Are four cylinders enough? Jaguar’s F-type gets a new turbo engine of just two litres, but it still has the claws. Words Robert Coucher.
GAD! A four-cylinder Jaguar sports car? Whatever next? A diesel? As we know, a ‘proper’ Jaguar should have a large-displacement, multi-cylinder engine that’s smooth and powerful. But a new F-type has just been launched with a 1997cc turbo engine – surely this has to be a laggy screamer.
The F-type is certainly a looker in both Coupé and Convertible configurations and the four-pot version appears almost identical to the proper V6 and V8 models. Only the single tailpipe gives the game away. The car benefits from a freshened-up bumper design, lovely (optional) LED headlights and attractive alloy wheels, 18in as standard.
But hang on. Jaguar claims its state-of-the-art, lightweight Ingenium four-cylinder engine produces a whacking 300bhp, with 295 lb ft of torque available at just 1500rpm. This translates to 150bhp per litre, the highest specific output of any engine in the F-type range, and it’s also the most efficient, with a 16% improvement in fuel economy over the V6 and CO2 emissions of just 163g/km. Driven through an eightspeed Quickshift auto ’box, the F-type promises 0-60mph in 5.4 seconds with a top speed limited to 155mph. That’s as near as dammit to the V6 model!
To our eyes the Coupé is the best-looking F-type and has all sorts of Jaguar design cues harking back to the fabled E-type FHC. The Convertible is cute but more derivative and less distinctive. But what will the four-pot sound like and how will it feel in action?
Slip into the low-slung bucket seat; the interior is attractive with its large, central infotainment system, neat instruments and fatrimmed steering wheel. But don’t look too closely because some of the swathes of plastic appear a bit cheap. Thumb the starter button and the little four erupts with a big sound and settles down to a purring idle. It reacts instantly to a blip of the throttle pedal and sounds much larger than just 1997cc.
Switch into Dynamic mode, select the loud exhaust setting, pull the paddle into first gear, then mash the throttle. The purring engine ignites angrily and the F-type leaps off the mark. Six thou’ comes up almost instantly, so click the paddle and second slams in as the F-type accelerates with seamless enthusiasm, accompanied with nice crackles and pops on the overrun. Well, well, well.
OK, so it’s not a supercar but nor is it priced as one, starting at £49,000. But this engine certainly sounds big enough for the job.
Calming down a bit, what about the torque? Amazing! Of turbo lag there is none and the four comes across as deliciously muscular. Into the corners the steering is beautiful, the chassis is planted and flat and the car turns in fast thanks to the four-cylinder being a useful 25kg lighter than the V6. Think neat, playful, nippy and obedient. Spring rates have been adjusted accordingly so the ride is excellent. Turn off the dynamic mode, switch the exhaust to quiet and the F-type goes stealth with very little engine, tyre or road noise: sports car morphs into comfortable GT.
So is this a real Jaguar? It sounds good (if not as operatic as the V6 or V8), it handles extremely well, it’s fast, the engine produces huge torque, the ride is superb, it looks gorgeous, it’s efficient, it can be serene and it’s very desirable.
So yes, Jaguar has a feisty new cub.