After almost 300km of driving in the limited edition F-Type 400 Sport, a strange realisation came to mind. The stereo, a Meridian system, hadn’t been switched on.
It’s not that the optional 12-speaker unit isn’t good, because it is. It’s more that the 3.0-litre supercharged V6 nestled underneath the long clamshell bonnet produces an even better symphony of sound.
Okay, the monstrously powerful V8 in the SVR produces an arousing soundtrack. But the ‘lesser’ six will challenge any cylinder snob’s ear. Its pops and bangs on the overrun are like automotive orgasms and its shriek towards 7000rpm is like few other bent-sixes. It’s intoxicating. It makes you smile. It’ll have you chortling like a little kid.
Musings about acoustics aside, what does the yellow and silver 400 Sport badge mean? It’s a launch edition for the facelifted F-Type range that ups the power to 294kW (or 400PS) from the 280kW S version, while torque stays at 460Nm.
What’s more, a proper mechanical limited-slip diff with torque vectoring and adjustable dampers are standard. You have the option of rear- and all-wheel drive (the latter adding 80kg to the 1594kg mass) while both utilise an eight-speed ZF torque-converter auto. The 400 Sport was only available throughout the 2017 model year, but there’s likely to still be examples left at dealerships.
Subtly updated, the exterior styling is a triumph of muscularity and purity of design. It’s a relatively diminutive coupe, but its cab-back, long-bonnet architecture and sumptuous wheel-arch bulges set many hearts aflutter.
Conversely, the cabin isn’t as resolved. It’s just a bit forgettable by comparison and the eight-inch Touch Pro infotainment system is slightly old hat and unintuitive. The standard features, for a car listed at $183,516 (add $16,000 for AWD), are as glaringly sparse as the lack of useable space in the 310-litre boot.
However, press the starter button and the central air vents rise from obscurity, while everything you touch is swathed in luscious leather and bound by unique yellow stitching. It isn’t other-worldly special inside, but it creates an ambience that makes you feel good.
On-road the 400 Sport is a rewarding car. Yes, it might not be a Porsche 911 Carrera – despite coming close on price – but the bespoke F-Type platform straddles the GT and performance car divide.
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With peak power developed high in the rev range, there’s real reward in searching the upper reaches. Backing it up is a well of mid-range torque and sharp throttle response thanks to supercharged induction. It combines well with a slick auto that adheres to manual inputs when called upon.
At 4.9sec to 100km/h it’s certainly quick enough – the heavier AWD takes 5.1sec – but the real enjoyment comes from the fact that it seems the right amount of power for the rear-driven chassis. And with wide 295-section Pirelli P-Zero boots at the back, the rear axle never struggles to get the power down.
The RWD version is the driver’s choice. It feels keener on turn in and can be provoked into having more fun on the limit than the rear-biased AWD – especially with Track mode for the ESC. You can really get on the power early and use the throttle to steer the F-Type on corner exit with the well-calibrated LSD offering an extra level of measured control.
While not being a heavyweight in kerb mass, the upgraded brakes (380mm front, 376mm rear) offer longevity and positive feedback. The electronic steering isn’t vague either, returning a decent amount of feel through the tiller. You can configure the different drive modes, but in any mode the adaptive dampers do a good job of quelling imperfections.
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The 400 Sport offers a duality of personas; part GT, part performance car. You could purchase more focussed German two-door coupes for less, but the Brit oozes theatre from every mineral of its alloy being. Its aesthetic elegance and acoustic drama make you feel special every time you drive it. And for most, that’s all it needs to do.
2018 JAGUAR F-TYPE 400 SPORT SPECS:
Engine: 2995cc V6, DOHC, 24v, supercharger
Power: 294kW @ 6500rpm
Torque: 460Nm @ 3500-5500rpm
0-100km/h: 4.9sec (claimed)
Like: Blown V6 urge; horn soundtrack; gorgeous styling
Dislike: Getting too expensive; lack of space/equipment
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars