by Roger Biermann
With the exception of the fire-breathing SVR, the Jaguar F-Type R Convertible is the most potent open-top Jaguar money can buy, with a voracious 5.0-liter supercharged V8 snarling beneath the hood and a wicked 550 horsepower bite to back it up. But unlike the F-Type's early years, the R has been muzzled, the power now laid to the tarmac through four tires instead of two, albeit by means of a rear-biased AWD system. As the successor, in both name and spirit, to the Jaguar E-Type, the F-Type lives up to its promise of stunning looks and smashing performance, and in the open-top version, you get to feel the wind in your hair at 186 mph. But competition at this level is tough. The V8 behind the R badge elevates the F-Type out of competition with the Porsche 718 Boxster and BMW Z4 and into the realm of the Porsche 911 and Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster. This could prove to be problematic for the F-Type, as its bones date back to 2013 while rivals are fresher, fiercer, and not ready to be laid to waste by the old-timer.
The F-Type has been with us since late in 2013, which means it's likely nearing expiration. That hasn't prevented Jaguar from keeping things fresh, and for 2019 they've upgraded the infotainment system with a larger touchscreen and improved graphics. Beyond this, safety has been bolstered with automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assist, which is now standard.
The F-Type succeeds the car Enzo Ferrari regarded as "the most beautiful car ever made", the E-Type, despite nearly 40 years separating the two. That means there are big boots to fill, but Ian Callum was up to the task when he penned the utterly gorgeous F-Type's lines and bulges. It boasts typical roadster proportions - a front-hinged clamshell hood, a short rear overhang, and a power-folding soft-top roof. LED headlights and taillights are standard with LED signature daytime running lights. 20-inch alloy wheels fill the arches, while the signature of the R and the V8 engine behind it is the distinct set of outboard-mounted quad exhaust tips.
A poky cabin is hidden by sizable exterior proportions, with the F-Type R Convertible measuring 176.5 inches in length and 75.7 inches wide without the wing mirrors. Beneath the sheet metal is a 103.2-inch wheelbase as is the standard across the F-Type range. Also standard is the F-Type Convertible's height, which - at 51.5 inches - is a tenth of an inch shorter than the coupe. The F-Type R Convertible does, however, stand a little taller at the nose, with the engine raised to accommodate the driven front axle. Despite much aluminum in its construction, the F-Type R Convertible is a porky fellow, with a curb weight of 3,847 pounds, adding just 33 lbs to the Coupe's curb weight.
The base four-pot and V6 engines may get the job done well enough in lesser F-Types, but neither of those motors truly captures the F-Type's British brutality the same way the R's 5.0-liter supercharged V8 heart does. Developing 550 horsepower and 502 lb-ft of torque, power is sent through an eight-speed automatic gearbox to a rear-biased all-wheel-drive system by GKN Automotive. The system is rear-wheel-drive under regular conditions, apportioning torque to the front end only when a loss of traction occurs at the rear. That's easier than you might think, though, as, despite 295-section rubber at the rear, the supercharged torque arrives with neck-snapping urgency after throttle prompts - there ain't no turbo-lag here. Launch from a standstill and the F-Type R Convertible will fly past 60 mph in 3.9 seconds on its way to a top speed of 186 mph. Along the way, the ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic gearbox slips quickly and seamlessly through the gears, while it'll cling onto the highest possible gear when the time comes to corner - a tool at the driver's beck and call, rather than a misguided eco-warrior.
All-wheel-drive systems are typically the antithesis to a joyful, puristic driving experience, but thanks to the F-Type R's rear-biased system a level of purity still remains intact. It'll tread the line between balance and oversteer politely, reining things in when you get beyond your limits. It's all too easy to do, though, as the F-Type begs to be driven brutally fast. Turn-in is sharp and precise but doesn't communicate to the same extent that the old hydraulic system did. Still, it's reliable and the responses consistent, enveloping the driver wholly in the act of pursuing an apex.
Body roll is minimal, but the price to pay is a harsh ride that lacks the fluidity found in a Porsche 911. The heavy engine over the front axle crashes over bumps, and while secondary abrasions are handled by the dampers adequately, you still feel each and every ripple. Not aiding the big Jag's refinement is the lack of insulation from outside noises. Tire roar and wind noise permeate the cabin, even on glass-smooth surfaces, assaulting occupants in an unpleasant manner that not even the V8's roar can abate.
With the loss of its roof, the F-Type R Convertible makes a slight sacrifice in terms of gas mileage, with the EPA claiming estimates of 15/23/18 mpg city/highway/combined compared to the Coupe's 16/24/18 mpg. The gas tank remains the same as the tin-top at 18.5 gallons in capacity, giving the R Convertible a range of around 333 miles in mixed conditions. Hypermiling is a futile effort, though, as the intoxicating shriek of the V8 is often too hard to resist.
From the outside, the F-Type doesn't look too compact, but inside the cabin, it's a truly cramped affair. Strictly a two-seater, the F-Type doesn't provide much leeway for taller or broader occupants; climbing in and out is an exercise of flexibility, and the driver will regularly be craning their neck to see around the sizable blind spots incurred with the roof in place. Ingress and egress are made easier with the roof stowed away, as is visibility, but the footwells are still relatively slender, and the Windsor leather-upholstered power 12-way seats are better suited to narrower occupants.
Perhaps the greatest sacrifice made at the altar of style and wind-in-your-hair thrills, is trunk space, as the F-Type R Convertible finds itself at a 50% loss compared to the closed-roof coupe. From 14.4 cubic feet in the coupe, the convertible offers up just 7.3 cubes of storage capacity, which is reduced to 5.3 should you opt for the space-saver spare wheel option. Interior storage isn't much better, to be honest, with a couple of cupholders, a center console storage bin, slender door pockets, and a relatively small glovebox making up the bulk of the small-item storage nooks.
Decent, not exceptional - that's the easiest way to describe the F-Type's standard list of equipment, as in R Convertible form you'll find automatic LED headlights, automatic windscreen wipers, keyless entry, a power-folding soft-top roof, and a rearview camera as standard exterior fare. Auto-dimming mirrors, 12-way power-adjustable seats with available heating and ventilation, a power-adjustable steering wheel with available heating, cruise control, single-zone climate control, and ambient interior lighting round out the interior features list. Where Jaguar has made an immense effort to improve the value-for-money proposition of the F-Type is with the list of driver aids. Included for the R as standard are front and rear park sensors, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, traffic sign recognition, and automatic emergency braking, while park assist and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert are available options.
Fortunately, 2019 has seen Jaguar upgrade the infotainment offering. Previously low-rent in appearance, the new ten-inch Touch Pro infotainment system boasts higher-quality graphics and a larger screen. There's standard AM/FM/HD/SiriusXM radio functionality, Bluetooth, onboard navigation, and a range of connected apps. But there's no sign of Android Auto or Apple CarPlay - a crucial oversight in a world dominated by smartphone integration. Audio is sent through a standard 380-watt Meridian sound system with ten speakers, while buyers can opt for a 12-speaker Meridian system with a 770-watt output. Despite its size, the Touch Pro system is lacking significant functionality and isn't the most intuitive infotainment system around.
2019 has seen two recalls for the F-Type range; one for an incorrect tire placard label with misleading tire size information, and the second for a more serious issue in which a crankshaft pulley bolt may fracture leading to engine failure. These are just the latest in a pattern of two recalls a year for the F-Type, but at least there's peace of mind to be found in Jaguar's Elitecare service - a five-year/60,000-mile warranty and roadside assistance package is included, along with complimentary scheduled maintenance cover for the same duration.
