Missing the Marque: Jaguar F-Type

It was greeted with euphoria, but the excitement quickly faded.

2014 Jaguar F-Type R Coupé. Image: andoniscars

The arrival of the Jaguar E-Type in 1961 was a true landmark in automotive history. Its extraordinary styling, lightweight construction, towering performance(1) and relatively affordable price made it unique, to the extent that it might have come from another planet rather than the English West Midlands. Enzo Ferrari described it as “the most beautiful car ever made” and, even sixty years later, it is still revered.

The problem with icons is that they are difficult to improve upon and even more difficult to replace. During its fourteen-year lifespan, the E-type sadly became rather corpulent and somewhat vulgar. The great Elvis Presley never owned an E-Type, which is rather a shame as the car would have complemented him perfectly at every stage in his career. The slim and lithe 3.8-litre Series 1 would have suited the snake-hipped young Elvis, fit and fresh after his military service, while the 5.3-litre V12 Series 3, with its flared wheel arches and abundance of brightwork, would have been ideal in the Vegas years.

In any event, when it came to replace the E-Type, Jaguar sidestepped the challenge with the 1975 XJ-S. The new model was no longer a sports car, but a fully-fledged grand tourer. In fairness to Jaguar, this was what the E-type had evolved into anyway, so it was not the conceptual leap that some portrayed it to be at the time. Concerns about a possible US ban on open-topped cars on safety grounds meant that a full convertible version was not planned and did not arrive until 1988(2).

During its long twenty-one year lifespan, the XJS(3) became increasingly luxurious and highly specified. This trend continued with its successors, the first and second generation XK8 coupé and convertible, which were large grand tourers, much better suited to fast highways than sinuous back roads.

There remained, however, a demand to recapture the spirit of the original E-type in a new Jaguar sports car, inevitably dubbed the F-Type by the expectant, or at least hopeful, motoring press. Jaguar first developed an F-Type concept in 1986 under the project codes XJ41 and XJ42 for the coupé and convertible respectively. When Ford acquired Jaguar in 1989, these projects were cancelled because redesigning the XJ40 to become the X300 was a much greater priority. Instead, Jaguar undertook a major reworking and updating of the XJS, which was introduced in 1991.

Another F-Type concept followed in 2000, a smaller two-seat speedster designed to compete with the Porsche Boxster, but this was also canned by Ford because of concerns about the financial viability of the project. Another concept, the C-X16, was unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show in 2011. This was, in reality, a thinly disguised version of what would be the production F-Type Coupé which, together with a convertible version, was in development under the project code X152.

The production car was unveiled in convertible form at the Paris motor show in October 2012 before going on sale in early 2013. The coupé followed just over a year later. It was unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November 2013 and went on sale in the spring of 2014.

2013 Jaguar F-Type Convertible. Image: autocarsblitz

The C-X16 concept had robbed the F-Type of its shock value, but Ian Callum’s design was still lauded as a very handsome contemporary reinterpretation of the E-Type’s styling cues. Jaguar was insistent that the F-type was a true sports car and pointed to its strict two-seater configuration and overall length, 323mm (12¾”) shorter than the XK8, to make its case. What the company didn’t mention was that it was actually wider than the XK8 by 31mm (1¼”).

The engine range consisted of two supercharged 3-litre V6 units, producing 335bhp (250kW) in the standard model and 375bhp (280kW) in the S version. A range-topping 5-litre V8 with the option of four-wheel drive was also offered. Transmission was via an eight-speed automatic or six-speed manual gearbox.

Rather than competing directly with the Porsche Boxster and Cayman, Jaguar pitched the F-type into what it perceived to be a gap in the market between the higher specification Boxster / Cayman and entry-level 911 models. Whether this was always the intention, or the result of some upward creep of the X152 project in both size and price is a moot point. In any event, Jaguar was keen to point out that the V6 S convertible was around £10k cheaper than a 911 convertible, while failing to mention that it was roughly the same amount more expensive than a Boxster S.

