Ian Callum’s ability to design such beautiful cars with regularity must drive the other guys nuts. Just look at the F-Type. Proportion is spot on. The body’s gesture needs no superfluous creases to create “surface excitement.” Every line counts. Less is, indeed, more, and the F-Type’s mere shape is what makes it what it is – a Jaguar incarnate and stunning. Name a prettier modern car powered by a four-cylinder engine. We’ll wait.
New for 2018
The entire 2018 Jaguar F-Type lineup receives simpler but bolder front/rear fascia updates to better distinguish one model from another. All get full LED lighting, extensive interior tweaks including Jaguar’s latest infotainment system, and new magnesium-framed “slimline” seats, which aren’t just shockingly comfortable and supportive, but also are said to save 17 pounds compared to their predecessors.
With the addition this year of a special-edition F-Type 400 Sport, and this base trim with its turbo-four engine, the two-door, two-passenger 2018 Jaguar F-Type model line has grown to a dizzying 24 variants. Between coupe and convertible, three engines encompassing six different output ratings (four can be had with a 6-speed manual transmissions, all others an 8-speed automatic), and 10 variants are available with AWD. In contrast, the hardtop-convertible Mercedes-Benz SLC-Class has two variants, and the Porsche 718 offers 10 variants between the Cayman and Boxster.
While the rest of the F-Type’s 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 and 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 engines produce between 340 and 575 horsepower, the rating for this new Ingenium 2.0-liter turbo-four stands at an impressive 296 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. The Mercedes-Benz SLC 300’s 2.0-liter turbo-four makes just 241 hp/273 lb-ft, but the Porsche 718 duo’s 2.0-liter turbo-four ups it to 300 hp/280 lb-ft. So the Jag is definitely in the game here.
The Ingenium I-4 is all aluminum, uses direct injection, and an innovative electrohydraulic valvetrain. Its exhaust manifold is integrated directly into the cylinder head. A twin-scroll turbocharger rides ceramic bearings and ensures that the maximum torque is delivered at just 1,500 rpm. That early-onset torque peak is supposed to reduce the sensation of turbo lag, but it’s only partly successful. At low- to mid-rpm engine speeds when you whack the throttle, there’s definitely a delay before the engine reacts. Of course, it’s nearly impossible to eliminate turbo-lag (unless a turbo can be spun up with something other than exhaust gas, like the best, current hybrid F1 power units do).
Speaking of exhaust, here’s a spotter’s guide to help determine the engine of the F-Type you’re following: a large center-mounted single outlet is the new inline-four; center-mounted twin tips are V-6s, and outboard-mounted quads are V-8 models.
Jaguar says installing the turbocharged four-cylinder engine in place of the supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 reduces the car’s weight by about 115 pounds. It also shifts the overall balance rearward by 1 percent (we keep receipts). The last F-Type S (380-hp V-6) we tested weighed 3,809 pounds with 52/48 percent front/rear distribution. Also rear-wheel drive and equipped with an eight-speed automatic, this 2.0-liter 2018 F-Type was, in fact, 207 pounds lighter, but its distribution was biased slightly more on the nose, with 53/47 percent front/rear distribution. Odd. Perhaps our tester’s optional equipment, especially its panoramic glass roof ($1,175), upset the balance.
Be that as it may, the new, lighter F-Type Jaguar gets monotube dampers, reduced spring rates in the suspension, and a recalibrated electric-assist power steering system. This part delivers a noticeable benefit. The four-banger F-Type definitely feels 200 pounds lighter than the V-6, especially going about the business of negotiating corners. The front end feels quicker to react and more obedient to stay put in the corner. The rear end, however, can still be edgy, but not in the way of the more powerful F-Types.
In the process of lapping our figure-eight course, I found the engine has just enough torque to step the rear out, but only slightly and controllably on exit. The biggest challenge is corner-entry over-steer. There’s an edginess to it, and it will easily bite if you try to enter with too much speed, then snap the quick steering. I was constantly making steering adjustments around the skidpad, mostly in an involved “this car needs me” sort of way; not in a threatening way. Strong brakes never faded, but I wish there was more feel/less squish in the pedal.
