The performance car world is a rapidly changing space that culls cylinders and revs for forced induction and efficiency. A result of tightening emission standards and less the will of manufacturers, car brands have done well to keep character and intangible qualities as roaring naturally-aspirated V12 and V8 engines go the way of the dinosaur.
So, it’s no surprise Jaguar brings a four-cylinder turbo into its long-nosed roadster and coupe. After all, it's only two cylinders less than the almost 60-year old Series 1 E-Type that the F-Type takes some inspiration from, but is this hot hatch-suited engine too dramatic a change?
Jaguar’s latest F-Type starts with a near $17,000 discount compared to the more powerful and heavier Supercharged V6 models. A driveline package that mates the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine to an eight-speed automatic driving the rear-wheels keeps things simple, but the extras add up elsewhere.
Standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels, leather and suede sports seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, aluminium trim, single-zone climate control, push-button ignition, and an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen.
Missing are expected standard features such as DAB ($640), dual-zone climate ($1040 - though debatable in a small cabin roadster), keyless entry ($1200) and reversing camera ($1060).
So, from $125,712 plus on-road costs the F-Type represents good value in its range but will likely tip over $130,000 by adding a few creature comforts. Our test vehicle was also optioned with the $7800 R-Dynamic pack that adds a bi-modal exhaust, LED headlights, aluminium centre console trim and 19-inch alloys with matching gloss black exterior trim. It's another box worth ticking for the exhaust alone, that adds a tougher bark than the small engine would suggest.
Where the roadster suffers unlike its rival the Porsche Boxster is in comparative pricing, with the 718 Boxster starting from $126,132 in manual form which is less than $1000 more than the Cayman coupe. The soft top Jag on the other hand adds almost $18,000 to its hardtop sibling, putting it on par with the German for price.
- Standard Equipment: Leather and suedecloth sports seats with partial electric adjustment, single-zone climate control, push-button start, rain-sensing wipers, Xenon headlights, leather steering wheel, electrically-adjustable steering column, cruise control, 18-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, USB input, 10-speaker audio
- Cargo Volume: 196 litres
While the engine loses some cylinders there’s no sacrifice inside and the same design and materials found in the greater F-Type range are present.
Optional Windsor leather on the seats, console and instrument panel trim replace the standard leather and suede fabric trim in our test vehicle and cost-option ($1020) carbon-fibre centre console inserts replace the aluminium parts for a sophisticated look and feel.
The quality of craftsmanship is high, and the arching centre console arm adds to a driver-centric feel befitting of a performance roadster. Novelties such as the automatic raising centre vents add an exclusive touch but some technology such as the 8.0-inch display system is good but not up with the best of the new high-resolution setups.
The quality of the sound system behind the 8.0-inch system is splendid - though we’re listening to the $7260 cost-option Meridian surround system – and even though the soft opening lid doesn’t have the best acoustic qualities, music styles from classical to rock had definition and punch, easily outperforming the wind noise with the roof down.
Sitting inside there’s ample room between the two seats and leg room is generous but not perfect for tall six-foot plus frames. The sacrifice in room for the folding top also extends behind the front pews where the 196-litre boot isn’t effective for more than a quick getaway with a couple of small bags.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged in-line four-cylinder, 221kW @5500rpm, 400Nm @1500-4500rpm
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, rear wheel drive
- Suspension: Double wishbone front and rear suspension
- Brakes: 335mm front discs, 325mm rear discs
- Steering: Electric power steering, 10.7m turning circle
Unlike the interior the smaller 2.0-litre four-cylinder F-Type brings a difference in character on the road - but in a good way. The lower mass over the front-end and overall adds to a more dynamic package that gets its own suspension tune.
The small engine isn’t as visceral as the bigger donks from go to whoa but it does have its own character that’s amplified with the R-Dynamic active exhaust. Hit a button on the centre console and the engine reverberates into life with true-to-its-size four-pot snap, crackle and pop on the overrun. It’s enough to satisfy the evocative appeal the F-Type naturally has, and the engine isn’t short of grunt either.
Producing 221kW of power and 400Nm of torque it’s 39kW and 50Nm short of the Supercharged V6 but 52kg lighter, achieving a claimed 0-100km/h in 5.7 seconds. Put into the real world it doesn’t punch as hard higher in the revs and there’s less urgency down low, but in the middle band it pulls strong with an inclination to squirm and move predictably at the rear.
The lighter nose also feels more playful and, in some ways, more predictable when pushing into a corner, mitigating from a bit of understeer earlier on.
The steering adds a bit of needed weight in Dynamic driving mode, which also sharpens the throttle response and re-configures the eight-speed to be more aggressive to hold onto gears, but it never truly shines for feel and using the paddle shifters is the most rewarding method.
A manual transmission would work well in this driveline but isn’t coming anytime soon.
At less frantic pace the four-cylinder is smooth and patient, easing through traffic with the right response while not feeling edgy. As a weekend cruiser for enjoying coastal roads and mountain passes the 2.0-litre engine is more than ample, and with the roof plonked down the exhaust sound is unique and pleasing.
The ride is firm on rough roads though and feels hard on corrugations, a result of the extra rigidity plumbed into the roadster’s structure, but on finer roads it floats nicely with a well-balanced dynamic tune for pushing on.
The Jaguar F-Type has not been tested by ANCAP.
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side and curtain airbags, ABS and ESC, front and rear parking sensors, rear-view camera, lane-departure warning and autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Servicing: Jaguar includes free scheduled servicing for the F-Type over five years or 130,000km
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The F-Type’s brawnier six and eight cylinder family members aren’t short of comparison from the BMW M4 to the Porsche 911. But the four-cylinder roadster drops enough in price that it competes against a smaller segment of middle weights, and one which has conquered its territory.
The rear-wheel drive Porsche 718 Boxster, while relatively bar bones, competes neck and neck on price and offers either a manual or automatic transmission mated to slightly less-powerful 220kW and 380Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. A hair faster to triple figures, the lighter Boxster is a different tool to drive, with a different character from its boxer design engine and svelte handling.
The Audi TT S Roadster is the cheapest of this lot at $105,372 and it keeps up with an all-wheel drive system powered by a 210kW/380Nm four-cylinder turbo engine for a 5.0 second 0-100km/h sprint. But it doesn’t offer quite the same engaging handling and character of the other two.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
A smart move by Jaguar, the lighter armed 2.0-litre F-Type is equally impressive in most areas and gains its own distinct character. For looks, the Jaguar’s subtle nod to the past is still uniquely attractive among peers.
While the supercharged V6 and V8 weapons are unmatched by this newcomer it is no less fun to drive, and for a playful weekend cruiser that's equally as easy to commute with, the new addition is a winner.
MORE: Jaguar News and Reviews
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