Autocar Magazine tested the F-Type convertible in V6 S form at launch in April 2013 and was predictably excited about the new car. However, reviewer Matt Prior did, to his credit, put aside the hype and flag up some early reservations: “One: it’s no more practical than a Boxster but looks, at its base price, quite a lot lumpier. Two: it rides, it glides. It’s an excellent motorway companion, in fact, running beautifully straight and secure at speed. But sometimes, on twistier roads, I think I fear the body control is a little loose. This is a heavier car than some of those around it and there’s a touch of slack in the body movements over crests.”

2013 Jaguar F-Type Convertible interior.

As one of many captivated by the beautiful styling, I took the plunge in the spring of 2016 and sold my 987-generation Boxster for a year-old F-Type convertible, in white with dark grey 20” alloy wheels. My test drive was mainly on fast A-roads, where the car felt very much at home. I knew that, unlike the Boxster, the car’s boot space was very limited(4) but practicality was not high on my list of priorities.

The deal was done, and I was free to get acquainted with my new car. First impressions were very positive. It appeared to be beautifully built, on the outside at least. Inside, the impression was less convincing. The minor controls lacked the heft and precision of those on the Boxster. In particular, the electric window switches looked like they came straight out of a budget city car and the indicator stalk felt and sounded the same. There were some poorly finished and fitting items of trim, notably in the centre console around the automatic transmission selector.

None of this would have mattered however, if the car was satisfying to drive. Unfortunately, when I first took it out on my favourite B-roads, I realised I had made a big mistake. The width of the car was 122mm (4¾”) greater than the Boxster and, coupled with a low seating position and high waistline, this made it much more difficult to place on the road with confidence. It just felt big and unwieldy, and passing oncoming traffic was a nerve-wracking experience. At speed on open roads, there was noticeably more buffeting with the top down and wind-noise with the top up than I remembered from my Boxster.

Far from finding a niche between the Boxster and 911, the F-Type was neither fish nor fowl. It was not accommodating and refined enough to be a true grand tourer, nor was it small and wieldy enough to be a proper sports car. Even in the US market, where the F-Type’s excessive girth should have been a non-issue, it failed to connect with its potential customers.

Regarding the width, at 1,923mm (75¾”) the F-Type is between 43 and 115mm (1¾” and 4 ½”) wider than any 911, even the Turbo model. It is also, model for model, roughly the same weight as the 911, suggesting that the F-Type’s aluminium-intensive architecture is neither space-efficient nor beneficial in terms of weight.

2020 Jaguar F-Type Coupé. Image: wall.alphacoders.com

In April 2017, Jaguar extended the F-Type’s range downwards with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine producing 296bhp (221kW). This was intended to allow the car to compete more directly with the Boxster and Cayman. The F-Type received one major overhaul in December 2019, when it was given a new front end with slim horizontal headlamps replacing the distinctive swept back original items, a questionable change. At the same time, the supercharged V6 engine was dropped from all markets except the US.

Here are the European and US sales data for the F-Type since launch:

Year Europe U.S.
2013 2,750 2,250
2014 4,641 4,112
2015 4,557 4,629
2016 4,541 4,069
2017 4,538 4,108
2018 4,122 2,268
2019 3,252 2,279
2020 2,713 1,200
2021 2,217(5) 2,212

Total F-Type sales over nine years in these two key markets was 60,458(6) units. By way of comparison, around 221,000 Porsche 911 and 112,000 Boxster / Cayman models were sold over the same period. The comparison might be unfair as the Boxster and Cayman started at a significantly lower entry price than the F-Type, but even against the more expensive 911 alone, the F-Type has fallen way short. Neither the 2.0-litre engine nor the facelift appear to have had any meaningful positive effect on sales.

It is a great shame that the F-Type, despite its arresting good looks, has failed to connect with potential buyers in anything like the sort of numbers that would justify its development, or indeed that of a replacement model. It may well prove to be Jaguar’s last sports car.

