WHAT IS IT?
Jaguar has dropped their latest four-cylinder turbocharged Ingenium engine into the snout of the F-Type coupe. The smaller engine variant also drops the entry price for F-Type ownership to a snip over $107K.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
The F-Type is better known as a snarling, sensual, if expensive, coupe. Does the new entry-level model capture the character and spirit of its big-engine siblings, or is it just a case of all pomp without the circumstance?
THE WHEELS VERDICT
If you aren’t buying into the F-Type experience for its big engine drama, the entry-level model’s sharp handling, palatable pricing, and fuel-efficiency makes it an attractive and attainable sportscar proposition.
PLUS: Engine’s low-end torque and charisma; sharper handling; automatic shifts quick and is well-suited to the four-cylinder’s delivery
MINUS: Not much of reward to be had in revving the engine; heavy steering lacks feel; no manual option
THE WHEELS REVIEW
IF PORSCHE can get its four-cylinder sports cars so wrong, what hope for Jaguar? Quite a lot, it turns out, because when you jump in the new entry-level, four-cylinder F-Type, it quickly impresses with its agility, performance and – to a certain extent – even its sound.
A four-cylinder F-Type wasn’t in the original plan, but then along came Jaguar Land Rover’s new four-cylinder Ingenium engines. “As soon as we started producing that engine, I knew we had to do this car,” says project boss Erol Mustafa.
The on-paper benefits of the all-aluminium, direct-injection turbo four are pretty solid: with 221kW/400Nm it loses out 29kW/50Nm to the base V6, but fights back with a 52kg weight saving – about 90 percent of that is down to the engine – and Jaguar promises a 16 percent improvement in fuel efficiency at 7.2 litres per 100km.
After the supercharged response of other Fs, the new car’s soggy throttle detracts a little from its immediacy, but the turbo brings a perky hit of boost low down that makes the rear, LSD-free tyres feel like they’re grafting hard to transmit power, and there’s a lustiness to its mid-range delivery too.
Although Jaguar offers a manual or an auto gearbox on V6 models, the four-cylinder comes only with the auto. This might seem odd, given the entry-level pricing and a manual’s suitability for a car that trades outright speed for response and interactivity, but insiders admit the V6 manual sells poorly, undoing the business case for engineering both options here.
The auto keeps the same ratios as other F-Types, but its shift calibration is adapted to suit the four’s power delivery. Given the choice, we’d choose it anyway. It feels natural to shift well short of the 5500rpm power peak, but the tightly stacked, punchy gear changes land you bang in the power band time and again; it’s easy to get in a cross-country flow.
Considering that Jag’s V6 and V8s sound like they’ll drown out a fireworks display with their pops, fizzes and crackles, any four was going to have a hard time following those acts. But there’s an energetic friskiness to the four-cylinder sound, and you still get the pops and crackles on the overrun. Avoid hanging onto high revs and it’s really quite likeable.
The handling benefits from having fewer cylinders too, because this F-Type’s lighter nose feels far more responsive, diving for the apex with precision and enthusiasm. There’s more adjustability off-throttle than V6 models too. Spring rates are dropped 4 percent front, 3 percent rear, but perhaps it’s because adaptive dampers are off the menu and this F-Type rolls a little more freely as a result, giving you extra options to play with the weight transfer. Shame the re-tuned electric power steering feels heavier, too keen to self-centre and communicates so little road-surface information.
A few flaws, perhaps, but it’s hard not to fall for Jaguar’s most affordable, least powerful F-Type. It’s so promising, it makes us wonder how a lighter, more potent ‘clubsport’ version would feel. Improbable, perhaps, but on this evidence it’d be quite a thing.
Model: Jaguar F-Type coupe
Engine: 1997cc four-cylinder turbo, dohc, 16v
Max power: 221kW @ 5500rpm
Max torque: 400Nm @ 1500-4500rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed auto
0-100km/h: 5.7sec (claimed)
On sale: November