Jaguar F-Type VS Lexus RC
- Natural handling
- Punchy engine
- Fun to drive
- No reversing camera
- Some absurd options
- Small boot
- Smooth, effortless V6
- Better looking than before
- Tweaked chassis feels good
- Useless rear seats
There's an old automotive saying that says “only milk and juice comes in two litres”, but that’s not the case anymore. Now, you can get liquid fun in a 2.0-litre mechanical package, too.
That’s because of cars like this, the new 2018 Jaguar F-Type, which has seen the addition of a new four-cylinder engine that still packs plenty of power and torque, is lighter than its big-engine siblings, and – perhaps best of all – in base model guise, is more affordable than any F-Type to date.
Sounds promising, huh? Well, there are some really convincing parts to this car – but also some things that are downright questionable.
Allow me to explain…
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It's 2019 and the Lexus RC has been with us for four years which means it's time for a mid(ish)-life update. A glance at the specifications and tech details for its very low-key, late 2018 arrival suggests not much has changed. And let's be fair, it hasn't.
The mild refresh has brought a few changes in spec (in the right direction), price (the wrong direction, but few things are free in this life), and styling (you be the judge).
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The 2018 Jaguar F-Type in four-cylinder spec is a very intriguing option in the sports car segment.
It’s clearly not without its faults, but the entry-grade engine offers a thought-provoking alternative to the pricier supercharged V6 and V8 versions.
Would you consider a four-cylinder Jaguar F-Type? Let us know in the comments section below.
The RC's time on my drive was preceded by a cheaper, V8-powered Mustang, so it was fascinating to compare the Japanese approach to the American. They're not really competitors, obviously, but the Lexus' ability to cosset the driver while still showing a good turn of speed was an interesting counterpoint.
The 2019 RC350 isn't a step-change - if you want one of those, double your money and get the delightfully nutty RC F - but the changes inside, outside and underneath will certainly please the fans even if it doesn't bring in new ones in huge numbers.
Does anyone still even notice luxury coupes? If you do, is Lexus even on the radar?
The most interesting thing about the F-Type four-cylinder model is that it’s almost indistinguishable as being the most affordable version in the range.
I mean, unless you know that the trapezoidal central tailpipe is the only real giveaway (and the noise that comes out of it, for that matter!), you’d be hard-pressed to notice a difference. That’s because most F-Type buyers add heaps of styling options.
For instance, the cars we drove at the launch of the new model were all the R-Dynamic version, which exchanges the newly developed 18-inch light alloy wheels for bigger, heavier 19s. And then—why not?—those 19s were changed again for a different looking set of 19s, but still wore Pirelli P-Zero tyres.
It still sits low and looks mean, and the newly added LED headlights with LED daytime running lights are quite fetching, even if their addition has meant the front-end looks less cat-like than before.
It’s still a stunner, though – even more than four years after its launch.
As a whole, I've always thought the RC to be handsome, but the headlights - as on the IS - always made me wince a bit. There's too much going on, which is weird because the rest of the car is very easy on the eye.
As is common with a mid-life facelift, the work all happens at the front and rear. There's a revised bumper, tweaked mesh pattern in the spindle grille, and a much better looking set of headlights - with much cooler LED daytime running lights and headlights. They're still a bit much, but they're not jarring.
The rear is a little cleaner but I reckon it didn't need much work. Along with new wing mirrors from the gorgeous LC coupe and new wheel designs, it's a subtle update, but a good one.
Inside is little-changed, which is good and bad. A new brushed-aluminium dash inlay, a new (naff) analogue clock, and not a huge amount else. The switchgear has a lovely damped feel, nothing clicks or snaps and it really is very serene indeed. Few cars can match a Lexus interior for feel and touch.
Some of the design decisions are confusing, though. A rotary dial to change driving modes looks more like it should be used to control the media system, and the media system's touchpad is really annoying.
You don’t buy a Jaguar F-Type if you’re after the last word in practicality. It’s not a pragmatic purchase – but for its, er, type, it’s a reasonably practical space.
The F-Type still has some useful elements to the cockpit, including a decent centre console bin between the seats, a small mesh pocket above that, two cupholders, and a reasonable glove box. The door pockets have bottle holders, and a little extra storage besides.
As it has been made clear before, the F-Type has a boot that is almost small enough to rule out a long weekend trip, particularly in the convertible. The drop-top’s boot capacity is 196 litres, and is interfered with by a spare wheel, while the coupe has up to 407L of space (if you’re going beyond the parcel shelf; otherwise, it’s a 315L hold).
