Cast your eye over the timeless lines of the F-Type and, despite some nips and tucks, it’s remarkably unchanged from Ian Callum’s catwalk-esque original. But this one is not like the others.
Boisterous, blown bent sixes and eights are nowhere to be seen. In yet another incarnation of the svelte coupe, Jaguar has bowed to economic and fuel-consumption pressures by offering a four-cylinder turbo. Blimey. The F-Type is akin to an automotive chameleon, one that can adapt its form and persona to suit the age of rampant downsizing.
Yet, all the right ingredients are still present; it’s still a rear-wheel drive coupe/convertible. The elongated bonnet flows into a leather-clad cabin that puts the driver over the rear axle. It’s a classic formula.
Acceptance of the linear 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo will be the real litmus test, though. Yet, the Ingenium unit still packs 221kW and 400Nm – so while it is catering for an entry-level market, it’s not exactly missing out on grunt.
Add in the fact that the four-pot version has shed 52kg, bringing the alloy-bodied F-Type’s kerb weight down to 1525kg, and everything starts to align in terms of performance. It’s a case of needing to experience it before judgement.
The reality is that while the four-cylinder F-Type loses some straight-line prowess to its burlier siblings – the 0-100km/h time comes in at 5.7sec – it gains a lithe dynamic character all of its own. Where the 2.0-litre F-Type really starts to make sense is on a twisty road.
While the straight-line figures only just account for some front-wheel drive hot hatches, the way the 2.0-litre Jag covers ground out on the open road is rewarding – it’s deceptively quick. The extra weight has largely been taken out from over the front axle, which affords sharp turn-in matched with handling that feels energetic and malleable.
Getting the rear mobile is a little harder given the lack of an LSD and the wide 275-section rear rubber. Although, it never really has the grunt to overpower the inside rear wheel anyway. You’re able to use the throttle early on corner exit with both ends sticking vehemently to the road.
The eight-speed ZF automatic is a willing accomplice. And thanks to the robust mid-range torque of the Ingenium engine, you can hold higher gears as there’s little point searching for the higher reaches of the rev range.
Unlike the rest of the R-Dynamic range, you can’t dissect the Dynamic mode and there’s also no adaptive dampers. Although the ride quality is decent, it can get fussy over imperfections and there’s some noticeable rebound at the rear through some mid-corner undulations.
While the only real drawbacks of the convertible are slight scuttle shake and an even smaller boot, the drop-top does allow you to access the pleasing acoustics of the four-pot. It’s no howling six or eight, but the sound emitted from the single, central exhaust is enticing. So is the gravely induction noise and playful overrun.
However, while the dynamics, design, and desirability stakes stack up, there’s an elephant in the room – price.
Opinion: F-Type, M2, or a Boxster?
Starting at $114,812 for the R-Dynamic coupe ($133,512 for the drop-top), the coupe’s as-tested price comes in at an eye-watering $150,002. That figure puts it into the company of some serious performance metal, rivals with pace to burn and a more focused demeanour. At this price a lot of the options should be standard. It’s inexcusable to ask $1060 for a rear-view camera on a $100K-plus car.
Despite that, the bare bones of what makes this Jag desirable remain – even with a few missing cylinders. The F-Type exists as an object of aesthetic affection and aspiration; a design triumph that rewards with its simplicity. And yet, the base four-cylinder surprises with a level of dynamic aptitude that contradicts its beauty-pageant exterior to offer genuine substance. It has a purpose beyond fulfilling an economic or fuel-consumption quotient.
Downsizing has never looked and felt so good.
2018 JAGUAR F-TYPE 2.0 SPECS:
Engine: 1997cc inline 4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 221kW @ 5500rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 1500-4500rpm
0-100km/h: 5.7sec (claimed)
Price: $150,002 (tested)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Like: Surprising dynamic talent; endearing personality; benefits from drop in weight
Dislike: As-tested price is verging on hilarity; needs more standard kit; four-pot’s image