Jaguar F-Type Convertible Review: The Head-Turner

Photo credits: Francesco Carlo for Lovecars © 2018

When I asked to test the F-Type SVR, the Jaguar Italia press office told me there was only the P300 model available; at first I was a bit disappointed because I really wanted to tame that mighty V8 beast however, after having spent almost 5000km on the road across Italy with the youngest member of the sportscar family, I can truly say that even in the less powerful guise it still is an F-Type through and through.

Exterior

The F-Type was introduced back in 2013, originally as a convertible and then as a coupè. Five years later it still looks modern and jaw-droppingly beautiful, especially after the recent restyling undertaken by the design department in Coventry, which gave a meaner appearance to the British feline. It also gained full LED headlights which are not just cooler to look at but also better for safety.

My test car is finished in a very metallic Indus Silver with contrasting black soft top. The wheels are optional 20″ double 6-spoke diamond-cut which go really well with the bright paint. In contrast to that the car features the extended black carbon pack used on mirror caps, side air vents and roll-bars. Being the R-Dynamic trim, this F-Type boasts a sportier front and rear bumpers, as well as more prominent sideskirts; all these elements together make the car appear even wider and lower.

The long bonnet, the steeply raked windscreen and the short tail are the key elements of the F-Type’s slim and muscular look, emphasized by the pop-up spoiler at the back and the big squared exhaust pipe. My favourite detail though has to be the disappearing door handles.

Interior

Starting at just €69k the P300 is the cheapest model in the F-Type range however, this doesn’t mean that the overall quality has been adjusted downwards. The whole interior is upholstered in fine Windsor Ebony leather with contrast Siena Tan stitching on the lower part of the cabin to avoid annoying reflections on the windscreen. Perforated bucket-style seats are optional, they’re not just immensely cool to stare at but offer vast amount of comfort and support when driving fast, moreover, they’re heated and ventilated and completely adjustable via the dedicated buttons on the door cards.

The center console is reminiscent  of a waterfall, flanked by a big handle for the passenger to hold on to when going fast through corners. It gathers the InControl Touch Pro ‘s 10″ touchscreen and all the controls such as the gear selector, the buttons to open and close the roof, to disable the traction control, to open the exhaust valves and the climate knobs. The dashboard features and old-school layout with the two big speedometer and rev counter clusters featuring our beloved needles, and a small onboard computer display sitting between them.

Steering wheel’s dimension is spot on, the vertical spokes host the majority of the controls to operate the infotainment and behind them sit the fixed flappy paddles; speaking of which, I think they could be slightly bigger and made of a more premium material like those on the SVR.

In the cabin there’s plenty of room even for tall people. Storage isn’t great; two shallow cupholders are complemented by a small centre console storage box which features two USB sockets and an SD card reader, and door bins that can’t hold more than a medium bottle of water.

As seen on the exterior with door handles, the interior features a moving element too: the central air vents come out only when the air conditioning is on, giving a clean and smart look to the upper fascia.

The InControl Touch Pro infotainment found in the F-Type is in its latest iteration, it’s no technology wonder but does the job, is quite smooth and responsive. Connecting the phone via bluetooth is a piece of cake and the rear-camera definition is better than I expected. Ambient lighting can be controlled by the same screen and set to several different hues.

Specs

With the 2.0L turbo inline-four beating under the massive front bonnet, the P300 is the less powerful F-Type of the range but also the lightest. This unit produces 300hp and 400 N/m of torque, good for a 0-100 time of 5,7 seconds and a top speed of 250km/h.

As most of the people, I was skeptical about the decision of putting this powertrain in an iconic car like the F-Type however, I was proven wrong. The engine is a little jewel engineered and built entirely by Jaguar; it features all-aluminum construction and state-of-the-art solutions like the exhaust manifold integrated into the cylinder head casting, twin-scroll turbochargers with ceramic ball-bearings to reduce friction and a high flow compressor wheel for better performance. 

The engine is mated to the well-acclaimed ZF 8-speed gearbox which needs no introduction. At the four corners we find ventilated steel disks with massive red calipers, fixed spring rate suspension and Pirelli Pzero tyres.

Driving Impressions

Behind the wheel the car doesn’t feel underpowered, at the end of the day it looses only 40hp compared to the base V6 but more importantly it’s 52kg lighter at the front. The engine has a good chunk of torque from really low revs which makes it really enjoyable in day-to-day driving, but is also capable of stretching itself out to 7000rpm if you wish. Not long ago I had the opportunity to test the 380hp V6 Coupe variant for 3 days and compared to that, the P300 is more focused and way lighter on its feet, it feels more sportscar and less of a refined grand tourer.

If you think that with the adoption of the turbocharged unit the F-Type loses the soundtrack it has always been known for then you’re wrong, I’m sorry. From 2000rpm the engine has a raspy metallic voice with an explosive crescendo up to the redline, made even more enjoyable by the absence of the roof and all the pops and crackles on the overrun, I can’t help but love them!

Pootling around quickly reveals the F-type’s weighty steering and a suspension setup tweaked for handling more than comfort. The ride is firm, but not harsh; you feel most bumps in the road but the car tries its best to round off the edges.

There are 3 drive settings: Wet/SnowNormal and Dynamic. Flicking the switch into Dynamic shows the untamed nature of the F-Type by making the throttle response spikier, sharpening the eight-speed auto’s changes, adding a tad more heft to the steering and turning the ambient lighting to vivid red. Even though the car is not a feather weight tipping the scale just over 1500kg, the brakes keep up well without showing fatigue.

Verdict

In conclusion, the F-Type P300 Convertible is a capable sportscar with a stunning look; every single person turns his head and stares at you, whether is with admiration or envy.

The car offers very good comfort for its occupants: with the roof down there isn’t much wind buffeting, even when traveling at speeds up to 100/120 km/h; having a chat with the passenger or listening to the music coming through the excellent Meridian audio system is no concern. With the soft top up, sound insulation is really close to the coupè variant.

Fuel economy is ok. I once did 800km of motorway driving on a single 68 liters tank and even managed to give the car back with an average consumption of 9,3 liters per 100km, lower than the 11,7 shown by the onboard computer when i collected it. However, if you find yourself on nice countryside roads and your foot is quite heavy expect unsurprising worse range.

The F-Type is a nice daily-driver thanks to the smoothness of the powertrain and the good visibility it offers with the roof down, speaking of which, I find very convenient the option to raise/lower it even when driving up to 50km/h.

I have only one complaint about the car: the boot is not that big and irregularly shaped, but that’s sort of expected being a convertible; one should be able to fit decent amount of luggages as long as they’re soft bags though.

Then there’s the price: even though my test car with all the optionals was €95k the base model starts at €69k; I wouldn’t be surprised if many would opt for the base 340hp V6 version instead of this P300 since there are just €10k between them, but then you have to take into account substantially higher running costs for a not so dramatically different overall experience.

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Francesco Carlo

Automotive photographer based in Florence. If he's not behind the camera, you'll find him on a roadtrip at the wheel of a supercar.