By Cars.com EditorsOctober 21, 2020
About the video
We took the 2021 Jaguar F-Type for a weeklong spin to see if it really is a suitable alternative to the comparatively ubiquitous Porsche 911. Watch our video to find out what we learned.
(upbeat music) <v Aaron>Ask any auto enthusiast what the best all-around sports car in the world is, and there's good odds that you're going to get the following answer, the Porsche 911.
For decades, the 911 has been the benchmark for enthusiasts looking for a precision driving experience. One that has built up a fanatical global following, but what do you buy if you're looking for a sports car that's a little different. One that's still rewarding but maybe has a bit more passion to the styling, a bit more rarity to its presence, or one that you just don't see a dozen of at track days. Well, might I suggest you have a look at this, the 2021 Jaguar F-Type. It ticks all the boxes that a 911 does, rear or all-wheel drive, two-door sports car, coupe or convertible, two passengers, powerful engine, and throws in something that the 911 has typically left as an afterthought, an absolutely gorgeous body. Jaguar has updated that body for 2021, as well as a few other notable features. So we took one for a week's spin to see if the Jaguar F-Type really is a suitable alternative to the ubiquitous Porsche 911. Despite the fact that the Jaguar brand isn't one of the higher selling nameplates in the world of luxury automobiles, it still commands a certain respect and cache when you show up anywhere in a new one. The historical mystique is powerful, allowing the brand to draw on decades of historical racing success, style leadership, technological innovation, and a reputation for glamor. That's why people mob you when you show up anywhere in a Sorento yellow ultra-metallic F-Type R coupe, like this one. Rumbling your way into a gas station, drive-through window, or your local cars and coffee gathering, and why wouldn't they? There's a lot in this new F-Type to love, but it all starts with that sensuous bodywork. It looks a little different for 2021 as Jaguar has redone the front end to give it a lower, wider, more horizontal look. Gone are the tall headlights that stretched up into the fenders and present arch slim cat's eye lenses that bring the F-Type more in line with a styling scene on Jaguar sedans. The sculpted fenders are still present, as are the muscular rear haunches that evoke the whole feline image of the F-Type. First started when the stunning 1961 Jaguar E-type appeared on the market nearly 60 years ago, new taillights adorn in the rear featuring the led chicane signature that Jaguar uses on the I-Pace electric car, the new headlights and grille combined with the curvaceous rear actually looks for all the world like the new Ferrari Roma. So if the valet brings you the wrong car after dinner at your fancy local steakhouse, well, you know why maybe it's the searing yellow paint, but my week in the F-Type turned far more heads than the last Porsche 911 I drove. This suggests that the Porsche's relative styling anonymity appeals more to somebody looking to please themselves with the experience, while the Jags buyer places as much emphasis on style as substance. But what kind of substance is the F-Type packing? There are actually a selection of powertrains to choose from, ranging from spunky turbocharged 298 horsepower four-cylinder to a supercharged 380 horsepower V6 to what powers this R model a supercharged 575 horsepower 5 liter V8; its mated to a standard eight-speed automatic transmission that powers all four wheels as all-wheel drive is standard on all models, except the four-cylinder. The R trim on the F-Type I tested brings all sorts of hopped-up parts to the party, not just that bigger engine, which now makes 25 more horsepower and 14 pounds-feet more of torque than it did last year. Jaguar says this is good for a zero to 60 time of just three and a half seconds. And I believe him, given how often I enjoyed exploring the engine's power. The car features something Jag calls intelligent drive-line dynamics control technology, which integrates things like the all-wheel drives torque distribution, dynamic stability control software, continuously variable electronic dampers, brake-based torque vectoring, and revised electronic steering to adjust the F-Type R's various driving characteristics. When kept in its normal mode, the big cat is rather relaxed, acting as a sedate grand touring coupe with a burbling exhaust note and calmer ships that allow for brisk but not overpowering acceleration. I did find the steering to be oddly sloppy in normal mode; however, when I realized that I was constantly making corrections at highway speeds and wandering all over my lane, the calibration of the steering and normal mode is simply to loosen over boosted making for less effort but also a feeling of less control. The quick and simple remedy for that was to simply flick the mode selector into R mode, which transformed the F-Type into a much more sporty feeling coupe with far more precise steering, feel, and control but still allowing for a ride quality that was firmer but not punishing at all. This is the setting that wakes the F-Type up and makes you think that it'd be a suitable rival for the Porsche 911. Acceleration becomes explosive. (car exhaust roaring) Accompanied by a glorious roar from the adjustable exhaust and screaming line from the supercharger. Attacking your favorite twisty road is a