Car reviews - Jaguar - F-Type - four-cylinder range
Stunning steering and front-end sharpness, lovely balance of power and chassis, excellent suspension sans multi-modes, terrific ergonomics
Room for improvement
Either cheaper pricetag or more equipment needed, no torque vectoring or limited-slip differential (LSD) option like V6, four sweet but not fast
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13 Dec 2017
HOW much are two cylinders worth, and what do they weigh, in today’s sportscar market? According to Jaguar, the answer is almost $10,000 and 26kg per pot respectively.
The model year F-Type range now scores a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder entry engine that asks $19,200 less, and weighs 52kg less overall, than the carry-over 3.0-litre supercharged V6 version that has been a mainstay of the coupe and convertible line-up since it launched locally in 2014.
Jaguar has touted this new turbo-four as delivering the lightest, daintiest and most agile F-Type ever, one that trades away the brute performance of higher model grades for a stripped-back driving experience. Words such a ‘feisty and ‘pure’ are bandied around for this latest British two door.
Certainly such words are typically used to describe a Porsche Boxster and Cayman that have also recently switched to an explosive, epically quick turbo-four format. The question is whether the larger Jaguar F-Type now has enough energy to become more than a shadow of Boxster...
It takes one straight road, about two kilometres of bumpy bitumen and three corners to realise that installing a four-cylinder in the Jaguar F-Type has been a good move executed quite well.
In this Twittergram world where boastful numbers apparently mean all, the entry MY18 F-Type rises above its 221kW of power – about as much as a Volkswagen Golf R – and claimed 5.7-second 0-100km/h (1.1s off an optioned Cayman’s best) to become much more than the sum of its parts.
Even with the new 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder’s 52kg weight reduction compared with its 3.0-litre supercharged V6-powered sibling, the Jaguar coupe still remains 190kg heavier than the aforementioned mid-engined Porsche coupe, which is only $7500 more expensive.
It certainly does not feel portly, though.
In a straight line the 2.0-litre deploys its 400Nm from 1500rpm, where the heavier V6 needs 3500rpm showing before its 450Nm comes along. The surprisingly warbly four can sound a bit dull seguing from the lower end of the tachometer to the mid-range, however when kept above 5000rpm it sings a far more delightful tune than the harsh soundtrack from Porsche’s same-sized flat four.
It feels frisky rather than genuinely fast, and the (optional) switchable sports exhaust pops and crackles with greater quietude than the more explosive V6 and V8 versions. But it is sweet and subtle, a near-perfect match for a slower F-Type where the bark does not outgun the bite.
Both throttle and automatic transmission response are excellent. The caveat is the auto should have a more assertive Sport mode, but using the steering wheel-mounted shift paddles in manual mode solves the issue, with the eight-speed delivering snappy response through its close ratios.
Jaguar has backed off the front and rear spring rates of the F-Type by 4.0 and 3.0 per cent respectively, and ride quality proves an absolute highlight, being firm but immaculately damped and controlled even with the 19-inch wheels of the as-tested R-Dynamic coupe and convertible duo.
Apparently the lightweight standard 18s improves things even more notably, according to Jaguar – and we can certainly believe that.
These days several German car-makers, including several BMW and Mercedes-Benz models, need adaptive suspension to shine when vehicles are equipped with larger wheels, whereas Jaguar is only enhancing its reputation for creating absolute harmony in its standard suspension across its passenger car range.
It is a similar story for the steering, which is wonderfully sharp yet gorgeously natural in its weight and response. It is neither light, nor heavy, but consistently ideal.
The system also guides a long F-Type nose that has become more electric and energised than ever before. Having recently tested a V6-engined model grade, the four-cylinder quickly asserts its dominance by darting into bends with a fine resistance to understeer. It could be why Jaguar left torque vectoring and a mechanical limited-slip differential off the four-cylinder F-Type options list – this is a coupe and convertible now driven hard through the front axle.
The drive loop was not long enough to properly explore how this F-Type reacts when exiting really tight bends under power, where connection with the rear axle becomes most important, but it is possible to ascertain that there is an almost mid-engined level of front-end athleticism here.
Where in a V6 or V8 F-Type that rear-end engagement stands head and shoulders above all else as a defining feature of the driving experience, this four-cylinder certainly turns the tide. In fact, beyond that darty response there is no single element that dominates the driving experience of the 2.0-litre.
Its performance is responsive and rapid, its steering fluent, handling terrific and ride quality superb. The seating position continues to be low and snug, while feeling airier and in particular wider than the Cayman.
Even the 8.0-inch touchscreen is beyond numbers, because its ergonomics and the interaction with navigation or (disappointingly optional) digital radio is far superior to more complicated vehicles with larger screens. The dashboard still looks special, and similarly the lower console is uncluttered with only ESC, exhaust, rear wing and Dynamic mode buttons to choose from – how refreshing.
In the convertible there is also the button for the electric soft-top, which briskly deploys at up to 50km/h. The pricing surcharge is hefty for the roof-less F-Type and it cripples boot space to a barely weekend-bag amount of rear storage, but body rigidity seems very good.
Pricing even haunts the coupe version, though, because value is the only chink in the F-Type’s armour.
It feels like a missed opportunity to not price the 2.0-litre turbo at $99,900 – particularly when a reverse-view camera, blind-spot monitor, adaptive cruise, full leather and even keyless auto-entry are all optional although autonomous emergency braking (AEB) has thankfully become standard with this update, whereas it disappointingly remains optional with Porsche equivalents.
Even so, for its actual $107,012 ask, the entry sportscar alternatively needs more standard equipment, but this coupe and convertible range should not be both expensive and under-equipped.
It certainly deserves a more convincing value equation, because Jaguar has otherwise done a fine job of thoroughly injecting the Four into F-Type.
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