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10 Feb, 2020 9:30am Steve Sutcliffe
Have the upgrades for the facelifted Jaguar F-Type been enough to give it the edge over the current sports car king, the Porsche 911?
When the Jaguar F-Type first appeared back in 2013, it went close to the top of its class from the word go. It looked great, sounded lovely, went like stink and was well priced beside rivals from Porsche, Audi and Mercedes. And when the even sharper-looking and driving coupé model appeared a year or so later, things got better still.
But the rate of progress in the car industry has been unprecedented over the last five or six years, to a point where the F-Type was starting to feel dated. Especially in the way it drove relative to its best rivals.
To be honest, it had started to feel like a bit of a dinosaur so Jaguar knew it had to do something to adjust that situation, and fast.
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Enter the car you see here, which the firm refers to as a brand-new model, but which we see as a heavy facelift. The styling has been sharpened all round but especially at the front, with a new nose defining the overall appearance. In the flesh, and in any colour, the revised model looks borderline sensational, with a more aggressive but prettier overall look than before.
New 20-inch wheels and Pirelli P-Zero tyres fill the arches to perfection, while at the back the car looks wider and meaner.
Inside there’s an all-new 12.3-inch main instrument display with switchable designs. That means that you can choose between a big central rev counter for track work, or more traditional twin dials for road use.
Otherwise, not much else has changed design-wise inside, apart from the fitment of new sports seats in the 575 R. But the tech has been much improved, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity as standard, plus the fitment of Jaguar’s Touch Pro system with a 10-inch central screen.
Every version of the new F-Type gets the fresh display, while LED headlights and tail-lights, an electrically adjustable steering column with a leather-rimmed wheel, and six-way electric front seats finished in leather and suede are on the kit list, too, as is adaptive cruise control.
Models like the boisterous 575 R get upgraded Pixel LED headlights, and the car’s facelift is laden with additional aggression. R models are fitted with a bespoke bodykit, which includes gloss-black detailing on the side sills, front and rear splitters and grille surrounds. 20-inch gloss-black alloy wheels also appear, while the beefier brakes are finished with red calipers. Inside, the steering wheel gains R branding, there’s so-called ‘Premium’ ambient lighting, and the seats are adjustable in 12 directions and now trimmed in Ebony Windsor leather.
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Arguably it’s the bits you can’t see that Jaguar has worked on the hardest and has improved the most. This is good news, because the F-Type had lost ground to its rivals in terms of the driving experience.
The car’s entire rear end has been re-engineered, with much of the technology and experience gained from developing the limited-run XE Project 8 applied to the latest F-Type. There’s a new sub-frame, revised dampers, different springs, an uprated anti-roll bar, a new electronic, diff; you name it, it’s new. And it’s all in the name of making the F-Type not just sharper to drive, but better all-round.
The same applies at the front, where most of the chassis and suspension components have been changed. The steering has been completely re-thought, too, and the result, says Jaguar, is a fairly radical change in the way the F-Type drives. The car’s brakes are unchanged, though, while the engine in the V8 cars is basically a re-map of the Project 8’s monstrous supercharged 5.0-litre unit.
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Even so, there’s no arguing with its output – 567bhp and 700Nm in the case of the 575 R, or 444bhp and the same 700Nm for the 450 R-Dynamic – or the performance that arrives as a result. The four-wheel-drive 575 manages 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds – that’s the same as the Project 8 achieves – while the rear-drive 450 takes 4.6 seconds, due to its limited traction.
So the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question is: has Jaguar done enough to make the F-Type compete dynamically with the likes of the Porsche 911, Audi R8 and various Mercedes AMGs that are available at this level and beyond? Just about, yes.
And if you think that means we’re damning it with faint praise, think again. The German competition had sailed miles out in front, so in reality Jaguar has done a fine job of reeling them back in.
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In Dynamic mode, the 575 feels even faster than its raw numbers suggest, such are the response and potency from the remapped V8, alongside the magnificent noise that erupts out of its redesigned exhaust system. In full flight and on a road with some trees to bounce the noise off, the 575 makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention. It’s that quick and feels that dramatic.
But it’s the chassis modifications and the improvements to the steering in particular that now define the F-Type. It feels much sharper on the road, far lighter on its feet, and has a level of agility to its handling that was simply not there before. At the same time, this revamped car also rides a fair bit better than F-Types of old.
If anything, the rear-wheel-drive 450 is even sweeter to drive, with all the new dynamic benefits that the 575 enjoys, plus a level of adjustability to the chassis that makes it unique among F-Types. In many respects that makes it the hooligan of the range, but in a good way.
Would you have one instead of a 911? Maybe, maybe not. But the fact that you can now ask that question with a straight face is by far the most important factor. It shows exactly how much better the latest F-Type has become.
4 The Jaguar F-Type was starting to feel quite long in the tooth when compared with its best rivals from Germany and America, but Jaguar has breathed new life into this heavily revamped model. Not only does it look sharper, but it drives much better, too, with sweeter steering, a crisper chassis, a mildly improved interior and, in 575 R guise, thundering performance to match. The F-Type is now competitive in all its new guises.
- Model: Jaguar F-Type 575 R Coupé
- Price: £97,280
- Engine: 5.0 V8 supercharged petrol
- Power/torque: 567bhp/700Nm
- Transmission : Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
- 0-60mph: 3.7 seconds
- Top speed: 186mph
- Economy/CO2: 25.6mpg/ 25.2g/km
- On sale: Now