So, what happened to my F-Type? After two months, I acknowledged my mistake and traded it in against a 2015 981-generation Boxster, chastened but rather wiser from the experience.

 

(1) Still hugely impressive, even if the claimed 150mph (242km/h) top speed was a product of wishful thinking rather than rigorous testing.

(2) The XJ-SC cabriolet version with the fixed side windows and rollover hoop was launched in 1983.

(3) The XJ-S was renamed XJS when it received a major facelift in 1991.

(4) Long and wide, but very shallow, perfect for carrying the Mona Lisa in her frame, but little else.

(5) Excluding December 2021 figure, not yet published.

(6) Sales data from http://www.carsalesbase.com.

Author: Daniel O'Callaghan

Shut-line obsessive...Hates rudeness, loves biscuits.

35 thoughts on “Missing the Marque: Jaguar F-Type”

  1. Thanks for another great article. The F-Type is a car I wanted to like, but like with most modern Jags I was put off by the prospect of having to put up with the niggling faults.
    As for the excessive width, they really are taking the mickey… go look at the figures for the the F-Pace and I-Pace: over 2m wide with folded mirrors! You can park them in a garage but you’ll have to get out of the sunroof.
    Keep up the good works guys.

    1. Good morning Andrew. You’re absolutely right about the excessive width of modern cars. My garage door is 2.5m wide, but it opens directly onto the public footpath and the narrowness of the road means you cannot approach it ‘square’. Getting the F-Type into the garage was a nerve-wracking experience!

  2. Good morning Daniel,
    Thank you for this and especially your personal insight on the (brief) ownership of an F Type as compared to the Boxster. Unless it is pointed out in person or by a photograph, it is not always easy to see how unwieldy and large today’s supposedly compact sportscars have become since what most would call the golden age:

    Is the F Type just bulky and inelegant by comparison , or the E Type especially low, tiny and impractically cramped? Probably a bit of both. I’ve never been inside an F type but the series 1 E Type coupé from a friend I rode in a couple of times was on the “cosy” side in terms of head-, leg and hiproom even though I am of decidedly average size.

    1. Good morning Bruno. The interior was spacious enough, but I never felt fully comfortable in it. I’m 5’11” (180cm) tall, but long-legged and short in the body, and I always felt I was sitting too low in the, with limited vision in all directions.

    2. Bruno, it’s not just people that get obese. your photo proves it. Here’s another one. No one would call a Twingo a big car. That is as long as it’s not parked next to the original Mini.

    3. It’s hard to tell if the drivers are comparable size, but the E-Type driver looks to have his eyeline barely under the sun visor/windscreen frame, while the side window sill of the F-Type is above the driver’s shoulder. That is common for many cars today, I’ve noticed it on some smaller SUVs for example.

      The F-Type is slightly shorter than the XK it replaced, but I’m not sure it is any lighter though!

      As for the F-Type, it’s a pretty rare sight in Australia; at some point during 2021 it would have crossed the 1000 cumulative sales mark since launch (haven’t seen 2022 figures yet)

  3. “What the company didn’t mention was that it was actually wider than the XK8 by 31mm (1¼”).” That´s a good thing for stability, I understand. The photo of the E-type and the F-Type shows other dimensions got out of control. The same could be said for every other similar car. This is why a Suzuki Cappucino is probably more fun than anything bigger and more recent. There remains the Mazda MX-5 though. Do Jaguar and Porsche customers even consider the MX-5 though?

    1. Good morning Richard. Good for stability, certainly, but I’m sure there’s a optimal width, with rapidly diminishing returns thereafter, and I think the F-Type is firmly in that territory.

      Speaking of Suzuki, there was an Ignis parked outside our apartment building in Tenerife and I had my first opportunity properly to appreciate it in the metal. It’s really a delightful little thing and really looked like it would be fun to drive:

      Thank you for sharing this link to another Suzuki model, the S-Presso (a brilliant name!) with me:

      https://www.globalsuzuki.com/automobile/lineup/s-presso/

      It’s like a (further) miniaturized Ignis, but those tiny wheels, although very sensible, make it look a bit top-heavy.

