Fresh yet familiar. Rumor has it that Jaguar is going all-in on electric vehicles in the coming years. Yet, they've also revamped their sensational F-Type for 2021, and the end result continues to embody the classical spirit of Jaguar far more than it foreshadows any impending electrification.
The freshened 2021 Jaguar F-Type isn't a full redesign; rather, Jaguar has massaged the sheetmetal and streamlined the powertrain choices. Their efforts give us a sports car that looks better than ever and goes quicker than before. Forget the tired comparisons to the E-Type of old – this snarling GT is every bit deserving of its own praise and glory.
More power, less choice. Last year's F-Type came in a variety of flavors, from the lowly P300 up through the rip-snorting SVR. Until 2019, there was also a manual transmission option along with the far-more-common automatic. The 2021 model slims down these choices. Will buyers be mad at having fewer options? Based on what remains available, we don't think so.
The base four-cylinder P300 was left alone for 2021, standing pat at 296 horsepower. It's the cheapest and most pragmatic option available and is also the lightest of all the engines by a few hundred pounds, but we feel that a sports car this attractive deserves judicious grunt. With an estimated 0-60 mph time of 5.4 seconds, you'll be beat off the line by V8-powered Ford Mustangs and Chevrolet Camaros costing $20,000 less. If you can afford it, you should at least step up to the V6.
That V6, a 3.0-liter supercharged unit previously available in both 340- and 380-hp variants, is now only offered in the high-output spec. The time it takes to sprint to 60 mph drops to a more respectable 4.9 seconds.
More important is the feel of the V6; it bristles with an athleticism not found in the four-cylinder models and feels stronger across the rev range. It also sounds better – no need to pump in artificial engine sound with the meaty six-cylinder.
At the top of the F-Type heap is the V8-powered R, and this year it gains 25 horsepower, for a total of 575. Astute readers will recognize that number as the output of the old SVR; that model is gone, and there's no word yet on whether a more powerful SVR will eventually commence. For now, the 575-horse R will be king of the lineup.
If you've got the dough, the V8 is our favorite engine by a wide margin. The quad exhaust barks and bites even at idle, despite having been retuned for more civility; new for this year is a quiet mode to further silence those boisterous 575 ponies. If you've ever heard an F-Type under even moderate throttle, you know your neighbors will appreciate this feature.
The R's 575 hp can motivate the F-Type to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds. That performance is likely enhanced by the standard-issue all-wheel drive; as much of a hoot as a rear-drive, 575-hp F-Type would be, we can only imagine how many sets of rear tires it would go in a given year. Speaking of which, wider tires have also been newly fitted to the V8 models in an attempt to enhance grip.
All F-Types get an eight-speed automatic transmission, and we're smitten with its preternatural tendency to always find the right gear. We can see why the manual-equipped V6 was discontinued after 2019 – this automatic is fast, intuitive, and always ready to cruise serenely or play rough. We still miss the three-pedal manual, though.
Mild updates to comfy interior. The F-Type is surprisingly livable and unsurprisingly luxurious. For 2021, Jaguar enhances the appeal of its sports car with an all-new 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, but otherwise, the interior largely remains the same over last year.
Not that we're complaining about that. The F-Type, sleek and low-slung as it is, has enough space to make any 6-footer feel comfortable in its confines. There's plenty of leg room and the seats are all-day comfortable. The only drawback is the narrow cabin; the 56 inches of shoulder room feels inadequate once two people have settled in.
A 10-inch touchscreen handles infotainment duties and comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. We found the system easy to use and understand – something that can't be said for some other infotainment systems out there.
The only major complaint we have is with cargo space. Coupes have 14.4 cubic feet, which is enough to hold an average suitcase and a duffel; the 8 cubic feet of space found in the convertible is small enough to limit trips to the weekend variety.
Stiff competition. The sports-car market in the $60,000 and $120,000 range is rife with choices. There's blue-collar heroes like the Chevrolet Corvette and Ford Shelby GT500, Germanic scythes like the Audi TT RS and Porsche 911, and even Japanese wizardry like the Toyota Supra and Nissan GT-R. All these vehicles compete with at least one of the F-Type variants.
Every one of these alternative options has their own war cry, and each is particularly well suited for battle. The Corvette might be the most tempting alternative: mid-engined, 490 horsepower, $60,000. Now consider that a base four-cylinder, 296-hp F-Type starts at $62,625.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Jag must fend off another icon, the 911. Fifty-plus years of careful improvements have made the 911 a formidable, unflappable sports car with an incredible bandwidth of performance. At $97,400 to start, it costs about the same as a well-equipped V6 F-Type and matches it for horsepower.
Corvette, 911, F-Type. Each offers serious performance with surprising livability. And they all have their countries of origin proudly stitched on their sleeve: the stoic Porsche, the brash Chevy, the sumptuous Jag. Is there a right or wrong answer here? Thankfully, there isn't. The Jaguar is just as alluring as anything else, but it'll have to fight harder for its slice of the sports-car pie than ever before.
Final thoughts. The 2021 Jaguar F-Type looks killer, goes like stink and is comfortable enough for commuting duty. It is the ultimate GT, despite cargo concerns and a narrow cabin. The 2021 updates only increase its appeal.
But will the F-Type's revisions be enough to let it fend off a flurry of competition? No one can say for sure. After all, it isn't the cheapest option out there, nor is it the most potent. But it has style, comfort, and speed in equal measure – and that's a winning combination in our book. There's no doubt that this sporting Jaguar has a character all its own, and that individualism shines through brighter than ever for 2021.
Check prices for the 2020 Jaguar F-TYPE »