Jaguar F-Type Convertible 4-cyl 2017 review

We get our first UK drive of Jaguar’s downsized F-Type. Is four cylinders a step too far for the brawny sports car?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

A downsized 2.0-litre engine in a relatively heavy sports car like the Jaguar F-Type seems like a recipe for disappointment. But far from it, as Jaguar’s engineers have squeezed some personality out of the four-pot and made use of the lighter weight, making it a sharper steer than the more powerful variants. The efficiency benefits are welcome, too, although some will miss the sound and outright pace of the V6 and V8 models. This high-spec convertible also stretches the idea of it being a ‘value’ F-Type a little too far.

When Porsche launched the new 718 Boxster and Cayman with a four-cylinder engine earlier this year, enthusiasts were up in arms at the loss of their naturally aspirated flat-six. But downsizing remains the future of the combustion engine, with rivals like the forthcoming Alpine A110 all set to join the four-pot revolution. Now it’s Jaguar’s turn, with the new 2.0-litre F-Type sports car. 

Traditionally, the V6 and V8 versions of the F-Type have battled squarely with the Porsche 911, both in terms of performance and price. This new model comes in at a snip under £50,000 in base Coupe form – costing just over £55,000 as the convertible we have here. That brings it closer to the cheaper Cayman and Boxster than ever before. 

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The controversial engine is Jaguar-Land Rover’s newest Ingenium four-cylinder unit, found in everything from the XE saloon to the Discovery Sport SUV. Here, it pumps out 296bhp and a healthy 400Nm of torque from just 1,500rpm, with power directed to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. 

Unlike the F-Type V6, there’s no manual option. Which is a pity, particularly given how proud Jaguar is of the 52kg weight saving that the new engine brings. A self-shifter would have shaved off even more kilos, but Jag’s argument is that so few people (around five per cent) spec one in the V6 that there’s no justification for doing so here. 

So what’s a four cylinder F-Type like to drive on twisting Welsh roads? Much better than you might expect, actually. The engine has a very different character to the sonorous V6 and brutal V8 models – it’s much quieter on start-up, and at a cruise only emits the faintest burble from the exhaust. That will suit those who find the faster F-Types too shouty cruising around town, or too boisterous when on the limit. 

Rev it out and the volume ramps up, with the switchable active exhaust and some subtle assistance from the car’s speakers changing the rather dull four-pot drone to a harder-edged metallic snarl above 4,000rpm. It’s a less intoxicating sound than the more powerful cars, but to these ears it’s more appealing than the Boxster’s uninspiring engine note. Dropping the roof of the Convertible model we have here makes things louder still, with plenty of induction noise adding to the drama. 

Soundtrack aside, it’s an impressive engine, with sharp throttle response in Dynamic mode, little lag and meaty mid-range power delivery. The slick eight-speed auto box helps make the most of the relative lack of power, too, meaning it feels quicker than the underwhelming 0-62mph time of 5.7 seconds suggests. Officially, it’s also a fair bit more efficient than the V6, although we’d like to have more time in the car to put that to the test. 

The biggest benefit of that lighter engine, though, is felt when you first encounter a fast bend. It can be tricky to build confidence in the more powerful rear-driven F-Types – particularly in wet weather – as the more rabid power delivery can unstick the tyres without much effort. The more modest performance of the 2.0-litre, combined with the more agile feel from the front end, means that you can work it harder and build up a rhythm through quick changes of direction. This could be the best-handling F-Type we’ve driven, in fact, despite it not being available with adaptive dampers.

Yet take things easy and the four-cylinder F-Type is a strong GT car, with a well-judged ride and excellent noise suppression. Our only reservation is the price: In R-Dynamic spec with bigger alloys and LED lights, this F-Type is nudging £60,000, and the equivalent V6 is just £3,000 more. The lighter and faster Boxster starts from under £45k, too, and despite lacking the Jaguar’s head-turning looks that seems to be the better value buy. 

Click on the gallery above to see more of the 4-cylinder Jaguar F-Type Convertible...

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