    2. The S-Presso is a little tall. I don´t mind that because it cheered me up. It looks like intelligent industrial design with a personality to it. I really applaud that and also its entirely non-aggressive character. I notice the interior colour are a bit conventional though. I wish they´d sell more of their K-cars here. The Italians would really appreciate them, I think. Their European portfolio has too many badge engineered cars and some more exclusive models would be welcome.

    3. I have driven XK 120, and XK e types in 70s, and now drive a low miles 2014 F type s 5.0 supercharged, as well as an XJL 2011, also a 5.0 s. The F type s beats its share of Lambos on the highways here in Colorado, there are a lot here. I even beat one cocky Lamborghini driver while transporting a tray of deviled eggs on the passenger seat, and another in the foot well. Needless to say, I wasn’t quite as aggressive as I could have been; he watched me get small in front of him three times, (persistent, but no match) before I held up the eggs to beg him off. I also drive the car with abandon on twisty mountain roads, I live just south of 7000 feet, ( 2133 meters). I have a track ALFA, have had a few, and am well aware of how a car should handle on the edge. The F type could benefit from lighter wheels, better tires, far less sound deadening material, (it is very quiet with the top up), light battery. I am 6’3”, 250 lbs, and the car would benefit from a lighter drive. One could easily remove 150 lbs.

    4. Good morning Doug. Welcome to DTW and thanks for sharing your experience of the F-Type. I’m pleased to read that you’re enjoying yours and can easily imagine that it works much better on US roads, especially in 5.0-litre form.

  4. The F-Type was and remains a really good looking car. Not stunning or particularly original or gorgeous, but very handsome all the same.

    I think the main error was in the product portfolio planning. I always thought it was too close in size and spec to the XK and (I can’t prove this) always likely to steal sales from that car more than Porsche or anyone else. This initial suspicion was given weight when the XK then disappeared without replacement a few years after the F-Type was introduced. In other words, the F-Type really was/ is in a market niche labelled ‘nomansland’ – too large and heavy to be a proper sports car and too small and not premium enough to be a GT.

    The range never really developed either. The 4-cylinder turbo is a deeply unexciting unit. The facelift gave the car different but not enhancing details. The new i-6 engines now used by LR/RR don’t fit and so the V6s were dropped. They never fitted a diesel, for which I applaud the purity of thought, but, they could well have sold a few in the earlier part of the last decade at least judging by what MB and BMW achieved in their GT cars.

    I can’t see the business case working for a replacement either and sincerely doubt it’s on Bollores priority list.

  5. You could say the same about the Toyota GT-86 as an exciting car the public ignored. It´s probably not odd that I quite like both the F-Type and the GT86.
    Autoexpress gave the Toyota four of five possible stars. The engine was “slightly gutless” and it had nice handling, nice steering and didn´t cost a lot.

  6. Yeah, loved the F-Pace design first time I saw it on the streets – was in one of my: “If I get rich and stupid” lists of things to never come to pass. Didn’t notice its width as much until stated on this wonderful expose/review – got me on to my old grumpy stance/rhetoric of cars nowadays being too wide for their own good – never would I, want any car that cannot easily fit on narrow roads…Have a feeling that Lotus has sort of, maybe shied away on this trend? [thinking Elise here].

  7. The F-Type does nothing for me. It’s kind of good looking, but somehow it’s design never felt right to me.

    And it’s not without faults either. Car manufacturers can hide the weight of some cars pretty well these days, but not here apparently. I have never driven one, so I can’t confirm. I sat in both coupé and convertible in the showroom and noticed the driving postion. It’s bad, Porsche does this so much better with the 718, BMW with the Z4. For the bad driving position alone I would never own one. Maybe you can call it character, I don’t know.

