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2021 Jaguar F-TYPE Test Drive Review
Design, pedigree, and raw, nearly-unhinged performance tinged with a perversely-thrilling threat of bodily harm are the hallmarks of the 2021 Jaguar F-Type R.
You do not buy a 2021 Jaguar F-Type R seeking value, quality, technological sophistication, or a way to fade into the background. Rather, you buy a 2021 Jaguar F-Type R seeking non-stop attention, astounding performance, and a mega-buck sports car of which you’ll rarely see duplicates on the road. This is the six-figure luxury performance machine to get when you don’t want to drive the same thing every other high-roller does. Especially when it's painted Sorrento Yellow, like our test car.
Look and Feel
Jaguar and sports cars go hand-in-hand. From the marque’s earliest days, two-seat coupes and roadsters wrapped in alluring sheet metal and infused with legendary performance have almost continuously anchored Jaguar’s lineup. Certainly, some were more appealing and successful than others, but cars like the 2021 Jaguar F-Type are a fundamental building block of the brand’s DNA.
The production version of the Jaguar C-X16 concept car, the F-Type is now almost a decade old, but regular updates have kept it fresh. For the 2021 model year, the F-Type gets new front-end styling, slimmer LED headlights with a new "J" running-light signature, and LED taillights, and a reworked rear bumper. Jaguar also simplified the lineup, retuned the suspension, added digital instrumentation, and made other minor changes.
Driving the test car into West Hollywood, California, via Sunset Boulevard, the Sorrento Yellow F-Type R drew just as much attention as an orange Chevrolet Corvette we reviewed earlier this year. Not bad for a car that’s been around for a while, though the new-for-2021 nose certainly helped to attract looky-loos. Undoubtedly, the car looks terrific, but we remain partial to the previous design, which was closer to the original C-X16 concept.
For 2021, the Jaguar F-Type comes in coupe and convertible body styles. Trim and powertrain choices include base and First Edition P300 rear-wheel drive (RWD), R-Dynamic P380 all-wheel drive (AWD), and R AWD variants. Pricing ranges from $61,600 to $105,900, not including the mandatory $1,150 destination charge.
Jaguar supplied the F-Type R Coupe we used for testing. In addition to the extra-cost Sorrento Yellow paint ($4,550), it had optional 20-inch Satin Gray wheels, black brake calipers, a panoramic glass roof, full extended leather, a Meridian surround sound system, a Climate Pack, a Blind Spot Assist Pack, and illuminated metal treadplates. The grand total came to $117,190 MSRP, including the destination charge.
All that interior leather sure makes a difference, and the scent when you open a door is downright intoxicating. Unfortunately, a cacophony of rattles, buzzes, and creaks accompanies every drive, and the turn signal stalk, which you’ll use during each and every trip, sounds and feels like it might snap in two.
But hey, if these are the sorts of flaws that might make or break your decision to get an F-Type, perhaps Jaguar ownership isn’t right for you.
Underneath its clamshell hood, the 2021 Jaguar F-Type R has the same 5.0-liter supercharged V8 engine used in last year’s wickedly quick F-Type SVR. It makes 575 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 516 pound-feet of torque between 3,500 rpm and 5,000 rpm. Paired with an eight-speed Quickshift automatic transmission with paddles on the steering wheel, and a torque-vectoring AWD system with an active rear differential, the engine delivers 60 mph in 3.5 seconds and a 186-mph top speed, according to Jaguar.
To better manage the F-Type R’s 3,843 pounds, Jaguar revised the suspension and recalibrated the steering for 2021. The F-Type R also has 20-inch wheels with wider, staggered-width 265/35ZR20 front and 305/30ZR20 rear Pirelli P Zero performance tires, larger rear brakes, and an active sports exhaust system with quad outlets. A new Quiet Start exhaust mode helps to preserve relationships with your neighbors.
Configurable Dynamics and an Adaptive Dynamics suspension with continuously-variable dampers are also standard. To set up the sportiest Dynamic mode, use the helmet icon on the infotainment screen and choose your preferences for the engine, transmission, steering, and suspension. Our choices were Dynamic for everything but the steering, which we kept in Comfort mode.
Don’t strap yourself into an F-Type R expecting a Jaguar luxury experience. Instead, you’re going to get a Jaguar performance experience, complete with road noise, a loud exhaust, grabby brakes, a firm ride, and stiff seat bolsters.
Acceleration is just ridiculous. Drivers enjoy a raw, emotional, visceral, relationship with the powertrain, one fostered by the engine’s unyielding thrust, whining supercharger, decisive transmission, and staccato exhaust. Enthusiasts will love these characteristics. People buying a Jaguar F-Type R for reasons other than performance are unlikely to feel the same way.
Gratefully, the Jaguar F-Type R is not simply a straight-line car. Sharp and quick steering combined with extraordinary grip puts a smile on your face, and immediate braking capability hauls the hefty coupe down from speed without delay. The car is immensely fun to drive hard and fast, but at the same time, there is a sense that it will bite if you’re not careful. Limits are high, but to explore them so are velocities, and that means you’ve got little to no margin for error.
When you’re not balancing on that delicate edge between nirvana and fear, you’ve really got to watch the nose of this car. Driveway aprons and drainage channels often require an angled approach and careful consideration, and it’s all too easy to get all too close to parking curbs.