As is the norm for low-volume sports cars, neither the NHTSA nor IIHS has performed crash testing on the F-Type. The F-Type R Convertible is equipped with four standard airbags (dual front and front side) along with a standard high-performance braking system and drive modes for multiple surfaces. More advanced safety systems comprise front and rear parking sensors, lane keep assist, traffic sign recognition, and automatic emergency braking, while blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and park assist are available options.
A sports car is a purchase made on emotion rather than rationale, and Jaguar has capitalized on this notion to the maximum with the F-Type R Convertible. Achingly beautiful bodywork, the wind in your hair, fluid handling dynamics, and a screaming supercharged V8 that could wake the dead and send the devil running for the hills - it's the perfect sports car recipe. Those attributes are almost enough to make you forget about the incredibly cramped accommodation, lack of smartphone integration, harsh ride, and substandard levels of refinement and insulation. Almost, but not quite. These are all glaring faults in an aging package that has come up against more contemporary rivals covering all the bases in a much better fashion. We sure wouldn't fault you for buying the F-Type R Convertible, but if we're honest, the Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster boasts all the same thrills but with more forgivable drawbacks. But then again, who are we to dictate your emotions? Isn't falling in love all about finding perfection in an imperfect package?
Playing prince to the F-Type SVR, the 2019 F-Type R Convertible carries a price tag equally as royal, breaking the six-figure barrier at $103,850 excluding options, tax, licensing, registration, and a destination charge of $1,025. That places it $22,000 short of the SVR, an easily overcome deficit when you start adding options like the $12,240 Carbon Ceramic Brake Package, $3,980 Carbon Fiber Exterior Package, $1,635 Climate Package 2 with heated and ventilated seats and a heated steering wheel, and the $2,550 Extended Windsor Leather Interior Package.
5.0-liter Supercharged V8 Gas
The first question that needs answering is if you should buy an F-Type R Convertible at all? We'd be certifiably insane if we said you shouldn't at least consider it above its V6-powered siblings, but as a standalone model, the conundrum then comes down to how to spec it. We'd spec ours with the $255 Black Exterior Package for the black-out styling elements, the $1,380 Climate Package 1 for heated seats, dual-zone climate control, and a heated steering wheel, and we'd make sure we include the available blind-spot monitoring system as well. These options push the price up minimally, but keep the overall cost of the R Convertible below $110,000.
The SVR badge adorns the most hardcore sporting icons from the Jaguar stable, and the F-Type SVR Convertible is no different. Making use of the same basic running gear as the F-Type R, its power is dialed up by 25 hp, torque by 14 lb-ft, and the 0-60 mph time slashed by 0.4 seconds. It also rides firmer with a more performance-focused suspension setup, and the Inconel exhaust system screams even louder. You could even argue that the SVR looks like more of a badass with ultra-aggressive aerodynamic tweaks to improve performance. In the coupe, all that adds up to a lot, but in convertible guise, the F-Type already loses a little of its seriousness, and the incremental difference in performance doesn't justify the additional $22,000 the SVR will cost you over the regular R. The smart money says you should just buy the R, and we agree.
For circa $100,000 you can either have the finest British sports car this side of an Aston Martin, or you could have America's hungriest top-down track monster - the Corvette Z06 - in its most expensive 3LZ trim. You'd find a number of similarities between them as well - both brutally quick, both front-engined, and both with sweet V8 soundtracks complementing the mayhem that ensues. But that's about where the similarities end. The Z06 draws 100 hp and 148 lb-ft more from its supercharged 6.2-liter V8, and sends that power solely to the rear wheels. More than this, Chevrolet is crazy enough to offer buyers a manual gearbox, too. The Z06 is devastating in a straight line and just as accomplished when the road begins to twist, leaving the Jaguar for dead in both areas. But the Jaguar is more luxurious - the material quality feeling vastly superior to the somewhat cheap-feeling Corvette. The Chevy has better infotainment though, and a longer list of features, and for the performance, its price is an incredible bargain. We couldn't fault you for purchasing either, but if outright performance is what you're after, you can't beat the 'Vette.