    There is one living in my hood these days:

  8. – Same width as the 928, but heavier (no surprise). But can you believe it is heavier than the XF? Check this please, I hardly can believe it myself.

    – I despise the steering wheel. Let me get that out of the way. When I saw center pad bobbing to and fro like a pendulum do, I wanted to tear it off and re-attach it properly. Distracting and nauseating.

    – Then there’s this:

    …which probably doesn’t warrant further comment.

    – But what do you mean the Ingenium straight six doesn’t fit?!
    (I thought to myself as I recalled how FCA managed to re-engineer the Quattroporte V midstream so it could switch from a rear transaxle to a conventionally situated auto transmission, because I always ask myself when a potentially great car becomes botched: What would Sergio have done?)

    1. Hi gooddog. That engine is a fine example of ‘value engineering’ and it filled the underbonnet space very nicely! The ‘spare’ cylinder also provided a handy cupholder/ashtray for mechanics doing a strip-down on the engine.

      Not sure what’s wrong with the steering wheel boss, but the little buttons on the spokes were cheap looking, ‘sticky’ and flimsy. The radio volume control on mine only worked intermittently.

    2. Hi Daniel, your sense of humor is admirable in the face of your misadventure. Real Jaguars are pretty cheap now (to buy), assuming one could maintain it, true love is so precious and rare, especially for an inanimate object.

    3. Interestingly enough, they filled up the three cylinders (per bank) up-front, thus moving the center of gravity to the wrong side

    4. Hi gooddog. The flip from the F-Type to the Boxster cost me £1k in cash at the time, but I also incurred a notional £5k loss (The difference between the values of the two cars when I did the flip). However, such is the strength of residual values of late six-cylinder Boxsters that mine is now worth more than the F-Type would be, so doing the flip was the right thing to do from a financial as well as practical (I use that word advisedly!) perspective.

      That said, I’m still notionally £6k worse off than I would be if I had bought the Boxster in the first place…😭

    5. Daniel, If your life experience was enriched in the process, it was probably worth the opportunity cost.

      As Adrian and Charles have mentioned the Alpine below, I did a quick check to verify that it seems to depreciate at a slower rate than the Boxster does (yes, it seems, but surprisingly, the Cayman beats all). It’s a bit disappointing then that the recently departed Lotus Evora does not appear on this particular list.

      https://www.whatcar.com/news/the-10-slowest-depreciating-cars-2021/n17098

      In light of examining the upper-mid priced sports car market more carefully, I am now rooting even harder for TVR to actually build their car, there may be room for it to thrive at the low volumes one might expect. Estimated price: just north of 100K.

  9. If the ‘golden ratio’ for wheelbase versus track is 1.6 (debatable) then the F-Type is spot-on (103 inches / 63 inches, approx). That’s not to say it isn’t too wide in absolute terms, though. I still I think they’re very nice looking cars – I like to see them, but I’m happy not to own one. I had a colleague who considered one of these and cross-shopped it against an XK8 and a Porsche; he bought the Porsche.

    I love the S-Presso – thank you for the link, Richard & Daniel.

  10. It would be interesting to see an Alpine next to an F Type for comparison. I very much like the whole ethos of less being more with the Alpine, though haven’t seen one in the flesh yet. I suspect it would be my “lottery car”.

    1. Here’s a comparison test. The Alpine looks stunning; it’s about 20 cms shorter and narrower and about 10 cms lower.

    2. Wow, 20cms narrower, that’s 8″ in old money, which is hugely significant in driveability terms on narrower roads.

      Thanks for posting the video, Charles.

    3. I’d never really consider the F-Type and Alpine A110 to be competitors, but this test was interesting nonetheless.

      In Australia, the A110, F-Type and 718 are prices more or less similar, but with the carbon dioxide depend tax system here the results are very different: the A110 starts at € 68,990, the 718 at € 92,200 and the F-Type at € 101,641. Not only does the F-Type weigh 50% more, but it costs 50% more as well.

