By Marc Lachapelle
ÅLESUND, NORWAY – After pushing the performance envelope with recent models such as the 575-horsepower, all-wheel drive SVR, Jaguar is going leaner, lighter and a bit more affordable with its F-Type sports car for model year 2018.
This new iteration is getting a feistier version of JLR’s turbocharged, 2.0-litre, inline four-cylinder Ingenium powerplant, nestled under its forward-hinged hood.
The new engine’s maximum output ratings are 296 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, delivered to the rear wheels only by Jaguar’s trusty eight-speed automatic transmission, with manual mode and steering-mounted aluminium paddles. No all-wheel drive or manual gearbox for the newcomer, which is available as either a coupé or soft-top convertible.
Jaguar promises 0-100 km/h sprints in 5.7 seconds for this new sports car variant – and it’s a perfectly believable claim.
The all-aluminium four-cylinder is a full 52 kilograms lighter than the 3.0-litre, 335-hp, supercharged V-6 that is next up the engine power and displacement ladder for the F-Type. Most importantly, all of this mass is taken off the car’s front axle, which brings great benefits in terms of agility, balance and handling.
As always with Jaguar, suspension bits have been carefully adapted and tuned for the best blend of ride and handling, without the help of adjustable shock absorbers, in this case. Quite successfully, too.
Standard on the new entry-level F-Type are 355 and 325mm brake discs, bolted to 18-inch alloy wheels, with tires in sizes 245/45/R18 and 275/40/R18, respectively, in the front and rear. Also available are 19- and 20-inch wheels with matched tires.
Other changes for 2018
For 2018, all F-Type models get full LED headlights and new bumpers and air intakes on a slightly restyled front fascia, plus LED rear lights. Standard, inside, are new seats wrapped on die-cast magnesium frames that reduce weight by almost 8 kilograms, Jaguar’s latest Touch Pro infotainment system features a touch screen that now lets you ‘pinch-to-zoom’.
New systems of all kinds are available, including a lane-keeping assist function that is quite obtrusive (easily switched off with a button, thankfully) and parking assist that feels downright strange in this sports car. A new ReRun application, developed with GoPro, generates videos of your driving adventures with embedded data. That is more like it.
Behind the wheel
The car I drove, too briefly, on Norwegian roads, was a four-cylinder Coupé with the R-Dynamic package that includes 19-inch wheels and performance tires, the familiar F-Type sport exhaust switch and various trim details. The very first impression, as expected, was the deep, muffled drone of the new four-cylinder engine at lower revs. Nothing exotic or ravishing about it.
Things get much better, in aural terms, when you finally punch the right pedal. A throaty bark arises, as the needle sweeps through the mid-range and climbs towards the 6,300 rpm virtual redline, where the 8-speed gearbox will clamp the inner clutches on the next ratio. And that bark has Jaguar tattooed onto every sound wave, whichever tricks the engineers have used to achieve this.
Yet, it is through its leather-draped wheel that the F-Type four-cylinder feels most distinct from its muscular siblings. There is a lightness to its steering, on-centre and with small inputs, that makes it feel like an entirely different car, at first. The new ‘four’ tracks superbly, dispatching tighter corners with just a touch of consistent tire squeal that can hardly be labeled understeer. That said, it did wander and weave on Norwegian roads that are rutted, to a variable degree.
The new four-cylinder convertible and coupé are smart additions to an F-Type family that now comprises five models and twenty-six variants, counting the 400 Sport coupé and drop-top that will be available for the 2018 year only. They are sports cars with charm and character like very few, along with pretty decent handling and performance, thank you.