Despite having an 84-hp deficit compared to the last F-Type S we previously tested, the new F-Type 2.0 lapped our figure-eight in an identical 25.4 seconds. Nicely done. The new F-Type also showed an advantage on the skidpad, averaging 0.95g lateral acceleration to the S’ 0.90g. Impressive. Still, at 3,601 pounds, the aluminum-bodied 2.0-liter F-Type is no lightweight. A similarly powered 718 Cayman (3,140 pounds as-tested) undercut this Jaguar by an unbelievable 461 pounds, plus it dispatched our figure-eight in a scant 23.7 seconds; an enormous 1.7-second difference.
The Straight Bits
The new F-Type accelerated from 0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds on its way to a quarter mile in 14.1 seconds at 99.7 mph. That’s about a second behind the aforementioned F-Type S (rebranded “R-Dynamic” for 2018, by the way), and more than a second behind that same, pesky Cayman with its 4.1-second 0-60 time and 12.5-second 111.2-mph quarter mile.
Associate road test editor Erick Ayapana found that the F-Type has an odd launch mode: “In Dynamic mode with traction- and stability-control disabled, apply full brake, lightly tap on the accelerator, wait for launch mode to activate, then fully depress accelerator pedal. The engine holds at 3,100 rpm until you release the brakes. Pretty consistent times, and launch mode shaves more than a second from acceleration times compared to a normal launch.”
He also liked the engine note, but he was at full throttle the entire time. When testing the brakes, Ayapana said, “Lots of noise once ABS activates… sounds like it’s pounding a hole through the firewall!” Echoing the other test driver, he added, “I wish there was better feel in the pedal to more easily modulate under hard braking. Brakes still felt strong and consistent after five stops.”
In the “Car Park” and On the Road
Outside the scrutiny of our test track and data-logging equipment, the 2018 F-Type 2.0 looks and feels special. Besides the beckoning way it looks simply sitting in a parking stall, the new LED lights come to life when unlocking it with the remote (our tester also had the $460 keyless entry option), and the flush-fitted door handles tilt out to greet and grant access. For the 2018 model year, Jaguar added satin-chrome finishes to the starter button and gearshift paddles and bright-chrome finish to the air vents, steering wheel, and doors’ switchgear. It does add a touch of luxury where there wasn’t before.
There’s still a sense of anticipation when pressing the large starter button, but what’s missing is the engine erupting when it fires—like the V-6 and V-8 F-Types do. Those F-Types are notorious for their bellowing, barking, and snarling engines. It’s practically their calling card, which is why it’s so disheartening that the four-cylinder’s sound is completely disappointing most of the time. Start the Jag and you hear the I-4’s 2,900-psi fuel injection system and valvetrain ticking and clattering away like a diesel. It sounds mechanical, but not in the good way. You are left wanting that aural feedback, unless it’s at wide-open throttle (with the standard, active sport exhaust open), or just after abruptly lifting off the throttle, when the exhaust crackles in overrun. Sorry, but this engine doesn’t sound sporting at all. We can think of several turbo-fours that sound far better, including that of our 2018 Car of the Year, the Alfa Romeo Giulia.
Compared to other Jaguars’ rotating, knurled-puck transmission selector, the F-Type’s stubby and substantial pistol-grip shifter is more intuitive and easier to operate without a glance. Jaguar gets bonus points for its manual-mode orientation that grants upshifts with a pull of the shifter toward the driver. We’ll forgive family sedans and SUVs for formatting it the other way around (pulling the shifter toward you to downshift, as if reining in a horse), but this is the proper, race-bred way for a sporting car. The metallic, steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles also feel substantial.
In normal drive mode and the transmission set in Drive, the driveline feels dull, uninspiring, and as if it’s in frugal mode. It became habit to nudge shifter into S-Drive and the rocker toward the checkered flag that engages Dynamic mode. This sharpens throttle and transmission response to better the match expectations. Even in Dynamic mode, the engine disappears from the experience (spinning at just 1,900 rpm at 60 mph) at highway speeds, and there’s little wind or road noise. In Dynamic mode, passing maneuvers are quickly obeyed, taking just 2.7 seconds to accelerate from 45 to 65 mph.
The eight-speed automatic is rarely, if ever, caught confused or lacking response, dropping a couple gears at once when asked to. Our Real MPG team used normal mode in Drive to extract 21.0 mpg city, 32.3 mpg highway for a combined 25.0 mpg result—closely mirroring the EPA’s 23/30/26 mpg estimates. It is reasonably frugal with a gallon of gas.
