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The 2021 Jaguar F-Type R.

The Globe and Mail

“What really matters is what you like, not what you are like.” John Cusack’s character delivers that line straight to the camera in High Fidelity, the movie – recently remade as a tv show – based on a Nick Hornby novel.

It’s an exciting premise for snobs of all sorts, because it gives anyone carte blanche to be insufferable – as Cusack’s character is – so long as they like the right stuff. You are what you like. You don’t ski; you are a skier. You don’t ride a bicycle; you are a cyclist. You don’t drive a Porsche, you are a Porschephile, a true believer, maybe even a member of the Luftgekühlt, which is devoted not just to the Porsche 911, but specifically to older 911s with air-cooled engines.

If you thought musical snobbery was bad, well, you haven’t met a car snob.

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It was always going to be an uphill battle for Jaguar to compete against the kind of cultish devotion that Porsche expertly cultivates, and yet that’s exactly what the British brand had in mind when it launched the F-Type sports car in 2013. Jag’s two-seat coupe and convertible were aimed squarely at the 911, which has fended off challengers to its status as the sports car benchmark for nearly 60 years now.

It makes sense then, that gamblers were attracted to the F-Type. According to Jaguar’s own research, gambling topped the list of activities F-Type owners do in their leisure time.

If you are what you drive, then buying an F-Type makes you something of a non-conformist, a thrill-seeker, someone who prioritizes adrenalin over perfection.

The 2021 F-Type has been given an overhaul, and we’re happy to report that Jag hasn’t softened this sports car’s brash demeanor – well, not too much anyway. It’s still beautiful to look at, loud and a little twitchy.

The F-Type R’s supercharged V-8 engine now makes 567 horsepower, which is as much as the old range-topping SVR model. Previously, that V-8 motor sounded like it was ripped from a NASCAR truck, but this new iteration is more muted. It doesn’t pop and bang so gratuitously on the overrun. (Jaguar says it’s because of stricter new U.S. noise regulations.) There’s even a “quiet start” mode so you don’t annoy your neighbours in the morning. Maybe the F-Type has grown up a little bit.

The F-Type R has a newfound sense of confidence and precision in its drive.

The Globe and Mail

On narrow, winding roads the F-Type R still feels big and wide and fiery. It demands respect. New, stiffer springs and redesigned rear-suspension sacrifice some comfort to keep that big lump of a V-8 engine under control. There’s a newfound sense of confidence and precision from the chassis and retuned power steering. It’s not as transparent as the 911, but it feels more precise than the older F-Type.

Unlike in the 911, you always feel there’s an absolute unit of an engine under your right foot in the Jag; the car’s baritone rumble and shocking acceleration make sure you never forget that. In the revised F-Type though, there’s less of a sense that if you breathe on the throttle the wrong way the car will spin itself sideways. It’s less twitchy than before. For some of the F-Type’s most risk-loving fans, this may actually be a bad thing.

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While the top-spec F-Type R has been tamed slightly, the most affordable model – the four-cylinder, rear-wheel drive P300 – feels more entertaining than ever. The 2.0-litre motor makes the same 296 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque as before, but it feels more powerful than you might imagine. Compared with the R, the P300 feels much lighter and more agile. You can drive the it harder on public roads, which means the least expensive F-Type may be the most enjoyable.

The P300 is the least expensive F-Type, and in some ways, the most fun.

David Shepherd Photographer/Courtesy of manufacturer

“It’s a car you’re supposed to have fun in, whereas some of the competitors you have to push them right to the edge to get that,” says Tanmay Dube, vehicle integration manager for the F-Type. He’s absolutely correct.

All these years after the F-Type was introduced, it’s safe to say it hasn’t really challenged Porsche’s supremacy in the premium sports car pecking order. Sales of the F-Type in Canada in its best year fell short of the 911 in its worst year, according to GoodCarBadCar data. For 2021 the F-Type is improved, but still not objectively better than its German rival. The Jag is, however, probably more fun, more of the time, in real-world driving.

The F-Type is a lo-fi punk-rock alternative to the critically acclaimed pop of the new 911. Snobs may dismiss the Jag, but if you take a gamble on it, it will never be boring.

Tech specs

  • Base price: $73,000 (I-4); $119,000 (V-8)
  • Engine: 2.0-litre turbo I-4; 3.0-litre supercharged V-6; 5.0-litre supercharged V-8
  • Transmission: eight-speed automatic
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): TBD
  • Drive: rear- or all-wheel drive
  • Alternatives: Porsche 911 or 718, BMW Z4, Toyota Supra, Audi RS5, Ford Mustang Shelby GT350, Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE

Looks

The F-Type remains a great looking car.

The Globe and Mail

They haven’t messed with a good thing here. Narrow, horizontal lights replace vertical ones, which trick your eyes into seeing the car as wider, lower, leaner. There’s a whiff of Ferrari Roma or Aston Martin Vantage about it.

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Interior

The cabin is relatively unchanged from the previous model.

Courtesy of manufacturer

The cabin is largely unchanged; we were hoping for more significant improvements here.

Performance

The automatic transmission is now the only available option.

David Shepherd Photographer/Courtesy of manufacturer

Sadly, the manual gearbox is no longer an option. With the automatic transmission, the F-Type R will out-sprint a similarly priced Porsche 911. The Jag does 0-100 in 3.7 seconds.

Technology

Built-in Spotify functionality is a nice bonus.

David Shepherd Photographer/Courtesy of manufacturer

The new 12.3-inch digital dash screen is a nice new addition, as is having the Spotify app built right into the infotainment system. However, with the top down in the convertible, the central nav screen can become hard to see in bright sun.

Cargo

The F-Type lacks the 911’s rear seats, but then again the trunk only has luggage space for two people anyway.

The verdict

A punk-rock sports car wearing fancy clothes.

Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.

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