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Jaguar F-Type 2.0

Autocar logo Autocar 24/11/2017 Hemal Mistry

Jaguar F-Type 2.0

Jaguar F-Type 2.0
© Autocar

Intro

Since its arrival in 2013, two attributes have come to define the F-Type: its sublime aluminium bodywork and the way it sounds.

Its appearance can’t be said to be in jeopardy, Jaguar’s coupé this year having received only a judicious nip and tuck to its much loved curves, but the soundtrack has changed immeasurably of late because you can now buy an F-Type with just four turbocharged cylinders.

Yes, downsizing has claimed another unlikely victim, although not – as has been the case for Porsche’s most recent iterations of the Boxster and Cayman – at the expense of choice.

Jaguar F-Type 2.0 © Autocar Jaguar F-Type 2.0 Rest assured, you can still get an F-Type with a supercharged V6 or V8 motor.

What this new Ingenium-engined model means, however, is that you can also get an F-Type that costs about £50,000 new, can surpass 40mpg at a cruise and – for better or worse – doesn’t wake the dead on a cold start.

This delicately yet fundamentally alters the F-Type proposition. In four-cylinder guise, no longer can this be considered a dyed-in-the-wool grand tourer whose various dynamic shortfalls are to be forgiven on account of its effortless large-capacity gait and elegant demeanour.

What it retains of those characteristics will stand this junior offering in good stead – a classically good-looking car with a classically sporting layout will always hold strong appeal – but agility and precision are the order of the day when all of a sudden your chief rivals are bona fide sports cars in the mould of the aforementioned Porsche duo and Audi’s TT RS.

Jaguar F-Type 2.0 © Autocar Jaguar F-Type 2.0 Ascertaining the extent to which Jaguar has succeeded in honing this lighter F-Type into a dynamic match for those cars is reason enough for it to be the subject of our gruelling road test.

Prospective owners will also want to know where this car draws the line between the two automotive spheres it now straddles. 

Design

There will be some for whom a four-cylinder engine has no place in the nose of a Jaguar coupé, but just consider what it means.

This car weighs 52kg less than the richly sonorous V6 F-Type, with most of that heft lifted from its long nose.

As such, not only is there little discrepancy in terms of power to weight – the junior F-Type boasting 194bhp per tonne to its bigger brother’s 210bhp per tonne – but agility and ride comfort are also said to be improved.

Jaguar F-Type 2.0 © Autocar Jaguar F-Type 2.0 With 296bhp, this 2.0-litre engine is the most highly tuned of all the firm’s four-cylinder Ingenium units and it features a new electrohydraulic valvetrain with variable lift control.

The designs of the twin-scroll turbocharger and exhaust manifold have also been devised to mitigate pulsation, reducing turbo lag to the extent that it’s “almost non-existent”, according to Jaguar. Factor in 295lb ft at just 1500rpm, too, and you’d expect this car to perform impressively.

Officially at least, it does, with a 0-60mph time of 5.4sec claimed by Jaguar. The sole transmission is the ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic and, for now, it drives the rear wheels exclusively. To get an F-Type with a limited-slip differential, you’ll still need to opt for the V6 S, although the 2.0-litre car does get torque vectoring to contain understeer.

Jaguar F-Type 2.0 © Autocar Jaguar F-Type 2.0 Telling the handsome four-cylinder F-Type apart from its siblings is all but impossible if you’re looking in your rear-view mirror, because the updated design of the bumper and LED headlights is shared across the range.

From behind, though, you’ll notice a chunky single-exit exhaust in the style of Lamborghini’s Murciélago.

Under the aluminium skin is double-wishbone suspension that uses non-adaptive dampers with reduced spring rates.

Jaguar engineers are known to prefer the lightweight 18in alloy wheels that come as standard, although R-Dynamic models – like our test car – get 19s.

Interior

Jaguar may have dropped the F-Type into £50k sports car territory but it hasn’t taken the luxury out of the car.

You expect greater touring comfort and a richer interior ambience from this car than you’d find in a 718 Cayman S, and a TT RS or BMW M2.

Jaguar F-Type 2.0 © Autocar Jaguar F-Type 2.0 That’s also the primary reason why you’re willing to accept that this car will probably be a heavier and marginally less involving drive than those alternatives: because it’s an affordable sports-car-cum-GT going up against simpler sports cars.

So the first success of the F-Type’s stylish, enveloping cockpit is that it has enough leather and attractive-looking trim garnish to mark the car out as a true luxury product, and to make it feel more special than most of the cars that it’s descending the price scale to compete with.

The Audi’s Virtual Cockpit infotainment set-up makes the F-Type’s look and feel decidedly old hat, it’s true – but that’s a high bar for any luxury car to measure up to.

In every other way except perhaps tactile material quality (because Jaguar’s switchgear doesn’t look and feel quite as expensive as it might everywhere), the F-Type’s interior conjures the same inviting, sporting, upmarket impression now that it did at its launch four years ago.

Jaguar F-Type 2.0 © Autocar Jaguar F-Type 2.0 This remains a great driving environment and a fine place in which to spend time.