      I’ve seen the A110 on a couple of occasions. I’ve seen all the colors (excluding the new orange and Atelier variaties) and all different trim levels. I would go for the base spec: the base seats are better than the GT-seats, at least for my posture. You sit relatively upright and with no backrest adjustment, it might be an acquired taste, but it gave my posture a perfect driving position. The fixed back also make a big difference in how you register all that goes on when driving, it makes you feel more connected to the car.

      Downsides for the A-110 are the interior and I find the styling a little fussy, there’s too much going on on too little surface. It’s also not very practical. And the 718 does so many things so well, but one can’t ignore the A110 and at this price point it’s one of my favorite cars on sale today (the 718 being one of the few others).

  11. This site needs a health warning: ‘May cause extensive research, ownership fantasies and unrealistic financial calculations about desirable vehicles’.

  12. I know it’s all in the eye of the beholder, but oh dear….. Brrruno’s rear view shot says it all. From that angle the F-type is a cartoon car and straight out of Zany Afternoons. And Freerk is spot on with his observations on current crop common corpulence.

    But to put that 2m width into perspective: the (UK, EU & most of the world) maximum exterior width for trucks and buses (PCVs) is 2.55m, across which is accommodated, in a PCV, two pairs of individual seats with a gangway in between….

    Thanks for the S-Presso; the return of the Wagon-R?

    1. Good morning Phil, and thanks for your comment. Would you like to elaborate, or offer an alternative perspective, which would be very welcome here?

  13. I own the V8 R Coupe version , and I would make the following comments . Firstly apart from an O2 sensor replaced under warranty its been faultless engine wise . If I were to make a criticism then its that the interior does’nt feel special enough that said everything you would expect to be there is there . I always find that People who have never owned the car are always quick to jump in more often that not posting adverse comments , of course its a proper Sportscar and would comfortably outpace anything BMW have to offer and many of the Porsches . Tyre wise its infinitely better on Michelins than the standard fitment Pirellis and I personally prefer the second version as opposed to the first or the latest Model . I have previously owned an X150 and fail to see how the F Type stole sales from it or led to its demise . They are two completely different vehicles aimed at completely different types of buyer . The F Type at least in V8R form is a far more uncompromising vehicle both in the way it drives and the accommodation it provides whilst the XK is a capable GT and in my opinion better than the DB9 which I have also owned . I would go as far as to say that the F Type and the X150 are the only stand out Jaguars in terms of styling since the original E Type . As regards the dimensions of the F Type it does’nt feel wide nor ungainly on the road , aesthetically viewed especially from the rear and over both wheel arches it looks both purposeful and curvaceous in fact all that you would expect from a Jaguar Sportscar . It seems to me that its become trendy to applaud any sort of rubbish as long as its German . I wont defend the fact that Jaguar now seems intent on becoming a manufacturer of shopping trolleys and I sadly accept that the F Type may indeed be the last Jaguar Sportscar . If so its going out on a highpoint because in my view the F Type V8R is a worthy successor to all the greats that have gone before .

    1. Good morning Reddiesel. Welcome to DTW and thank you for sharing your experience of the F-Type with us. We always welcome alternative perspectives and it’s great to hear that you are so happy with your car.

      I wrote the piece from the perspective of someone who owned an F-Type, albeit briefly. I loved the looks of the car and really wanted it to work for me, so was very sorry that it didn’t. Unfortunately, the sales numbers tell their own story: the F-Type simply hasn’t been the success we hoped it would be and the prospects for a successor must be bleak.

      If you explore our archive, you will see that we are great supporters of underdogs such as Alfa Romeo, Lancia and Jaguar and bemoan the market dominance of the German premium trio. The lack of genuine variety that has resulted from this hegemony is really lamentable. We desperately want Jaguar and Alfa Romeo to succeed, and would love to see a revival of Lancia to return some real variety and colour to the European automotive landscape.

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