It’s purely a two-seater, so there are no top-tether or ISOFIX child-seat anchor points. If you’re particularly tall, you might find yourself a bit cramped.
Believe it or not, vanity mirrors are optional. I mean, I know the slimline visors are pretty hopeless, but sheeeeeeesh.
As ever, a sports coupe is the not the place to consider starting your DIY career, but front seat passengers luxuriate with plenty of space. A good-sized glove box joins two cupholders in the centre console which also has a decent-sized bin for hiding things, as well as a sensible place to put your phone (no wireless charging, sadly).
Rear seat passengers have very little space for their limbs or heads but at least the seats are comfortable. Two more cupholders back there, but really, nobody will use them.
The boot is a very useful 423 litres.
Price and features
The entry-grade F-Type four-cylinder models are priced at $107,012 for the coupe, while the convertible model adds $18,000 to the asking price ($125,712). Both are automatic – there’s no manual option.
To contextualise that, if you want the supercharged V6 engine instead, you’ll need to spend $126,212 for one with an automatic transmission (there’s a cheaper manual version, which is five grand less).
Standard equipment for the four-cylinder model includes new light alloy 18-inch wheels, LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, part-leather sports seats with electric adjustment, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, aluminium interior trim elements, keyless ignition and auto headlights/wipers.
A lot of premium brands are adding heaps of equipment to their cars to keep sales ticking over. Jaguar, though, continues to take buyers for a walk down to path to the old Ripoff Pool in terms of optional extras.
Believe it or not, Jaguar asks you to spend more for dual-zone climate control ($1040), keyless entry ($1200), and even a reversing camera. Yes – you read that right: a modern-day car company has the audacity to ask buyers to option a potentially life-saving reversing camera, and at a cost of $1080, too. Rear parking sensors are standard... which is something.
See the safety section below for more disgust on that.
If you’re looking at a Jaguar F-Type, other vehicles that could be on your shopping list include the Porsche 718 Boxster convertible and Porsche 718 Cayman coupe, the Alfa Romeo 4C and the Lotus Exige – all of which arguably have a harder edged sporting intent to them than this car.
While you can have an RC300 in the mid-sixties, the F Sport starts at $77,529, $200 extra than before. On the face of it, it doesn't look like amazing value, but get a Euro competitor and you'll be paying more.
You get 19-inch alloys, a 17-speaker stereo, four-wheel steering, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, active cruise control, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, sat nav, electric heated and ventilated front seats, leather everywhere, a limited-slip diff, variable ratio steering, adaptive dampers, keyless entry and start, and an improved safety package.
The 17-speaker stereo is a treat but the media system is not; controlled from the console by a touchpad, it's hard to use and a pain to navigate. It has Bluetooth and USB connectivity with terrific sound, but it requires patience to operate - which includes the time to get the required qualifications (okay, slight exaggeration). And there is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to take the edge off. Pity.
Engine & trans
The F-Type’s 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine is one of the more potent engines of this type out there, with a solid 221kW of power (at 5500rpm) and 400Nm of torque (from 1500-4500rpm).
It is only available in rear-wheel drive, and only with an eight-speed automatic with paddle-shifters. For reference, the supercharged V6 can be had with a six-speed manual and rear-drive, while the supercharged V8 is auto and all-wheel drive only.
Jaguar claims a 0-100km/h time of 5.7 seconds, which is sprightly, if not manic, and a top speed of 250km/h… not that you’ll ever find it in Australia.
The RC350 packs Lexus' creamy 3.5-litre, naturally aspirated V6, a step up from the RC300's turbo four-cylinder. Power remains at 232kW/380Nm, driving the rear wheels through an eight-speed torque-converted automatic.
The RC350 cracks the 0-100km/h sprint in 6.3 seconds, which isn't bad considering it's a hefty beast at over 1700kg.
The RC300's turbo four spins up 180kW and an impressive 350Nm if you're keen to save a few dollars upfront and on running costs.
Jaguar claims fuel consumption of 7.2 litres per 100 kilometres for the F-Type four-cylinder model, which is more frugal than the supercharged V6 and throbbing V8 models by some margin.
Over our loop, which involved a good stint of spirited driving, some freeway cruising and some Sydney traffic, we saw 9.9L/100km. I think that’s totally acceptable.
Lexus says the 350 will manage 9.1L/100km on the combined cycle but I scored a rather less convincing 12.8L/100km. Again, that's probably not bad considering its weight. The tricky dash display had me thinking it was an amazing 7.8L/100km, but it was km/L...
There is no stop-start, cylinder-on-demand or battery regen tech to save fuel - features its European rivals all have at least one of.
