If a V6 or V8 engine seems just a little too extravagant for you, then Jaguar’s new four-cylinder F-type might hold some appeal. Dropping an engine from the XE, XF and F-Pace into a compact two-seater coupe or convertible could be a recipe for disaster, but the British brand has worked hard to ensure the new four-pot is an appropriate power unit and a price tag under £50k may help lubricate a few sales too.
But those V6 and V8 engines have been defining features in the F-type up until now. Is a four-cylinder F-type a car you’d actually want to buy?
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Engine, performance and 0-60mph time
The cylinder count is half that of what some might consider a proper F-type, and it's less than half the capacity of the brand’s V8s too, at 1997cc. But turbocharging helps make up what the relatively small capacity can’t do on its own, so peak power of 296bhp at 5500rpm is perfectly respectable.
Similar to many current hot hatchbacks in fact, and the 295lb ft the engine develops between 1500-4500rpm gives it similar twist too. Throw in the combined efforts of the ubiquitous eight-speed ZF-sourced automatic transmission and there’s enough muscle here for a 0-62mph time of 5.7sec and a top speed of 155mph.
Aside from a reasonable turn of pace, the biggest benefit of the four-cylinder engine, when installed in the nose of an F-type, is a reduction in weight. A significant one, too - 52kg, and that’s all mass removed from over the front wheels. That promises improved turn-in response, less tendency for the nose to wash wide - not that such things have been too problematic in the F-type so far - and better front-to-rear balance.
The balance might be better still were the engine positioned a little further back in the engine bay, but a peek under the front-hinged bonnet reveals it to sit surprisingly far forward.
What’s it like to drive?
Low speed limits, eager policing and relatively unchallenging roads meant our Norwegian test location wasn’t best suited to exploring the handling benefits of hanging less weight over the F-type’s nose, though there’s still plenty to like here.
As with the F-type 400 Sport we drove recently, the four-cylinder F-type benefits from general improvements made to the model, most welcome of which is a more consistent feel to the steering. The nose is still responsive to inputs, but that initial hyperactive response of previous F-types (almost certainly implemented to mitigate the car’s hefty kerb weight) has been dulled, and the car feels all the better for it. Turn-in is smoother, and there’s more natural weighting to work against.
Norway’s roads are also relatively smooth for the most part so it’s difficult to make any real judgements on ride quality, though on the few bumps we encountered the car felt composed. Good brakes, too, with a firm and linear feel to the pedal.
And the new powerplant? It works quite well, actually. Mostly because Jaguar has entirely masked any dull noises the engine itself might make with a rorty exhaust note with a particularly deep, grumbly tone at idle and an almost V8-like rumble as you rise through the revs. The usual Jaguar pops and crackles are ever present when you lift off the throttle too.
It doesn’t have the shove in the kidneys you’ll get from the V6 and especially the V8, and it’s a little less eager to seek the red line too. There’s little point - the engine feels strong enough in its lower and mid reaches, and certainly enough to trouble the traction control, which is another F-type trope. Best results are achieved by leaving the car in Dynamic mode at all time, which improves throttle response and sees the gearbox picking more appropriate ratios on lighter throttle applications, rather than wallowing around in higher gears.
The rest of the car is as appealing as ever. F-types have always felt like better value for money nearer the £50k mark, at which point the interior quality and ambience is well judged. It looks great outside too, with fewer appendages than the quicker models and a less cartoonish stance on its standard 18in or optional 19in wheels.
Price and rivals
F-type four-cylinder pricing begins at £49,900 for a standard coupe, rising to £53,600 for an R-Dynamic model (with a switchable exhaust system, among other toys). Convertibles are an additional £5,485, which seems like a fair chunk of change for a car that’s less attractive (we’d argue) and weighs 20kg more. All are priced concerningly close to the V6-engined models - V6, automatic coupes begin at £53,565 - though the four-cylinder cars do at least offer similar accelerative performance to the basic V6s.
While few will cross-shop a GT/sports car with a hot hatchback, it’s also worth pointing out that the four-cylinder F-type offers no more power and actually a little less performance than several hot hatchbacks costing the best part of £20k less. It’s a pity Jaguar’s pricing couldn’t have bridged the gap between hyper-hatch and its more exotic engines a little more evenly.