Some might say that a car as pretty as the Jaguar F-Type probably didn’t need facelifting. Although the X152 was said to be based upon a shortened XK platform, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the proportions and detailing of this beautiful sports car. But the industry never stands still and, even if you’re a carmaker in the enviable position of selling one of the best-looking new cars in the world, you can’t rest on your laurels and leave things unchanged – in the case of the Jaguar F-Type, that’s a real pity… but that’s where we came in.
So, for 2020, Jaguar’s halo (and only) sports car gets a fresh new look, which thankfully doesn’t change too much. According to Jaguar, the main purpose of the 2020 facelift was to introduce a more ‘assertive’ look while introducing a raft of technical changes, as well as a higher-quality interior. Hardly radical stuff, but important tweaking in an era when cars are defined, and ultimately aged, by their driver-assistance tech and infotainment.
There’s good news. At the top of the range, there two 5.0-litre supercharged V8s to choose from – one new one with 444bhp, and the old range-topping 567bhp version. The range has been simplified with the 567bhp versions available in four-wheel-drive form only, and in the most dynamic R specification. Performance is up there, and all most people will ever need on the road – 0-60mph in 3.5 seconds and on to a maximum speed of 186mph.
The 444bhp version isn’t far behind. For most people, its 4.4 second 0-60mph time and maximum speed of 177mph will be more than enough. You want one of these, and it’ll either come in the entry-level trim guise or R-Dynamic. I do like the fact that they’re making the V8 version work so hard in an era that’s very much into downsizing. Yes, there’s an entry-level 2.0-litre turbocharged Ingenium four-cylinder version producing 296bhp, but it’s still quick with a 0-60mph time of 5.4 seconds and a maximum speed is 155mph. It’s also rear-wheel drive only. It’s refreshing, and very much in keeping with the F-Type’s sporting ethos in a world that’s rapidly becoming overrun by SUVs. So, this is all good, yes? We’ll come to the why in a moment…
New stuff isn’t exactly in abundance here. There’s a new ‘quiet mode’ for the new active exhaust systems on the V8 models (no bad thing when you’re leaving early) to help prevent neighbourhood disturbances when owners leave home early or arrive late. Inside, it’s a case of incremental updates with higher-quality materials, and a more competitive 12.3-inch digital screen for the driver and a Range Rover-style 10-inch Touch Pro infotainment system in the centre console – on this score, Jaguar is catching up with its rivals.
The other good news is the F-Type’s styling has been modernised without being changed radically. The main change is at the front, where it gets a new, shapelier, bonnet new bumpers and striking new headlights. It’s here where the mods are the most apparent, because the slimmer LED headlights are now horizontal, rather than vertical, and are framed by new daytime-running lights. They appear to make the car look markedly wider, although the reality is that it is the same size as before.
Does this front-end treatment look better? No, it doesn’t. But it does look more striking and gives the car more attitude and road presence, with its less delicate front end and wider grille. This reflects an industry direction towards more aggressive-looking cars – which doesn’t do this car any favours at all. The old F-Type might have made lots of noise through its exhausts, but it sure as hell didn’t look like it would want to kick sand in your face and steal your beer money, whereas this one does.
So, why the ‘why‘? Well, the best model in the old range has gone. The V6 supercharged model is no more, dropped because that engine is being supplanted by the lower-powered V8, and the new straight-six Ingenium engine won’t fit without a massive internal rejig that the low sales of the F-Type simply wouldn’t justify. Although Jaguar says the 444bhp V8 has it covered, I’m not so sure – the V6 was beautifully balanced, and seemed to be the optimum model. The four-cylinder F-Type, of course, has the balance, but no matter how hard it tries, it simply doesn’t have the soundtrack. The F-Type is also now automatic-only, which will no doubt upset those who like to shuffle their own gears.
Despite that, I’m glad we still have the F-Type, and Jaguar seems to be backing it. Accountants might question its continued existence when the SUVs and I-Pace are doing all the business, but that’s to miss the point. Now we have an F, it would be a shame to lose it, allowing it to whither on the vine. I’m old enough to remember Jaguar post the E-type and, although the XJ-S was a fine thing, what it didn’t have was the E’s sporting image. So, we don’t want to go back to the days of Jaguar not having a sports car at all.
No matter what it costs…