|Vehicle: 2023 Jaguar F-Type P450 R-Dynamic AWD Convertible
|Starting Price: $87,200 MSRP (as tested: $91,770)
|Pros: Luscious V8 rumble, true driver’s car, reasonable pricing
|Cons: Tall drivers need not apply, laughable trunk space, dated infotainment system
Driving Jaguar’s F-Type Convertible feels like sitting behind the wheel of the sunset of an era. It’s cliché, but it’s true.
Two-door, sub-supercar sports cars are just not what the 2023 consumer wants, and as such, there are incredibly few remaining new examples of one of the purest forms of gas-propelled driving. Case in point, 2024 will be the final year for the F-Type. Truth be told, it’s not entirely practical anymore, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun.
Understanding the appeal of the F-Type requires a look back at the history of the storied British brand, going far, far back to the iconic E-Type, which this car draws a direct design line from and still inspires awe in enthusiasts decades later. There’s room for a driver, a companion, a day bag — and that’s about it. That means few distractions, full attention and the ability to enjoy whatever the open road has in store.
There are few places better to embrace all of that than California’s Central Coast, around Monterey and Santa Cruz, where I spent a few days holding onto this last bastion of British motorsport engineering.
Immerse Yourself in V8 Sound
Easily one of the best things the F-Type has going for it is the rumble of its 5.0-liter V8 with 444 horsepower quickly picking up its sub-4,000-pound mass. A mash of the accelerator offers a delightful crackle that only a well-built, supercharged engine can provide, and it’s even more gleeful as you glide by slower traffic on the freeway. It’s a bit jerky in stop and go on the streets, but some gentle acclimation to the torque remedies the problem for the most part.
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I can only imagine how the R75 trim’s 575-horsepower core carries this cat, but for today, my mid-level P450 R-Dynamic AWD tester still has plenty of pep and does just fine. Out on the countryside, the F-Type excels, sticking to turns and taking it all in stride, especially with the top down and letting the California sun fill every nook and cranny of the quaint cockpit.
Convertible operation has come a long way, taking just the press and hold of one button to open up the sky, then return the roof when you’re ready to do so. Tall drivers may need the top down permanently as even my mid-five-foot frame had only a couple of inches of head space available with the roof latched. As for driving modes, you get your choice of three — Normal, Snow and Sport –— and I spent most of my time in the first, which was plenty capable. Sport elevates everything there is to like about the driving experience, and I’m still a bit baffled on who exactly would have a two-seater convertible as their primary driver in inclement weather.
Timeless in Driving and Design, Dated Elsewhere
The crossroads faced by Jaguar are no clearer than in the interior and infotainment system, both of which are dated, especially for an as-tested $91,770 sports car. Materials are acceptable, but you can certainly do better with a BMW or Mercedes, and the infotainment controls are from a clunkier, Windows 10 era. The faux-carbon plating on a portion of the dash felt less than luxe, especially when emblazoned with the Jaguar logo and nameplate.
I also wasn’t thrilled with the standard Meridian audio system, which sounded oddly cavernous in such tight quarters and with no real precision whether on satellite radio or streaming through Apple CarPlay. Granted, you’re not really here to blast music with such gorgeous audio coming from the hood in front of you, but still, at this price point, there is some expectation.
As with most two-seaters, you’re tucked nicely into the sport seats. There are enough controls to help you get situated and report decent visibility. It only takes pulling up alongside any modern pickup truck to understand how close to the ground you are and how small your footprint is — so much so, you’ll likely have a laugh where SUVs and larger trucks dominate the landscape.
The End of the Road
The pure experience offered by the F-Type will stay in the wake of the brand’s future. Not only is Jaguar Land Rover splitting into four different brand houses (all under the same group), but Jaguar is essentially starting over, going all-electric with a new four-door GT next year along with an update of the I-PACE electric SUV.
As the brand pushes into EVs, there’s simply not room for a gas-powered F-Type. It’s a limited-capacity vehicle in a limited-capacity market and the volume just isn’t there. Perhaps in the future there could be a battery-powered two-seater, but that doesn’t seem to drive the numbers for a brand trying to reinvent itself in the near-term.
Will the F-Type become a collector’s car? Or go by the depreciated wayside that so many other Jags are enduring? Only time will tell, but perhaps even a decade from now, it will plant itself as a reminder of the pure thrill of a two-seater sports car. The most well-crafted EVs will have the F-Type beat on torque and punchiness off the gate, but here’s to hoping that the lived experience of a reachable two-seater on the open road doesn’t become a relic as well.
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