2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible Road Test Review
February 10 2019, Trevor Hofmann
A lot of sports car for a lot less money
I think we can all agree the Jaguar F-Type is one of the most stunningly beautiful sports cars to ever grace the planet, a reality that would be reason enough to make it one of the most popular cars in its luxury segment. Just the same there’s a great deal more to the F-Type’s success than jaw-dropping bodywork, from its lightweight aluminum construction that aids performance, supported by a wide variety of formidable powertrain options, to its luxuriously appointed, high-quality interior, few rivals come close to measuring up to the its styling, performance or value proposition.
True, it might seem odd to be speaking of value with respect to a near-exotic sports car, but the F-Type, which was already an excellent buy throughout its initial four years of availability, became an even better deal when Jaguar installed its new in-house Ingenium 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine under its long, elegant hood last year. While the potent turbocharged and direct-injected engine makes a very healthy 296 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, it provides a considerable economical edge over its V6- and V8-powered counterparts and all competitors, while a significantly reduced base price of $69,500 doesn’t hurt matters either.
That’s nearly a $10k advantage over the 2017 F-Type’s base price, which has resulted in a much more attainable point of entry and a whole new opportunity for Jaguar. In fact, the new F-Type P300 Coupe and Convertible instantly became prime 718 Cayman and Boxster competitors, whereas pricier more powerful F-Type trims, which include the 340 horsepower supercharged 3.0-litre V6 in base form, 380 horsepower supercharged 3.0-litre V6 with both base and R-Dynamic cars, 550 horsepower supercharged 5.0-litre V8 in R guise, and 575 horsepower version of the latter V8 in top-tier SVR trim for 2019, plus rear or all-wheel drive and six-speed manual or quick-shifting paddle-shift actuated eight-speed automatic transmissions, continue to fight it out with the Porsche 911 and others in the premium sports car segment, including plenty that cost hundreds of thousands more.
New 296 horsepower turbo-four out-muscles most competitors
The model driven for this review, however, is the 2019 F-Type P300, which starts off $3,000 higher in $72,500 Convertible form. With close to 300 horsepower of lightweight turbocharged four-cylinder cradled between the front struts it should provide more than enough performance for plenty of sports car enthusiasts, especially when considering that key competitors like Audi, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Alfa Romeo don’t offer anywhere near as much output from their entry-level four-cylinder sports models, with 220 horsepower for the TT, 241 for the SLC, 241 for the (2018) Z4, and 237 for the 4C, while F-Type P300 numbers line up right alongside Porsche’s dynamic duo that are good for 300 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque apiece.
If you’re questioning whether the F-Type P300’s accelerative forces will match up your need for speed, it can sprint from 0 to 100km/h in just 5.7 seconds before attaining a terminal velocity of 250 km/h, and believe me it feels even quicker with Dynamic sport mode engaged and its available active sport exhaust switched on. Jaguar makes its eight-speed Quickshift automatic standard in this rear-wheel driven model, with the steering wheel paddle assisted gearbox delivering ultra-fast shifts that combine with the amazingly agile chassis to produce a wonderfully engaging seat-of-the-pants driving experience.
Aluminum-intensive construction yields better performance
The lightweight, ultra-stiff bonded and riveted aluminum body structure noted at the beginning of this review certainly isn’t the least expensive way to build a car, but results in brilliant handling no matter the corner the F-Type is being hurled into. The rigidity of the monocoque allows Jaguar to dial out some of the suspension firmness that challengers are limited to in order to manage similar cornering speeds, which allows this svelte two-seater to be as compliant over choppy pavement as it’s enjoyable to drive fast. Specific to the P300, less mass over the front wheels from the mid-mounted four-cylinder aids steering ease while minimizing potential understeer, making this one of the most evenly balanced sports cars I’ve driven in a very long time.
My tester’s $2,550 optional Pirelli P-Zero ZR20s on glossy black split-spoke alloys only increased grip over the standard 18s, hooking up effortlessly after just that little bit of wheel slip only a rear-driven car can deliver when pushed hard through sharp corners. What an absolute delight this car is.