Furthermore, when you’ve got the suspension in Comfort mode—which is recommended for urban environments—the ride exhibits a bit more bounce than you might like. After a large meal, you might even feel a little nauseous.
As far as fuel economy is concerned, the EPA says the F-Type R will return 18 mpg combined. Perhaps we weren’t properly exercising the car, because we averaged 20.6 mpg on the testing loop.
Docile as a kitten or fierce as a lion, depending on how you elect to set it up and drive it, the 2021 Jaguar F-Type R is a delightful alternative to the usual choices in this class. But it isn’t without its faults.
Form and Function
If the Jaguar F-Type looks graceful and elegant, those adjectives will not describe you during attempts to enter and exit the two-seater cabin. You’ll need to be limber, with a strong core, to effortlessly get into and out of this car.
Once you’re in, the F-Type R’s 12-way power-adjustable performance seats embrace you with supple leather. They’re heated and ventilated, and the steering wheel is heated, too. Given these features and standard AWD, if you swap the performance rubber out for proper snow tires, the F-Type R is probably a blast in a blizzard. Well, at least until its jutting chin starts behaving like a plow.
Not unexpectedly, practical storage is in short supply, but there is just enough of it. The coupe’s trunk measures a roomy 14.4 cubic feet, but the narrow opening and high liftover height mean packing light is recommended.
As far as the interior layout is concerned, the climate controls are easy to understand and adjust. Everything else requires acclimation as you try to decipher icons and abbreviations, or simply seek some kind of affirmation that you’ve successfully activated a function. Frankly, some of this car’s controls are a regular source of frustration.
For 2021, the refreshed Jaguar F-Type gets a new 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, offering numerous ways to configure its data and appearance. It does not, however, get Jaguar’s sophisticated new Pivi Pro infotainment system. Instead, it uses the company’s increasingly outdated InControl Touch Pro infotainment system with a 10-inch touchscreen display.
Over-the-air (OTA) update capability helps InControl Touch Pro to keep up with the times, but its speed, processing capability, and other functions leave something to be desired. For example, if you push the steering wheel button that appears to activate the voice recognition system, it instead turns off the radio. Say what, now?
We reached out to Jaguar for an explanation, and a company spokesperson told us that the voice recognition button is now “designed to work as an extension of Siri voice assistance on iPhone.” The F-Type offers both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so voice recognition should work with Google Assistant as well.
Unfortunately, the test car had departed by the time we learned this fun fact, and we didn’t get a chance to sample it. We did use the Connected Navigation Pro system to successfully find a hotel with an obscure entrance in West Hollywood, though. The F-Type R also comes with InControl Apps connected services, remote access compatible with both smartphones and smartwatches, and a WiFi hotspot.
The upgraded Meridian surround sound system impresses, but you’ve gotta crank it up in order to overcome the road and powertrain noise. Remember, this car is about performance, not outright luxury.
Per federal regulations, Jaguar equips the F-Type R with a standard reversing camera, a good thing since visibility to the rear is awful. Additionally, the car includes adaptive cruise control with an adaptive speed limiter, forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, a traffic-sign recognition system, and a driver-monitoring system.
Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is an option, and Jaguar also offers a Park Assist option that steers the car into a parallel space while the driver operates the pedals and transmission.
With the speed-limiting adaptive cruise, you need to push twice on the steering wheel activation button in order to deactivate the speed limit-matching function. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself doddering along at 65 mph while everyone else is going 80.
As is true of the rest of the F-Type, there are a handful of irritations related to the car’s driver-assist tech. For example, when you find and push the lane-keep assist activation button located low on the left side of the dashboard, you need to know where to look within the instrumentation in order to find the tiny icon that tells you whether you’ve turned the function on or off.
Jaguar uses our favorite kind of lane-departure warning notification: a vibration through the steering wheel. But it is subtle and hard to distinguish from the thrum of the road that makes its way through the wheel rim. Also, while driving on sunny, late-fall days, the long shadows on the road evidently caused a handful of false collision warnings. Fortunately, these did not activate the automatic emergency braking system.
Is a Jaguar F-Type R a cost-effective choice in a premium sports car? That depends on how you measure it. A Chevrolet Corvette costs less and delivers a genuine mid-engine exotic driving experience. A Mercedes-AMG GT costs more, but it exudes the precision craftsmanship for which the automaker is known. A Porsche 911 Carrera is priced right on top of the Jaguar, but c’mon, seemingly everyone at the country club has one of those (and for good reason).
Jaguar also eclipses the competition is with its EliteCare package. It includes a five-year, 60,000-mile, warranty with free scheduled maintenance and 24-hour roadside assistance. Plus, the F-Type R brings more power and performance to the party, besting the standard specs supplied by the trio of competitors above. And, the Jaguar is a relative rarity, even in the posher sections of Southern California.
There is a place in the world for the Jaguar F Type R. This segment is not about value, though that’s certainly nice to have. Instead, it’s about the image. And few sports cars can match a hot, loud, fast Jag for sex appeal with a pedigree.
Christian Wardlaw has 25 years of experience reviewing cars and has served in editorial leadership roles with Edmunds, J.D. Power, the New York Daily News, Autobytel, and Vehix. Chris prefers to focus on the cars people actually buy rather than the cars about which people dream, and emphasizes the importance of fuel economy and safety as much as how much fun a car is to drive. Chris is married to an automotive journalist, is the father of four daughters, and lives in Southern California.
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