes to in-car tech, albeit not for a lack of trying, and the 2021 F-Type stays the course in that regard. Gone is the old physical gauge cluster, and in its place is the same 12.3-inch screen found on just about every other new Jaguar and Land Rover in existence. It’s flexible, so you can display a bunch of information on either side of a single tachometer, or you can shove that stuff between two more traditionally designed gauges.
Living in the dashboard is the Touch Pro infotainment system on a 10-inch screen. It’s much better than the last generation of telematics tech, but it’s still pokey to respond and a little confusing to navigate, and some of the icons on the screen are decidedly hard to hit, even at a standstill. Navigation is standard, as is Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. When it comes time to charge, there are two suitably powerful USB-A ports in the center armrest. For those micromanagers out there, Jaguar’s connected-car app works with both phones and the Apple Watch ($399 at Apple), and it allows owners to remotely lock, unlock and start the car, in addition to offering up basic vehicle information at a glance.
The only true bummer inside the 2021 F-Type, though, is its lack of storage options. The glove compartment is decently sized, but the door pockets are quite small, as are the cup holders, as is the cubby under the armrest. The hatchback offers up a decent 14.4 cubic feet of storage — a whopping 4.3 cubes more than the Mercedes-AMG GT coupe can muster — which is enough for a decent amount of groceries or a set of golf clubs.
But the F-Type’s visuals are only half of the gut-punch this car delivers 24/7/365. Every inch of the Jaguar’s existence is dedicated to making its driver giggle with delight. Despite a bit of a neutering to make room for an even more bonkers SVR variant, the F-Type R’s standard active exhaust still barks to life each morning with a nice, healthy brrap that settles into basso profundo aggression — and that’s before flipping the tailpipe button on the center console.
The interior is compact, but I wouldn’t call it cramped. Besides, once you set off, you won’t notice.
In suburban life, the 2021 F-Type is impressively pliant. The car’s standard adaptive suspension has been further refined, and it doesn’t take long for me to notice just how smooth the F-Type feels as I worm my way through traffic. Despite the 20-inch rollers and thin-enough Pirelli P-Zero summer tires (265/35 front, 305/30 rear), most road annoyances disappear in the dampers, but the inherent stiffness in this coupe’s small body means I never forget what car I’m actually in. The interior’s road noise is largely determined by the quality of pavement underfoot, but wind noise is minimal at worst. Leave everything in its default mode and the result is a surprisingly capable daily driver.
The action I’m really after, though, isn’t the kind I find on the way to the garden center, unless there’s a canyon, mountain or forest between me and it. Flip the F-Type R’s mode switch to Dynamic, open up that exhaust and let ‘er rip. The dampers stiffen to eliminate body roll, while the eight-speed automatic transmission holds onto gears longer. I prefer to use the aluminum shift paddles for better gear control, because if you leave the tachometer needle between 3,000 and 4,000 rpm, the tailpipes will bounce overrun cracks and burbles off every nearby surface.
The supercharged 5.0-liter V8 will never stop howling under load. The 2021 F-Type’s engine receives some small tweaks to boost output to a meaty 575 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. I’m never left wanting for motive force, even in seventh or eighth gear, although most backroad carving is done in third and fourth, both of which are plenty capable of launching me to extralegal speeds between hairpins. Despite having all-wheel drive, the F-Type R lets its rear-axle bias show, the body wriggling when power is applied a bit too early — a problem that the traction control has no issue sorting out smoothly. The only way I can tell the system is working is when I depress the pedal and don’t get any extra forward motion.
Forming a symbiotic relationship with the F-Type is simple. It doesn’t take long to feel like an extension of the metal. Every upcoming corner begs me to brake a little later, turn in a little faster, apply the power a little earlier, all in the pursuit of carrying more speed that the car and its sticky Italian tires can easily handle. It goads me into antics I might not be comfortable with in other cars, it all feels so natural. The steering wheel is direct with the right amount of feedback. The brakes are simple to modulate, but they will clamp down with absolute authority when necessary. Bright colors are often a sign of danger in nature, but the only danger here is a speeding ticket.
If you’re wondering about fuel economy, my answer is, yes, it consumes fuel. At 16 miles per gallon city and 24 mpg highway, the F-Type won’t win any awards, and having fun means the EPA’s estimate is a best-case scenario, if it’s even achievable at all. At the same time, it’s a six-figure sports car, so I can’t imagine people will have the budget for the ride but not the fuel.
Sports cars aren’t usually chock full of safety tech, but the 2021 F-Type R is. Standard driver assistance systems include automatic emergency braking, non-adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, lane-keeping assist and a backup camera with suitable resolution. The only upgrade on offer costs $500, and it adds blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
The F-Type’s climate controls are easy to read at a glance, but the heated-and-ventilated seat controls could stand to pick up some additional illumination.
When it comes to an ideal spec, this F-Type R is pretty close to mine, but it’s not cheap — the R’s base price of $104,225 has grown to $115,100. I’d save some money on paint by opting for a $710 British Racing Green hue, but I’d throw $375 at eliminating all the exterior chrome. I really like my tester’s $1,100 wheels, so I’d keep those, and I’d splurge further by dropping $1,175 on a panoramic roof that really opens up the cabin. $800 goes directly to heated and ventilated seats, and $870 is diverted to a Meridian surround-sound upgrade. Top it all off with a $1,125 package that adds a heated steering wheel, a heated windshield and two-zone climate control, and I’d be staring down an out-the-door price tag of $110,380.
The 2021 Jaguar F-Type has a solid complement of competition. The Mercedes-AMG GT is probably its closest competitor; both are amazing to drive, though the Merc feels a bit more cramped despite being the superior handler. If you want a back seat, the base BMW 8 Series is priced pretty closely, and while it’s not as much fun, it’s a bit more suited for daily life. If you’re unsure about how many seats you want, consider the Porsche 911, which is unsure about how many seats it has.
Jaguar’s F-Type has, to me, always been about big, dumb fun. Equipped with the supercharged V8, the F-Type R is an absolute screamer of a sports car, blending daily usability and backroad capability in equal doses without sacrifice. It’s an absolute goddamned hoot.