When the Jaguar F-Type arrived in 2013 it was so pretty it was deservedly declared World Car Design of the Year.
Fast forward seven years, with the svelte sports car due an update and design boss Ian Callum set to hang up his pencils for retirement, and new chief designer Julian Thomson had his work cut out penning a more chiseled F-Type.
But while the classic looks of the eye-catching coupe and convertible have evolved, has the driving experience also had the same level of upgrade?
I’ve been to Portugal for the world-exclusive launch to find out, and discovered this is a big cat with roar you can tame.
On the prowl: Ray Massey has been to Portugal to get his paws on the updated Jaguar F-Type coupe and roadster
The two-day European road-trip included one of Portugal’s best and twistiest mountain driving routes between Porto and Lisbon, which was the ample route to experience three of the new F-Type coupe and roadster variants priced from £54,060 to £102,370.
And though Portugal had been chosen for the launch in a bid to steal some winter sunshine, near constant rain was the order of the day.
The new F-Type is an evolution rather than a radical revolution.
In essence, the face has been sharpened up with some razor-like headlights similar to those used in the electrifying I-Pace SUV.
Jaguar said the technology required for these fox-eye lamps were not available when the first-generation F-Type arrived in 2013.
Built at Jaguar’s Castle Bromwich plant in Birmingham, the updated exterior also includes tweaks to the front and rear bumpers, all-LED lighting, a new front grille surround with F-Type script, and bonnet and fender vents. But you’re probably more interested about what lie beneath…
The two-day road-trip included a twisting mountain route from Porto to Lisbon, which was experienced from behind the wheel of three of the new F-Type coupe and roadster variants
The mighty 5.0-litre 575 horsepower V8 supercharged all-wheel drive coupe is right at the top of the range and offers ferocious performance
Trimmed engine range means the V6 option is no more
Behind the new lights and bumper is a change in powerplant availability for Jaguar’s flagship sportster for 2020.
The V6 option (which happened to be our favourite) has been dropped.
The new man taking over Jaguar design
Jaguar’s new design chief Julian Thomson gave a drawing masterclass when – during the launch of the newly revised F-Type – he sketched live the firm’s sports car evolution spanning three cars and seven decades.
His illustrations, drawn live before my eyes on a small computer tablet projected onto a big screen, began with the classic XK120 of the 1950s, which his uncle once raced, through to the super sexy E-Type, and bang up to date with the revamped and face-lifted F-Type, priced from £54,060 to £102,370, which I was about to drive for the first time.
He took over this year from long-standing predecessor Ian Callum, who is praised for bringing Jaguar styling into the 21st century and in 2012 launched the first generation F-Type which the following year, was awarded ‘World Car Design of the Year’.
That means it’s now a straight choice between two carnivorously meaty 5.0-litre supercharged V8s, or a lean but still mean and hungry 2.0-litre Ingenium 4-cylinder petrol engine.
Buyers will be restricted to an eight-speed automatic gearbox with faster gear-changes than before, thanks to setup tweaks nabbed from the limited-edition 200mph Jaguar XE SV Project 8.
Manual paddles on the steering wheel appease those begging for a little added engagement.
I tried out three variants of Jaguar’s growling F-Type cats, each with their own distinctive charms.
Firstly I got behind the wheel of a mighty 5.0-litre 575 horsepower V8 supercharged all-wheel drive coupe in a bold Sorento Yellow gloss paint.
If power is your passion, this big-cat will accelerate from rest to 60mph in just 3.5 seconds (0-62mph in 3.7 seconds) up to a top speed where legal (such as German autobahns) of 186mph, but managing just 25.6mpg mpg and CO2 emissions of 252g/km.
It’s very sure footed, even in the rain. Who says cats don’t like water?
But raw power comes at a price and this will set you back from £97,280. The fully loaded car I was driving had more than £13,000 of optional features, which took the final price up to £110,590.