There’s enough space in either of the front seats for a 6ft 3in occupant to be comfortable. The standard part-leather seats combine the need for both cushioning and support very well and they position you in an ideal orientation to the controls.

There, you feel low to the ground, close to the car’s roll axis and close to the driven rear axle, as longways-engined sports cars have sited their drivers to useful effect for decades.

The F-Type remains a strict two-seater and it’s a little bit short of useful oddment storage around the cabin. Its boot is quite shallow, too, and has a narrow opening.

If you tick the relevant option box, you get access to it via what might be the most superfluous powered tailgate anywhere in production.

Jaguar F-Type 2.0 © Autocar Jaguar F-Type 2.0 There’s enough room here for a few soft bags or one biggish flight case at a push, but this isn’t the most practical tourer.

Between its split cargo areas, a 718 Cayman S offers 30 percent more carrying space. All of which is the price of the Jaguar’s rakish style, of course – and you’d imagine most owners would gladly pay it.

The F-Type’s 10.0in InControl Touch Pro touchscreen infotainment system is one area where the car is showing a little length of tooth.

It has a configurable home screen, allowing you easy access to the features you use most. You get navigation as standard, with routes plotted using real-time traffic information, and it’s a respectable but unexceptional system by luxury-level standards.

Jaguar F-Type 2.0 © Autocar Jaguar F-Type 2.0 You also get some connected functionality via Jaguar’s InControl apps. Hardwire your phone to the USB port, for example, and you can access your Spotify music streaming account via the touchscreen — and there are smartphone mirroring apps for Apple and Android handsets. But Apple CarPlay isn’t fitted here, so interfacing with your music and contacts isn’t as easy as it might be.

Features such as wireless phone charging and customisable digital instruments aren’t available, either.

The standard 380W 10-speaker Meridian surround audio system was fitted to our car and sounded strong but unexceptional. It can be upgraded to 12 speakers and 770W for £990.

Performance

Jaguar F-Type 2.0 © Autocar Jaguar F-Type 2.0 For reasons we’ve touched on, it would be unrealistic and unfair to expect this four-cylinder F-Type to match the performance level of the often lighter, more powerful and less luxury-minded rivals against which it’s priced.

It’s less unfair, though, for the car’s owner to expect a more vigorous showing than you might get from a typical £30k-£40k hot hatch: a 0-60mph mark, for argument’s sake, between 5.0sec and 5.5sec.

If the F-Type had achieved Jaguar’s acceleration claim, it would have hit that mark (albeit narrowly) and lifted itself beyond the pace of more humble performance machinery.

But in actuality, the car needed 5.7sec to hit 60mph from rest, 14.6sec to hit 100mph and 5.1sec to go from 30mph to 70mph through the gears; which is slower than both the current Honda Civic Type R and Ford Focus RS on two counts out of three and is beaten by the VW Golf R across the board.

Jaguar F-Type 2.0 © Autocar Jaguar F-Type 2.0 Just as a 718 Cayman S isn’t quite in the Jaguar’s league on luxury, of course, neither are any of those hot hatches, but that doesn’t make the comparison entirely spurious.

The fact is that this car doesn’t have the potency to be quite as fast as it ought to be, and it doesn’t feel that way, either – even compared with the four-cylinder opposition.

Jaguar’s Ingenium 2.0-litre four-pot sounds just a little bit flat and spikey around idle, and less rich and smooth than any of the F-Type’s other motors by some distance.

Engage ‘Drive’ and it knuckles down more promisingly, though. It responds smartly to the accelerator, provides a useful if not quite fully forceful-feeling amount of mid-range torque, and sounds at least a little rasping and sporty (helped a fair bit by noticeable engine-note synthesis via the audio speakers).

Jaguar F-Type 2.0 © Autocar Jaguar F-Type 2.0 The way the car pulls through the middle of the tacho’s range is swift enough, but there’s a distinct lack of enthusiasm to the way it revs beyond 5000rpm, even by four-cylinder turbo petrol standards.

The bottom line is that the rush of urgent acceleration you expect of a Jaguar sports car never really materialises.

The eight-speed automatic gearbox does well to make the most of the engine’s potency – or perhaps to cover for the apparent shortage of it.

It shifts quickly and to well within 1000rpm of the redline in manual mode, and intelligently for the most part when left in ‘D’, although not always as smoothly as you’d like.

With the transmission in  ‘Sport’, it’s quick to respond to a lunge of the accelerator and holds onto lower intermediate gears well, particularly when the Dynamic driving mode is also selected.

It’s an automatic gearbox, in short, that enhances the powertrain’s driver appeal although it can do little to fully redeem it.

Ride and handling

Many will look on this car as the runt of the litter but there is certainly credibility to the key claim made by Jaguar’s chassis engineers about the F-Type 2.0: that, in some ways, it has better handling and more driver appeal than any of its range-mates.

Jaguar F-Type 2.0 © Autocar Jaguar F-Type 2.0 Even though the test car indicated the same 52/48 front-to-rear weight distribution on MIRA’s scales as both the V8 S convertible we tested in 2013 and the V6 S coupé we tested in 2014, it does indeed ride and handle like a slightly lighter, better-balanced take on the F-Type concept.