While I might have some serious qualms about the brand’s priorities in terms of specs and standard safety kit, there’s no doubt you get what you pay for in terms of performance.
Wait, you could read that the wrong way… I’m not saying that because you’re choosing the most affordable F-Type that you’re getting the most budget-feeling drive experience. This is still a truly sporty car – in fact, it’s more of a purist offering than the muscle monsters that are the supercharged V6 and V8 models.
That’s because it’s lighter, and it truly feels more agile than those cars.
With 52kg less weight to contend with, the four-cylinder is more pointable in corners, and that lower kerb weight makes for a natural driving experience.
In the gruntier models you can spend time trying to catch the car’s balance in the bends, but not in the four-cylinder – it has beautiful balance, holding a line very nicely. That’s enough you make it feel like you’re sewing a smooth ribbon through a series of corners, where in the V8 model you might end up making a zig-zag stitch. It goes well, and stops terrifically, too.
The ride is firm, but it’s a sports car, so that’s excusable. You will notice more of the bumps in the convertible, the body of which has been stiffened up to deal with the lack of a fixed roof. And while you will notice big lumps in the road, and you’ll hear and feel potholes, it’s never annoyingly uncomfortable.
After spending a few hours in the car, I think it’d be the ideal coastal cruiser… you just might have to make it a day trip rather than a weekend away because of that teeny-weeny boot.
If it were my money and I was set on a F-Type four-pot I’d buy the coupe, because it is more resolved on patchy road surfaces and has a bigger boot. If you want the wind in your hair, just wind down the windows.
As it has ever been, the RC350 is one smooth, smooth ride. Even the way the doors open is relaxing: swinging wide open like the hinges are made of butter, (except butter that doesn't melt or sag). Look, I'm trying to avoid saying smooth again.
Engine start-up is barely audible and while pottering about the engine remains just as subdued. It's up to the digital dashboard, with its instruments clustered into a single dial with a digital speedo, to let you know what's going on. Few cars outside of the Lexus stable are this relaxing to drive.
What I don't remember from the last time I drove an RC was all-wheel steering. Either I wasn't paying attention or Lexus snuck it in - but it really makes a difference. It's not as aggressive as, say, the bonkers RC F or Renault Sport Megane, it's just there to help bring the heavy car around. It also seems better sorted than the same system in the bigger LC500. And the steering's variable rack works well with it as a partner, too.
The RC's adaptive suspension is so good at what it does. It never over-tightens the suspension but does make a difference in Sport+. It's not really in the 350's nature to take it out for a good thrashing, but it's certainly capable - if held back a little by its portly kerb weight and soft brake pedal feel.
This is a hard criterion to score it against. There has never been a Jaguar F-Type flung against various objects at different speeds to ascertain a safety score, so we can’t give it a hat-tip for a strong ANCAP or EuroNCAP score.
And the lack of a standard-fit reversing camera is one of the most absurd things we’ve encountered in a high-end car for a bloody long time. But it's not unusual - you've got to pay for a reversing camera in a Porsche 718 Cayman or Boxster, too.
For what it’s worth, you can option the further safety of lane-keeping assist and driver fatigue monitoring. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are optional as well – you can get all of those bits in a pack, if you like, for the sum of $2210.
But honestly, a reversing camera being a $1080 option is simply disgusting on a car that has rearward vision as poor as this one does.
F-Types come with six airbags in the coupe and four in the convertible.
The RC comes with eight airbags (including knee bags), ABS, stability and traction controls, active bonnet, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, forward AEB and forward collision warning.
There are two top-tether restraints and two ISOFIX fittings in the back.
ANCAP has not tested the RC but it scored a 'Good' rating from the US IIHS test regime.
The standard warranty offered on the Jaguar range is three years/100,000km, and it includes roadside assist for that period. There’s the option of an extended warranty up to five years/200,000km in total, too.
The F-Type attracts Jaguar’s free servicing campaign – so, according to the company’s website, you won’t have to pay a single dollar for standard scheduled servicing over the first five years/130,000km. Maintenance is due every two years or 26,000km.
Unlike parent company Toyota, Lexus offers a four-year/100,000km warranty. Also unlike Toyota, you don't get an absurdly cheap deal on servicing, and there's with no capped-price regime. Lexus wants to see your car every 12 months or 15,000km.
To soften the blow of no capped-price servicing, Lexus will either give you a loan car or, even better, come and fetch your car from you before returning it vacuumed, washed, and serviced.
You also get a fairly comprehensive four years of roadside assist and a few other perks.