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Soulcare Motors


2018 jaguar f type 20t first drive review car and driver photo 689304 s originalFirst they came for the compacts, and we didn’t speak out because we didn’t much care. Then they came for the regular sedans, and the promise of turbocharging bought both our silence and tacit assent. But now the insidious forces of downsizing have come for our sports cars, and there’s nobody left to hear our pain.

Strong torque response, less mass and lower price than previous F-types.
No manual gearbox offered, sounds like a four-cylinder, price still higher than Porsche 718s.

Porsche’s decision to move the 718 generation of the Boxster and Cayman from a zinging flat-six to a turbocharged flat-four could be justified by the brand’s long association with smaller engines, from the four-cylinder 356 onward. But Jaguar has no such historical excuses for the shrink ray it has applied to the F-type’s powerplant, with the new 2.0-liter base model marking the first time this British brand has produced a sports car with fewer than six cylinders.


The powerplant in question is Jaguar Land Rover’s newly developed Ingenium turbocharged gasoline inline-four engine, set to be rolled out throughout most of the Jaguar and Land Rover range in short order and delivering an impressive amount of firepower in the F-type. It might be short on both cylinders and displacement when compared with its predecessors, but the peak 296 horsepower is slightly more than the Jaguar XJ-S made from a 5.3-liter V-12 in the early 1990s.

Jaguar is predictably keen to have us perceive the new powerplant as something other than an economy option, and—although the four-cylinder will drop the entry-level price for the range slightly—the most obvious benefit is the claimed paring of 115 pounds of mass when compared with the 3.0-liter V-6 that now sits above it in the range hierarchy. The 2.0-liter will be available only with an eight-speed automatic gearbox; Jaguar execs admit that their expensively engineered six-speed manual transmission offered in V-6 F-type models is selling in disappointingly small numbers. There won’t be an all-wheel-drive option with the smaller engine, either. Jaguar asserts that the 2.0-liter automatic will dispatch the zero-to-60-mph benchmark in 5.4 seconds, or 0.1 second quicker than the company’s claim for the previous base model, a 340-hp V-6 with the manual. The only stick-shift F-type we’ve tested was a coupe equipped with the stronger 380-hp V-6, which appends an S to the name and ran to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds.

Visually, the four-cylinder model is distinguished from other F-types by being limited to a single central exhaust pipe in the middle of the rear bumper. LED headlights and Jaguar’s InControl Touch Pro infotainment system are now standard, adding some extra value beyond that given by the four-cylinder’s slightly reduced price. 


Lacks Little on the Road

We drove the new car over some of the same roads in North Wales that Jaguar’s engineering team made extensive use of during its development. This is a land where the asphalt can be as challenging as the syntax—the fast A470 that links Betwys-y-Coed with Blaenau Ffestiniog is particularly notable on both counts—and this smaller-engined F-type acquits itself brilliantly.

The new engine isn’t the most natural sports car powerplant, being more keen to produce low-down grunt than high-revving excitement. With the gearbox in manual mode and the car in its more aggressive Dynamic setting (accessed through a checkered-flag switch next to the gear selector), it is not hard to find the engine’s rev limiter—at 6750 rpm in first and second gears and 6500 rpm in higher ratios. Left to its own devices, though, the transmission always shifts far closer to 5500 rpm where the engine’s output peaks, but these gearchanges are both prompt and smooth.

While there’s no shortage of noise under enthusiastic use thanks to a rorty exhaust system—and even some pops and bangs when the driver lifts off the accelerator—there’s never any doubt that you’re listening to a four-cylinder soundtrack, which sounds, frankly, incongruous in a two-seat Jaguar. It’s the one area where the basic F-type feels clearly inferior to its six- and eight-cylinder siblings, although under gentle use the engine note fades away to a pleasing background burble.


There are some clear benefits, too. The mass reduction over the nose helps the 2.0-liter car feel markedly more agile than its heftier sisters when asked to turn-in to slower corners, yet this Jag stays just as planted as any F-type in faster turns. Ultimate adhesion will no doubt measure lower on our skidpad, thanks to narrower tires and fractionally softer springs, but the four-cylinder car feels more exploitable. The engine helps in this, too. Both the V-6 and the V-8 cars frequently struggle for traction, and even the AWD versions can feel wayward when asked to find grip on a slippery surface. Yet the 2.0-liter’s lower output and gentler power delivery mean it never feels tail-happy, even when a typical Welsh rainstorm rolls through to slicken the road surface.

This new base F-type might lack raw power compared with the previous one, but it can be driven at a far higher percentage of its potential more often. As a result, it lacks little over its more expensive siblings in terms of real-world pace—or even thrills.

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