The car may have moved from adaptively damped to passively damped suspension for this particular execution, but its ride tuning is so clever that you probably won’t notice initially. On the 19in wheels associated with R-Dynamic trim, there’s decent low-frequency compliance and a reasonable sense of suppleness at low and middling speeds.

Raise your prevailing speed and the ride certainly firms up, though, and body control becomes much less compromising as the dampers switch their attention from low to high-frequency inputs.

At that point, the car takes on the character of a much more simple, old-fashioned sort of sports car.

Jaguar F-Type 2.0 © Autocar Jaguar F-Type 2.0 Over bigger intrusions, it struggles to match the deftness and dexterity of its adaptively damped brethren, pitching and jouncing a little and failing to mix ride comfort and dynamic composure quite as cleverly.

But the pay-off is a sense of simplicity, honesty and predictability about this car’s chassis that isn’t present in any other F-Type. It might not handle a medium-sized bump taken at a certain speed quite as smoothly as a V6, but the way it handles that bump gives you a more dependable idea of what it’ll do over the next one.

Moreover, the obvious surfeit of grip over grunt, excellent handling balance and always taut body control makes this feel like a car that’s made to be driven hard.

The power steering isn’t particularly lively with feedback but it has consistent weight and well-judged pace and it suits the car’s purposes well.

We didn’t encounter the slight inconsistency of loading under braking that we unearthed on our first drive of this car in Norway earlier this year, but it wouldn’t have been impossible for Jaguar to have tuned out whatever caused the quirk in the intervening period.

Jaguar F-Type 2.0 © Autocar Jaguar F-Type 2.0 Comparing the way the F-Type 2.0 took apart MIRA’s dry handling circuit with the way the first F-Type we road tested — a V8 S convertible — handled it in 2013, you might doubt that the two cars could be part of the same model generation.

Whereas the more powerful V8 S handled with wild and unruly abandon with its electronic aids switched out, the four-cylinder car felt planted and precise, and much more starkly so than the difference between 296bhp and 488bhp at the rear wheels might account for.

Put simply, we were glad to get off the circuit four years ago with the car in one piece but could have lapped all afternoon in the F-Type 2.0.

You don’t feel the car’s torque vectoring system sucking it towards the apex on turn-in, but it very rarely misses a clipping point. The car’s attitude can be neutralised on a trailing throttle around shallower bends, but it won’t be driven into oversteer.

MPG and running costs

Jaguar F-Type 2.0 © Autocar Jaguar F-Type 2.0 Arguably, the biggest threat to 2.0-litre F-Type sales is from models higher up Jaguar’s range.

People who favour long-legged touring attributes over pin-sharp sports car handling will gravitate towards the British car as opposed to the likes of the Cayman and TT RS, but the step up into big-displacement F-Type territory is temptingly slender: a manual V6 costs just £3500 more and sounds rather a lot more arresting.

But then this model’s touring economy approaches the mid-40s, whereas that of the V6 S we tested was low-30s.

Jaguar F-Type 2.0 © Autocar Jaguar F-Type 2.0 Owing to the weight lifted from its nose, it also handles more assuredly. Then there’s the fact that although this car is a rival for the Cayman in mechanical and financial terms, for image and road presence it’s more likely to be considered an equal to the Porsche 911, which starts at nearly £78,000 in basic twin-turbo flat six Carrera form.

You could put the fantastic new Civic Type R on your drive for the difference.

As for depreciation, the Jaguar is a match for the TT RS, retaining 45 percent of its value after three years and 36,000 miles, according to our sources. A PDK-equipped 718 Cayman S betters both, holding exactly half of its value.  

If you are keen on the four-cylinder F-Type, then we recommend swapping the 19in alloys our test car rode on for 18s to improve the ride a touch, and to avoid opting for the powered tailgate, which seems a tad unnecessary.

Verdict

Jaguar F-Type 2.0 © Autocar Jaguar F-Type 2.0 The F-Type 2.0-litre hasn’t rocketed to the top of our chart of £50,000 sports cars – and that won’t surprise very many people, at Jaguar or elsewhere.

This was a car originally designed for bigger engines being adapted for a new sporting niche, after all; and one originally intended to serve a dynamic brief balanced between that of a sports car and a gran turismo.

A Porsche 718 Cayman S is a purpose-built, laser-guided, lighter, purer and less compromised attempt at an affordable sports coupé.

And, yes, it’s a better driver’s car in lots of ways – but it’s also just a very different prospect.

Jaguar F-Type 2.0 © Autocar Jaguar F-Type 2.0 Where this F-Type does succeed is in bringing richness, luxury and style to a part of the sports car market that doesn’t currently offer anything like it.

All of that comes with a driving experience that’s likeable for its handling poise and unexpected dynamic simplicity but lacks the knockout punch that only an outstanding engine would provide.

Such a mixed bag of a car can only be met with ambivalence when judged in broad terms. This isn’t the best F-Type but it’s a lot more worthy of your attention than you may expect.

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