joy. And all of the electronic systems come together with newly revised springs and anti-roll bars to create a truly enjoyable sports car experience. Grip is tremendous thanks to the staggered-sized Pirelli P ZERO tires that are now 10 millimeters wider than the old ones wrapping beautiful matte gray 20-inch wheels. The R mode can be customized as well, which is what I did, keeping the steering in its most aggressive stance, but allowing normal operation of the suspension to powertrain created an all-around sporty yet compliant sports coupe that was a joy to drive. You just have to remember to switch the configuration on whenever you start the car, which really isn't that much of a burden. So it's got style, it's got substance, but how's the interior? Jaguar has been something of a mixed bag, as of late, in terms of material quality, usable technology, and sensible controls. The F-Types interior doesn't see much change for 2021, but there are a few new features of note. First of all, the material quality is top-notch these days. The R model has beautiful quilted Windsor leather performance seats, high-quality plastics, real metal trim, and some new display technologies for 2021. A new fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster is standard and can be reconfigured several ways, even allowing for a full navigation map if so desired. It also changes when you change driving modes as well with a different scheme that can be linked to different modes. The multimedia system is the latest version of the Jaguar Touch Pro system displayed on an easily reached 10-inch screen. It feels faster than it has been with quicker changes between screens and a more intuitive layout but still no ability to engage a beep noise when you touch the screen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on the system, or you can use Jaguar's native apps for controlling a personal electronic device. There's still some interior quirkiness with the Jag, however, such as the central climate control vents that rise up from a hidden position whenever the dash vents are engaged. My immediate thought regarding these and the exterior door handles that pop out from their flush position when you unlock the car was, oh, well, these are going to break eventually. Electronically actuated climate vents are an unnecessary gimmick and what is otherwise a beautifully finished but not terribly remarkably styled interior. There is more artistry and comfort in here than you'll find in a Porsche 911 with materials that are more luxurious as well, but the 911's rear-engine layout also makes for better forward visibility than you'll get in the F-Type. Of course, there is something to be said for gazing out over the Jaguar's shapely hood, knowing that it covers the beating heart of a true powerhouse of an engine. The seats are appropriately sized and comfortable, perfectly adjustable, and covered in some truly nice leather. There's plenty of headroom in the F-Type, and even with the glass roof panel that's a fixed panoramic roof, not an openable moonroof, but at least it has an opaque sliding cover and not a translucent screen like some cars have. I personally would have preferred an interior color other than black, but choosing the Mars red leather option would make this type look like Ronald McDonald's staff car with its Sorento yellow paint, so black seems like the better choice. Tan and light oyster are also options. The trunk and the coupe is not big. You'll be able to stuff a roll-aboard suitcase in there or a couple of soft-sided doubles, but the ubiquitous golf bag might be a stretch and forget about a full-sized suitcase. As befits a luxury brand sports coupe, the F-Type doesn't come cheap even for the basic four-cylinder model, the cheapest F-Type rings in at $62,650, including destination fee. The V8 powered F-Type R starts at a whopping $104,250, to which my test car added $4,550 for the special yellow paint, $1,175 for the fixed panoramic glass roof, $1,125 for a climate pack, $1,100 for 20-inch wheels, and a host of smaller options to bring the grand total to $115,135. If you go nuts and specify every option on a convertible model of the F-Type R, you can easily top $137,000 or more than twice as much money as the base model coupe. But this is par for the course in this segment. The starting price for the cheapest 911 possible is a $100,550, and it only goes north from there in rapid fashion. Lesser trim Jaguar F-Types match up more favorably priced to cheaper Porsches like the 718 Cayman coupe and Boxster convertible, but once you get into V8 F-Type R territory, the 911 is a better match up. Mercedes-Benz AMG GT coupe starts at $116,895 for the least expensive model but easily matches the Jag in style, cachet, and sheer outrageousness. And of course, we'd be remiss in not mentioning the sports car bargain of the century here, the newest Chevrolet Corvette, the mid-engine C8 stingray. It's significantly undercuts every other player here in price but still brings its astonishing mix of supercar styling, everyday usability, available luxury trimmings, and trackable fun to the party. The changes made to the 2021 Jaguar F-Type have only furthered the coupe's desirability, in my opinion, enhancing its style and presence while maintaining its excellent sporting performance chops and providing an eminently viable alternative to the Porsche 911. If you'd like to learn more about the fresh and 21 Jaguar F-Type, you can look everything up on cars.com.