Halo cars for their respective brands, the Jaguar F-Type and BMW 8 Series represent the best their brands have to offer. But how to they compare?
Part of what you pay for with a luxury sports car is the country club cachet of owning a car with a fancy European badge on it. The soft leather, copious carbon fiber, aggressively large wheels, and that overweening sense of superiority are all just accoutrements to the real reason you buy a car like the 2021 Jaguar F-Type or 2021 BMW 8 Series, and that is the raucous, invigorating driving experience. Both of these cars deliver the luxury experience you’d expect from their price tags, but more importantly they provide all the thrills that separate them from the merely luxurious and elevate them to something truly special.
For any sane person looking for a sane yet well-equipped sports car, they Jaguar F-Type and BMW 8 Series deliver amply powered 6-cylinder models. But sane isn’t why you look to these cars; each up the ante with their own 500-plus horsepower offerings that properly position them at the apex of their respective lineups.
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The Jaguar F-Type actually offers three engine options. The base P300 model runs a 2.0L 4-cylinder that makes 296hp and 295lb.-ft. of torque along with standard rear-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission. The P380 features a 3.0L V6 with 380hp and 339lb.-ft. of torque. The eight-speed is the same but now a rear-biased AWD system replaces the RWD. The pinnacle for the F-Type is the R with its supercharged 5.0L V8 making 575hp and 516lb.-ft. of torque. AWD and the eight-speed automatic come along for the ride here, too.
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The BMW 8 Series starts with the 840i and its 3.0L turbocharged I-6 with 335hp and 368lb.-ft. of torque. Here too, the base model is the only one available with RWD. Next up is the M850i and its 4.4L twin-turbo V8 that puts down 523hp and 553lb.-ft. of torque, also paired with the same eight-speed automatic as the six-cylinder. The tip-top M8 Gran Coupe starts with 600hp and adds another 17hp with the Competition Package.
Depending on what kind of driving experience you’re looking for, the Jaguar F-Type and BMW 8 Series offer a clear choice. Both are more powerful than is purely necessary (and in about equal measure), but their deployment of that power differs enough to make choosing between them a bit easier.
The Jaguar F-Type received some updates from last year’s model, including a new anti-roll bar as well as revised springs and active dampers. The result is a more composed ride with tight cornering that’s decently athletic while not quite as scalpel sharp as the likes of the Porsche 911. And the traction control is there as a safety net in case things get squirrelly on you. The real show for the F-Type is still straight off the line. A zero to 60 time of 3.5 seconds for the F-Type R only tells part of story. The 5.0L delivers power with alacrity and turbo lag is virtually nonexistent. The eight-speed automatic is perfectly paired, and shifts are smooth. The AWD system’s rearward bias decently mimics a RWD set up with the added stability thrown in. Best of all though is the sound of the F-Type. This beast roars with the best of them and that aural experience matches perfectly with the barely tamed driving characteristics.
The BMW 8 Series equipped with the 4.4L twin-turbo is nearly as quick as the F-Type with a zero to 60 time of 3.6 seconds. Its own eight-speed is very responsive and eager to upshift. Steering is a bit on the vague side as road feel from the tires is muted. And yet we appreciated the accuracy and heft to the steering. There’s very little body roll in the composed 8 Series. A sense of control pervades (that is until you turn off the traction control). Like the Jag, the 8 Series offers a good rumble to let the neighbors know you’re packing some serious horsepower, but its note is not nearly as distinctive. Even if you’re not opting for the four-door Gran Coupe, the 8 Series is a proper GT car first and foremost, smooth sailing with a whole team of Clydesdales waiting under that throttle.
The Jaguar F-Type received a slight update to the front end including a new, less Jaguar-like headlights. This lends a slightly Miata-like squint to the face of the F-Type which you may find refreshing or derivative. Unfortunately, the interior of the F-Type isn’t as ambitious in this refresh as the exterior. Materials are high quality, however, with soft touch plastics and leather cushioning every touchpoint. Like the Miata, the F-Type is stingy when it comes to storage space but makes up for it with a decently sized trunk at 14.4cu. ft. Seats are well bolstered and hold you in place without being too stiff or taxing on long drives.
As the standard-bearer for brand, the BMW 8 Series offers a smartly appointed and well executed interior space. Materials are, like the Jaguar’s, of a high quality but the design is clearly a step above. Touches like the crystal shifter pile on the luxury vibes. The seats are great here too, with snug bolstering and available 14-way power adjustments for the driver. Storage is more generous in the 8 Series with ample cargo in the center console and side pockets. A quiet cabin rounds out the GT experience in the 8 Series.
Standard features include a 10-inch infotainment touchscreen, 10-speaker stereo, 12.3-inch digital gauge display, remote start, keyless entry and push-button start. LED headlights. Options include a panoramic moonroof, dual-zone climate control, power liftgate, heated seats and steering wheel.
Adds the V6 engine, AWD, larger front brakes, and a limited-slip differential.
Adds the V8 engine, larger brakes and proximity keyless entry.
Standard Safety includes lane keep assist, rearview camera, automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, and front and rear parking sensors. Safety options include blind spot monitoring, hands-free parking assist, and rear cross traffic alerts. Notably absent is an option for adaptive cruise control.
Sport exhaust, leather seats, heated steering wheel, front seats, and arm rests, LED headlights with automatic high beams, HUD, 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, keyless entry, push-button start, 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen.
Adds a soft top retractable roof and a 12-speaker Harman Kardon stereo (which can be further upgraded to an excellent Bowers & Wilkins stereo system).
Adds four-doors, panoramic moonroof, and a power trunk lid.
20-inch alloy wheels, upgrades to the brakes, differential, and suspension, rear wheel steering, and rear spoiler.
Standard Safety includes adaptive cruise control, rear parking sensors, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking. Safety options include automatic high beams, blind spot monitoring, pedestrian detection, traffic jam assist, and driver fatigue warning.
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The choice between the Jaguar F-Type and the BMW 8 Series is largely one of personality. The 8 Series is a great GT car in whatever form you choose, coupe, convertible, or four-door. It’s smooth and powerful and calm, perfect for a long cross-country road trip. The F-Type, by contrast, is a rowdy one with an engine note to match all that unbridled enthusiasm under the hood. For our money, we’d pick the Jaguar just for being the more distinctive of the two. While the 8 Series is great at what it does, there are plenty of other cars that do the GT thing as or nearly as well. The F-Type has the advantage of hewing closer to what we feel in our bones is a distinctly “Jaguar” experience. That is, slightly unnerving power and killer good looks combined into a tight, athletic package.
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