The latest addition to Jaguar’s sportiest carline—the F-Type—is what we’d describe as an entry model, powered by a small engine with big aspirations. If not exactly proof that “Less is More,” in the way architects Peter Behrens and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe may have intended, it does prove that “Less is More Than Enough.” At a glance, our F-Type Convertible (also available as a coupe) strikes an aggressive but sophisticated stance in Indus Silver, and only serious Jag spotters will ascertain its place in the F-Type hierarchy by the single exhaust tip exiting center rear.
It stands to reason that the British marque would come to market with a model priced from $63,850—to tempt would-be buyers not in need of a six-figure sports car with a fire-breathing, V8 engine, but who want the looks, panache and great handling of a Jag drop-top. Of course, the V6-powered, $85,150 F-Type R Dynamic is an in-between option, but there is a lot to like about this 4-cylinder Jag beyond its affordable price of entry. We equate it to the difference between a nice domestic ocicat and a real ocelot—they pretty much look the same, but it’s all about temperament.
First introduced in 2013, the Ian McCallum-designed Jaguar F-Type should be on the shortlist of buyers in the market for a high-end sports GT. Inch-for-inch, curve-for-curve, its shape—seductive from any angle—is as gorgeous as any exotic from England or the Continent. And now, more people can join the party thanks to Jaguar’s new Ingenium engine, a modular design based on 3, 4, 5 and 6-cylinder powerplants built around 500 cc cylinders and used in any number of Jaguar products. In this case, we have a brand-new turbocharged, 2.0-L, aluminum inline-4 that develops 296 hp at 5,500 rpm and, more importantly, generates a welcome 295 lb-ft of torque between 1,500 and 4,500 rpm. An 8-speed “Quickshift” ZF automatic transmission gets the zero-to-60 job done in 5.4 sec and tops out at 155 mph. While its V8-powered TYPE SVR stablemate makes 575 hp, rockets to 60 in 3.5 sec and hits 195 mph, it’s sobering to remind oneself that scarcely a decade ago, only the most tenacious machines could better the performance figures of our four-cylinder F-Type.
How’s this possible? During the last few years, Jaguar has made a huge investment to champion lightweight aluminum construction for body and chassis of their vehicles (as has sister brand Land Rover). Weight savings, strength and safety—even recyclability—are benefits conferred by using aluminum instead of more conventional steel. And those complex shapes, sharp creases and sexy curves—don’t even think about achieving those with steel. Indeed, aluminum has its advantages beyond a favorable power-to-weight ratio.
That weight advantage is one reason the F-Type performs and handles so nicely. Its light engine and neutral balance make this F-Type even more nimble than its more powerful siblings. Rear-wheel drive—while not necessarily as sure-footed as an all-wheel-drive F-Type—makes it awfully fun to throw around curves, and underpinned by a double-wishbone suspension, it relishes serpentine roads that really test the mettle of the torquey inline-4. The Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS) system is responsive and direct—never sluggish—and effectively transmits road feel through the optional 19-inch split-spoke style wheels (18-inch are standard). Torque vectoring provides independent braking of the inside front and rear wheels during cornering, for the added assurance that “someone’s watching.” And in case someone’s listening, its active sport exhaust, reminiscent of the original E-Type’s center-exiting pipes, has a robust growl in normal mode, and the push of a button on the central console opens valves that add weight and authority to the sound.
When it comes to looking ahead, standard LED headlights with ‘J’ blade Daytime Running Lights adapt depth and the width of the beam based on speed, and project a daylight-quality illumination. At the rear, lights are slim and elegant, thanks to LED technology. A small half-circle punctuates the narrow, horizontal design to evoke the tail lamps of the E-type, a car with some of the most distinctive lenses in automotive history.
Designers call the interior a 1+1; we call it an ideal personal sports GT. Just don’t plan to carry a whole lot, as the trunk is smallish and the cabin is strictly for seating people, not carrying stuff. Overall, the interior is a pleasant place to be, and visibility ahead and to either side is good. Rearward vision is just adequate, and drivers will become best friends with their backup camera. In front of the driver, two big analog dials display speed and rpm. Paddle shifters straddle either side of the steering wheel and are welcome accomplices when it’s time to exercise the transmission. A console-mounted shifter occupies the wide, knurled aluminum console, as does an armrest built for two. The sense of spaciousness is maintained, thanks to streamlined, 12-way, electric sport-design seats, upholstered in leather with suede-cloth inserts
Infotainment and cabin comfort are easily controlled through the wide, 10-inch touchscreen, three big temperature dials and a series of smaller toggles, reminiscent of the famous E-Type in Jaguar’s past. That iconic cat could never have imagined Jaguar InControl Remote, a feature that lets drivers monitor the F-Type through their smartphone, as well as lock/unlock, start the engine and pre-heat or cool the cabin.
Musically, Jag is in bed with Meridian, who developed a 380-watt system especially for the F-Type, as well as a range of upgraded systems that include Meridian’s optional Trifield technology for enhanced 3D reproduction that makes the listening environment seem infinitely larger than it really is.
Standard safety features include Navigation Pro System, lane keeping assist, traffic sign recognition and adaptive speed limiter, rear parking camera and that most welcome rear-view camera. Of course, visibility is greatly enhanced when the fabric convertible top, which lowers in just 12 seconds (and up to 30 mph), is stowed, transforming the F-Type into a convertible that recalls the perfect profile of its E-Type forebear. Even with its flush, heated rear glass window, the folded top needs no tonneau cover because it lays flat, emphasizing the lovely shape, which may be this convertible’s ultimate raison d’être. That—and creating the illusion of driving something “more”—is what this four-cylinder F-Type does so well.