Because Jaguar’s adaptive dampers are not available on this base model, monotube shocks have been calibrated to deliver a good balance of compliance, ride comfort, and athleticism. Even with our car’s optional 19-inch wheels ($1,020) and 245/40R19 94Y front and 275/30R19 96Y Pirelli P Zero tires, the car retained its light-footed spryness and the ride was hardly punishing.
As mentioned earlier, the F-Type’s slimline seats are fabulous, less bulky, and are upholstered in new leather/faux suede. Ours were optionally heated within the $1,380 “Climate Pack 1” that also includes two-zone auto climate control, and a heated windshield and steering wheel. Forward sightlines are very good with little notice of the A-pillars; the sensible-height beltline doesn’t cause a sense of claustrophobia like some other coupes do. A rear-view camera and rear parking sensors are standard — however, the restricted view from the rear-view mirror while driving only allows a driver to see what’s directly behind. Side mirrors are similarly limited, so we’d highly recommend the blind-spot monitor and reverse-traffic detection option for $460, and toss in the front parking aid for $285 to cover all the bases.
The now-standard 8.0-inch swipe/pinch-capable and powerful Touch Pro system with navigation includes (with Pro Services subscription) a feature that will check if there’s enough fuel in the tank to get you to your destination — in case there isn’t, the system will add fuel stations to your route. It also has algorithms that will, for instance, learn your commute and reroute using historical and real-time traffic information so you won’t be late. If that still seems likely, the system will send your ETA to selected contacts via email or text message. Standard features also include Bluetooth connectivity, one USB and 12V socket, a 380-Watt 10-speaker Meridian audio system with SiriusXM and HD radio.
Depending how you pack it (under the tarp or up to and obscuring the glass), there are between 9.2 and 14.4 cubic-feet of cargo space beneath the rear hatch. We still wish the hinges were on the left edge of the hatch, like the original E-Type.
Since it went on sale in the 2014-model year, the F-Type has earned well-deserved praise for both its debut and ever-evolving styling — steadily growing its model lineup, and in the process, gaining performance cred along the way (peaking with last year’s wild and wooly 575-hp 200-mph F-Type SVR). The F-Type is currently the brand’s fourth-best seller out of five models, but when you think of a Jaguar, this is probably what pops into your head. Jag needs the F-Type as a halo car; to stand spiritually for the hallowed brand. Should Jaguar have diluted that car with a four-cylinder version?
It can’t compete on price or performance. The less powerful Mercedes-Benz SLC300 is base priced $11,500 below that of this F-Type coupe, and a twin-turbo V-6 version (SLC43) starts at just $1,450 above. A base Porsche 718 Cayman, the one that smokes this new F-Type in every performance test we performed, starts at $56,350, or $4,545 below the F-Type’s base price. You might consider an Audi S5 Coupe ($55,575) or BMW M2 ($55,495), both of which also offer small back seats. Fancy a high-powered super-capable ‘Murican pony car? A 650-hp Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 starts at $63,795 and a 526-hp Ford Shelby GT350 at $58,045.
Clearly, if you’re an accountant, there are better ways to have fun for your money than this turbo-four Brit sports car. That said, the 2018 Jaguar F-Type turbo-four is undeniably gorgeous, well-equipped, and clever — even fuel efficient. But it’s expensive at its $60,895 starting price, and outrageous at $68,913 as tested. That’s a steep price to pay to feel special.
|2018 Jaguar F-Type (Base)
| BASE PRICE
| PRICE AS TESTED
| VEHICLE LAYOUT
||Front-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door coupe
||2.0L/296-hp/295-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4
| CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)
||3,601 lb (53/47%)
| LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT
||176.5 x 75.7 x 51.6 in
| 0-60 MPH
| QUARTER MILE
||14.1 sec @ 99.7 mph
| BRAKING, 60-0 MPH
| LATERAL ACCELERATION
||0.95 g (avg)
| MT FIGURE EIGHT
||25.4 sec @ 0.73 g (avg)
| REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB
| EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON
| ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY
||147/112 kW-hrs/100 miles
| CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB
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