Beautiful interior is roomy, comfortable and practical
Truly, it would be difficult not to admire how incredibly well the F-Type performs when driven hard despite how effortlessly enjoyable it is in every circumstance. Even around town, where more exotic cars can often be a tiresome workout, the F-Type is totally content to whisk driver and passenger away in quiet comfort. It helps that its interior is finished so nicely, with high-grade soft-touch composite or leather surfacing most everywhere that’s not covered in something even nicer, the cabin accented in elegant satin-finish aluminum and sporty red contrast stitching throughout.
My tester’s Windsor leather covered driver’s seat was multi-adjustable and plenty supportive too, while the leather-wrapped multi-function sport steering wheel provided enough rake and reach to ideally fit my long-legged, short-torso five-foot-eight frame resulting in an ideal driving position that maximized comfort and control. I’m sure larger, taller folk would fit in ideally as well, thanks to plenty of fore and aft seat travel plus ample headroom when the tri-layer Thinsulate filled fabric top is powered into place, a process that takes just 12 seconds at speeds of up to 50 km/h no matter whether raising or lowering.
Doing the latter doesn’t infringe on trunk space, incidentally, which measures 200 litres, or enough room for a weekend’s getaway for two. If you want more I’d recommend the F-Type Coupe that has one of the largest cargo compartments in the luxury sports car class at 308 litres with the cargo cover in place or 408 litres when it’s removed.
Jaguar increases the standard F-Type touchscreen to 10 inches
Back in the driver’s seat, Jaguar provides a classic dual-dial analogue gauge cluster centered by a sizeable colour TFT multi-information display, which is wholly appropriate for a sports car that focuses on performance.
Big news for 2019 is the addition of a two-inch larger 10-inch Touch Pro infotainment display, which replaces the old 8.0-inch centre touchscreen. Its increased size makes for a more modern look, while it’s certainly easier to make out obstacles on the reverse camera. The larger screen benefits all functions, with the navigation system’s map more appealing and a lot easier to pinch and swipe.
Standard F-Type features provide a premium experience
The standard audio system is from Meridian and makes 380 watts for very good sound quality, while additional standard features include pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, automatic climate control, powered seats, and leather upholstery on the inside, plus LED headlights with LED signature lighting, rear parking sensors, a power retractable rear spoiler, and more on the outside.
The Windsor leather and contrast stitching noted earlier came as part of a $2,250 interior upgrade package that improves the upholstery overtop special performance seats while finishing the top of the instrument panel, console and door trim in the same Windsor leather for a thoroughly luxurious experience, while my tester’s heated steering wheel and heated seat cushions came as part of a $1,530 Climate pack, with an extra $300 adding ventilated seats to the mix if you prefer, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration was added for an additional $300.
Lastly, proximity-sensing keyless access made entering and exiting more convenient for $620, heatable auto-dimming side mirrors with memory made nighttime travel easier on the eyes for just $210, as did automatic high beams for oncoming traffic at $260, whereas blind spot assist might have definitely proved worthwhile at $500, as would front parking sensors at $290, while the aforementioned switchable active exhaust system was well worth the investment at just $260.
An ideal balance of performance and efficiency
Sports cars might be mostly about performance, but Jaguar is rightly proud of the F-Type P300’s fuel economy too, with both Coupe and as-tested Convertible achieving a 10.2 L/100km city, 7.8 highway and 9.2 combined rating, which beats all Porsche 718 and 911 variants by a long shot, not to mention hybrid sports cars like Acura’s new NSX.
F-Type efficiency is still quite good when moving up through the aforementioned trims, with the more potent V6 totally reasonable at 11.9 L/100km city, 8.5 highway and 10.4 combined when mated to the automatic. This engine allows for a six-speed manual too, which isn’t quite as praiseworthy at the pump with a 14.9, 9.8 and 12.6 respective rating, but is still lighter on fuel than some of the competitors mentioned earlier, and as wonderfully engaging as performance cars get.
Yes, the Jaguar F-Type is much more about rousing the senses via visual stimulation when parked and endorphin releasing on-road acrobatics when active than anything practical. Of course, 296 horsepower won’t excite to the same levels as 550 or 575, but let’s not forget the value proposition mentioned earlier, and the F-Type P300’s true purpose of making each day more enjoyable without breaking the bank. It’s an affordable exotic that’s as true to tradition as the “Growler” emblem on its grille and wheel caps and “Leaper” atop its rear deck lid. Lightweight, high-revving, powerful fun, I’m a fan.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.