These included the fetching gloss paint job (an extra £4,500), fixed panoramic roof (£1,310), ebony suede-cloth performance seats with 12-way movement (£1,865), a Meridian surround sound system (£990) and 20-inch ‘Style 1066’ 10-spoke gloss black alloy wheels (£520).
You can quickly see how easy it is to spec one of these cars into bankruptcy.
Convertible models come at a premium but arguably look more dramatic than their coupe counterparts
Inside, Jaguar has treated the F-Type to a new 12.3-inch interactive and reconfigurable driver display including full map and a large central rev counter
Next up was an F-Type convertible in R-Dynamic trim and Fuji White paintwork powered by the same 5.0-litre V8 supercharged engine but in a new 450 horsepower option with rear-wheel drive.
In lashing rain there was sadly little chance to get the hood down, but it was snug enough inside.
Ray’s top choice
Curiously, my favourite of the trio for 2020 was the least powerful of the F-Type triumvirate – the P300 First Edition Coupe.
Under the hood is a frugal but feisty 2.0-litre Ingenium four-yclinder engine that still develops 300 horsepower and available in rear-wheel drive only.
Of the three, it was the best blend of performance, excitement and civilised manners.
It feels light on its feet and exceptionally well balanced.
Ray Massey’s favourite of the trio for 2020 was the least powerful of the F-Type triumvirate – the P300 First Edition Coupe
‘Of the three, it was the best blend of performance, excitement and civilised manners’
Much of this is thanks to it shedding some 120kg compared to its big bruiser five-cylinder siblings.
Despite having less power, it accelerates from rest to 60mph in a more than adequate 5.4 seconds, which is 1.9 seconds shy of the most potent V8 choice.
Where it wins out is on your bank balance, as it can manage a claimed 34.9mpg with CO2 emissions of 184g/km, making it far more affordable to run.
2020 Jaguar F-Type: Will it fit in my garage?
Range price: from £54,060 to £102,370
Model driven: P575 5.0-litre V8
Width (inc. mirrors): 2,042mm
Width (excl. mirrors): 1,923mm
Height (coupe/convertible): 1,311mm / 1,307mm
Weight (coupe/convertible): 1,818kg/1838kg
Engine: 5.0 litre V8 Supercharged 4-cylinder
Power: 575 horsepower (PS)
Gears: 8-speed Quickshift automatic with manual over-ride
Top speed: 186mph (electronically limited)
Acceleration: 0-60mph: 3.5 seconds
0-62mph (100km/hr): 3.7 seconds
Fuel consumption: 25.6mpg
CO2 emissions: 252g/km
Fuel tank: 70 litres
Coupe (with/without parcel tray): 299 litres / 509litres
Convertible: 233 litres
It’s also the cheaper option to buy.
My car cost from £63,530, though – again – more than £6,000 of extras took the total price as driven to £69,970.
Inside, Jaguar has treated the F-Type to a new 12.3-inch interactive and reconfigurable driver display offering a choice of different displays including full map and a large central rev counter.
There’s also a touchscreen infotainment system with Meridian audio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the ability to upgrade software-over-the-air.
A Jaguar with – and without – a roar
For enthusiasts who desire the loud Jaguar roar and growl – it is there if you want it – and it can be controlled.
All engines feature active exhaust systems, either as standard or as an option.
Pressing the start button brings the car to life with a purposeful exhaust flare.
Although most of the noise is generated from the exhaust system, there is a bit of enhancement from a digital recording wich Jaguar says is ‘more a backing track than a lead vocal’.
Customers who choose the 450PS or 575PS supercharged V8s benefit from a new ‘Quiet Start’ function, which can be used on early starts so you don’t become enemy number one in your neighbourhood.
Electrically-actuated bypass valves in the rear silencer remain closed until they automatically open up under load.
However, the dulcet tones can be over-ridden by pressing the switchable exhaust button before starting the engine to unleash the full orchestra of cracks, pops and grunts.
That means this is a big cat with that only roars when you want it to.
* Ray Massey travelled to Portugal with Jaguar
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