Can An Inline-Four Turn The Jaguar F-Type Into A Proper Sports Car?

We had a brief drive in the new four-cylinder F-Type in Norway, and found a car with - for better and worse - a very different character to its V6 big brother

I like the F-Type very much. I love the way it looks. I’m rather partial to the way it sounds, be it the snarling V6 or the gargling V8. And I’ve always liked the way it makes you feel special. But I’ve long since reconciled with the fact it’s not really a sports car: if you expect it to be thus, you’ll probably come away disappointed.

It’s always felt a bit big and a bit heavy to be considered a proper sports car, and is arguably at its best when you’re driving at seven-tenths and not taking proceedings too seriously. But, there’s a new version of the F on the block, and it promises to be a very different beast, doing away with a theatrical V engine in favour of a turbocharged inline-four.

Jaguar - Can An Inline-Four Turn The Jaguar F-Type Into A Proper Sports Car? - Features

Given that noise is a big selling point for the F-Type, I’d understand if the mere prospect of such a thing is off-putting for you. But stick with me here, as there’s a big advantage to the drop in cylinders and displacement: weight. This new entry-level machine is 52kg lighter than the base V6, with most of the savings - as you’d expect - on the front end. In other words, it’s like someone just removed a thin teenager from the bonnet.

To go with all that, the springs and dampers have been revised, the steering given a unique calibration for this version of the F only, and there’s a torque vectoring system previously reserved for the all-wheel drive models. The whole shebang weighs in at £49,900, £3600 less than the cheapest automatic V6 (there’s no manual option here).

Jaguar - Can An Inline-Four Turn The Jaguar F-Type Into A Proper Sports Car? - Features

During a brief drive in Norway as part of the Range Rover Velar launch, this all seemed to play out exactly as I’d hoped. There’s a keenness to the turn-in that wasn’t there before, and there isn’t the same uneasy weight transfer you tend to feel mid-corner in the V6.

F-Types have always had quick, light steering, which always felt like it was writing cheques the chassis couldn’t quite cash. That isn’t the case here, even with the four-cylinder’s re-tuned electric power steering, which seems faster still. It gives the front-end a pointy, sharp-edged feel.

Jaguar - Can An Inline-Four Turn The Jaguar F-Type Into A Proper Sports Car? - Features

It’s not like it’s slow, either. The weight drop means that the 297bhp, 295lb ft ‘Ingenium’ 2.0-litre lump powers the car to 60mph in 5.4 seconds - a tenth quicker than the base V6 - and a boosty mid-range results in something that feels very potent at anything above 2000rpm.

It’s definitely a better driver’s car than the V6 and the V8, and I’d love to say that’d be enough for me to shirk a bigger engine for one of these. But I can’t. Not yet, anyway: our test route in Norway consisted mostly of wide sweeping bends, with only the occasional opportunity to throw the new baby F around to see if its newfound agility is enough of a boon to compensate for the aural deficiency.

Yep, despite Jaguar’s promises that this would deliver that “renowned F-Type sound,” there’s really nothing remarkable about the noise it makes. There are pops and bangs aplenty, but the induction and exhaust noise itself is a typical humdrum inline-four drone. It’s not especially loud from the outside when it’s not doing the whole machine gun fire thing, and on the inside, there’s some ill-advised added noise piped through the speakers.

Jaguar claims it has “used the infotainment system to subtly overlay the inherently characterful Ingenium engine with specific frequencies and sounds that are already present - to make aural feedback even better,” but we rather wished it hadn’t.

It’d have been better to either leave it alone, go with a sound tube, or perhaps fit something along the lines of that vibrating hockey puck device VW Group stuffs into the bulkheads of its sportier cars. An inline-four can be made to sound rather pleasant, but usually not this way.

Jaguar - Can An Inline-Four Turn The Jaguar F-Type Into A Proper Sports Car? - Features

We also had real tram-lining issues out in Norway on the car’s 19-inch Pirelli P Zeros. Whether or not the changes at the front end make it more prone to such behaviour, or if it was just something exacerbated by the roads out there, we’re not sure.

So, right now we don’t want to give you a definitive verdict - the new entry-level F-Type deserves a much more thorough investigation than the one it’s had so far. But despite the disappointing din from the engine, we like what we’ve experienced so far. It’s an intriguing, more athletic addition to the range that looks to be much closer to sports car territory than its heavier siblings, and a car that shouldn’t be discounted because of its cylinder deficiency.