When the Jaguar F-Type first arrived it set the tone for the rebirth of the British brand, a prestige car maker keen to build on its sporting heritage and win new customers.
With almost-erotic good looks, and a choice of sonorous supercharged V6 and V8 engines the F-Type seemingly did everything right. So why on earth is Jaguar dropping a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine under the bonnet for 2018?
It’s being sensible, that’s what. Over time, sports car sales follow a downward curve, and with a few years under its belt already the F-Type is feeling the pinch of slackening sales. Now, with a cheaper entry level model the F-Type can appeal to a broader section of the market.
Vehicle Style: Prestige sports coupe and roadster
Price: $107,300 (coupe) 126,000 (roadster) plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 221kW/400Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol | 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.2 l/100km
The 221kW turbocharged 2.0-litre engine found under the long bonnet of the F-Type will, of course, be joined by more powerful V6 and V8 variants when it goes on sale in Australia, but at $107,300 plus on-road costs puts around $12,000 worth of breathing room between itself and the cheapest V6 model.
At first glance, the F-Type’s spec sheet, although hardly anemic, may not impress like the bigger engines in the range can, but put next to realistic competitors like the Porsche Boxster, which also takes its power from a 2.0-litre turbo engine, the F-Type musters one extra kilowatt and 20 more Newton Meters.
But if a four-cylinder F-Type tickles your fancy (or your budget) Jaguar hasn’t held back, with a choice of coupe and roadster body styles for the auto-only two seater, plus a full range of individualisation options though the British automakers extensive options list.
The F-Type four-cylinder, along with the rest of the 2018 F-Type range, comes in for a light interior revision headlined by new, thinner seats that free up extra space for taller drivers, and make the cabin a more comfortable place to stay.
Jaguar has also given the 8.0-inch infotainment system a going-over and added the ability to sync the system with your GoPro, allowing you to record on-track antics, or just keep a record of your most recent Chapel Street sojourn.
Choose the F-Type roadster and the folding fabric roof comes in black as standard, but for $950 you can add a red, grey, or beige roof. Coupe customers similarly can upgrade their lid to carbon fibre - at $5260 for the privilege.
The entire list of available options is utterly bewildering. Some stand as reasonable value, like the $340 upgrade to a flat-bottom steering wheel or $650 for a rear rear spoiler, but some beggar belief, like $1060 for a reversing camera that should be standard, ditto $1350 for seat heaters - reasonable equipment for a $100k car, surely, particularly when you can find those features and more in cheap and cheerful hatchbacks.
Jaguar’s R-Dynamic pack ($7800) is sure to be a popular addition thanks to its more visually menacing body kit, LED headlights, and sports exhaust, though the latter are available as stand-alone options for $270 and $2510 respectively.
The one thing that hasn’t changed is the roadster’s disappointing boot space. Although 11 litres larger than before thanks to the deletion of a spare tyre, the 207 litre space still limits long-range roadtrip ability thanks to luggage limitations. Maybe just pack light and head some place warm.
Four-cylinder buyers will find standard lightweight 18-inch wheels shod with 245mm front and 275mm rear tyres, upgradable with a choice of seven alloy wheel designs up to 20-inch rims finished with carbon fibre veneers for $8940.
ON THE ROAD
The all-important output stats see the most powerful version of Jaguar’s in-house Ingenium 2.0-litre engine generate 221kW at lowish 5500rpm with 400Nm of torque on tap from 1500 to 4500rpm.
Jaguar claims those outputs are enough to rush the four-cylinder F-Pace to 100km/h in 5.7 seconds and onto a top speed of 249km/h. Should you be concerned about environmental (or hip pocket) impact official fuel consumption is rated at of 7.2 l/100km.
The engine also features some thoroughly modern engineering: In place of conventional cam-operated valves, the Ingenium powertrain uses a new inlet camshaft arrangement that primes tiny hydraulic pumps atop each cylinder.
The system allows software-driven electric solenoids to control hydraulic pressure from the pumps to open and close valves resulting in constantly variable valve timing and lift throughout the rev range free from the physical limitations of a traditional mechanical arrangement. Jaguar claims the result is improved efficiency and response in a variety of driving conditions.
Giving the four-banger’s starter button a stab and the 2.0-litre motor springs to life with a hoarse bark from the car’s single central tailpipe. Prod the throttle and a deep, bass-heavy exhaust note sounds suspiciously digital.
Jump out of the driver’s seat and, sure enough, the four-cylinder Jag sounds flat from the outside confirming suspicions of auditory enhancement, something that Jaguar engineers admit under duress.
The system is quite similar to what you’ll find in a current-generation VW Golf GTI, and it’s nowhere near as visceral as what you’ll find in more expensive V6 or V8 F-Type models.
There’s still some emotional appeal to the soundtrack though, but it’s a different kind, filled with the brattish burps and crackles that typify a modern performance four-cylinder. Jaguar has also worked to minimise the traditional whooshing sounds of a turbo engine to appease buyers that can’t admit to the purchase of the ‘lesser’ engine.
The smaller engine also brings a decent 52 kilogram weight saving compared to its 250kW V6 sibling and as a result the new machine feels as though it doesn’t concede much ground to its bigger brother. With peak torque on tap from just 1500rpm, the baby Jag always has punch in reserve, powering between corners with plenty of gusto.
Paired to a ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic, the 2.0-litre F-Type successfully keeps itself in the fun zone when driven with verve, or the driver can take control through paddle shifters for a more engaging experience.
The lighter front end also results in improved steering feedback, not that the V6 models struggled much beforehand, but a recalibrated electric steering and slightly more forgiving front suspension make relay plenty of information to the driver’s fingertips, giving you plenty of confidence to push the car into corners.
Jaguar engineers took their inspiration from a somewhat surprising source, crediting affordable four-cylinder performance cars such as the Toyota 86 or Mazda MX-5 with inspiring the F-Type’s ability to be peddled enthusiastically without putting the driver’s licence or safety in peril.
Like Toyota’s baby sports car, the entry-level Jag’s open rear differential will wag its tail on the exit of corners, doing so at more accessible speeds than its big-hitting brethren.
Adding a four-cylinder engine to the F-Type range was an entirely logical step. The F-Type’s striking visual harmony remain untouched, and its thrilling handling balance changes in appeal without being lessened.
The V6 and V8 models still offer the most emotional driver engagement owing to their more enticing performance and vibrant soundscapes, but that doesn’t make the four-cylinder F-Type worse, just different - something that’s bound to appeal to new buyers of Jaguar’s image-leading sportscar.
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