It’s no secret that Jaguar sees its future as all-electric. The British brand says it will not introduce any new vehicles after 2025 that are not purely electric.
But while Jaguar moves ahead, it’s also taking a moment to look back – back on 75 years of sports car development that began with the now-legendary XK 120, established itself with the glorious E-type, and then culminated a decade ago in the sleek and sultry F-Type. Now, that two-seater is in its last year of production and it will be the last gas-powered sports car Jaguar will ever make. No pressure.
The F-Type had plenty of options over the years, including stick-shift transmissions and V6s (and even an underpowered inline-four), but for 2024, its final year of production, the choices are simple: a supercharged, 5-litre V8 that makes 444 horsepower, or the same engine tweaked and tuned to make 575 horsepower. Also, a convertible roadster or a hard-top coupe. Other countries have the option of front-wheel- or all-wheel drive, but Canadians only get AWD. Better for the winter, even if the top’s down.
The most basic F-Type 75 has an MSRP of $109,300 but it’s hardly basic. Five-spoke glossy black 20-inch wheels, and quad exhausts that change their volume and crackle with the press of a button; an interior finished in impeccable leather and suede; variable dampers that adapt the ride for both speed and comfort.
For this last swing of the cat, the 75th Anniversary car has a few changes to its chassis that are designed to improve the responsive feel of the steering: the wheel bearings are a little larger and the rear knuckles are now made from lightweight aluminum. The more powerful edition also has redesigned upper ball joints that increase the camber and the toe stiffness.
Whether any of these are actually an improvement is almost impossible to tell on a test drive of public roads, but the car certainly feels planted around the corners. Sometimes, perhaps, it seems a little too planted – its torque-vectoring applies the brakes to individual spinning wheels to maintain traction instead of sending more power to the ones that still have grip, as other cars can achieve with electronic differentials. The Jag doesn’t seem as lightly flickable as its 911 or Boxster competition from Porsche, but there’s no lack of power to pull away from the curve, and the eight-speed transmission is superb.
The price goes up to more than $130,000 for the more powerful car, known as the R 75. It’s not obvious from the outside that it’s the quicker edition, with a hefty 516 pound-feet of torque that slams it from zero-to-100 km/h in a claimed 3.7 seconds. The tires are a little wider though, and they’re mounted on 10-spoke 20-inch wheels.
It all makes for great bragging rights, but the extra power is a bit overkill, to be honest. I drove both versions on the same twisting highways in northern Spain and had just as much fun with the regular F-Type 75, which was a convertible, as with the R 75 coupe. The smaller engine, however, was fitted under the hood of a European-spec car with rear-wheel drive, and the vehicle felt a little more agile. Or perhaps it was the top-down pleasure of the less-powerful roadster on a warm and sunny day that made the difference. I’d be happy with either car, but I’d also be quite satisfied with the 427 lb-ft and 4.6 seconds of the sprint that the less expensive edition offers.
The F-Type was refreshed for the 2020 model year, with a new instrument cluster, slimmer lights at the front and back, and a larger “clamshell” hood. None of that has changed with this 75th anniversary car, though it does carry some discreet badging on the centre console and tread plates. There’s also a new colour, Giola Green, which is exclusive to the 75 Edition and a little shinier than the British Racing Green that’s optional on the 2023 vehicle.
There’s more that can be done to make the F-Type an even better car – there’s always more, with state-of-the-art software and driver’s assistance and lighter weight and quicker response – but that will probably come with whatever all-electric car takes its place in 2025. In any case, a car like this should not be perfect. It should have its foibles, including a few rattles here and there, that help to give it character. Such personality is expected in a quarter-million-dollar Ferrari or Lamborghini, after all, and the Jaguar is no different.
So bring on the electric sports car, for the new generation of drivers. For those of us who appreciate heritage and character, let us still enjoy the crackle from the F-Type’s pipes for a few years yet, at least.