Back in 2014 I got to drive one of the prettiest 2 seater convertibles on the market around the iconic Alpine Circuit and I loved it. With a long bulging bonnet housing a 380 bhp supercharged V6 in front of you and that noise behind you, there are not many places I would rather be. Fast forward a couple of years and I am back behind the wheel of another supercharged V6 F Type convertible. Except this one is a little bit different.
The 400 Sport essentially a limited run of the V6 engined model, producing an extra 15bhp (now 395 bhp and 339 lb ft), bigger brakes and a few little design extras like some nice yellow “400 Sport” badges and yellow stitching inside. With it being a 18MY model (2018 Model Year), it has the new headlights and a few other aesthetic tweaks here and there and the particular model I was driving was finished in Santorini Black with 20″ dark satin grey wheels and I must admit, it looked the part. I have always thought the F Type was stunning to look at, and for a while, I even thought the coupe had the upper hand on style. However, as I’ve spent more time with them and looked at them a lot more, I must admit I love the shape of the convertible both with the roof up and down. It gets better inside too. Everything is finished in black leather with yellow stitching and the dash black brushes aluminium with some subtle “400 Sport” branding. From the minute you buckle up, you feel like you are somewhere really quite special.
Foot on the brake, finger on the button and the resting heart of this beautiful machine fires up with a roar. To this day, I don’t think there is another 6 cylinder engine on the market that sounds as good as this. It takes you back to the good old days when engines sounded like engines, there’s something so typically “Jag” about this car and it’s wonderful. Over the years the brand has been watered down and associated with golf clubs and stuffy company execs with cars like the old XJ saloon and even the XK didn’t scream “sports car” like some other brands. This completely overshadowed Jaguar’s amazing past of creating truly exhilarating vehicles like the XK120, the E-Type and the XJ220. Even though the F-Type is completely different in its looks (apart from fabulous nods to the E-Type styling with the central exhaust and the seating position right over the back axle) it feels like one of the classics. It’s like the scrapped everything they have done in the last 20 years and started again, and it worked.
On the road, it drives superbly. The 8-speed automatic gearbox is engineered to perfection to work in harmony with the engine and the result is a truly engaging drive that makes you want to keep on going. Surprisingly, the suspension is stiff but doesn’t feel as crashy as the older XK setup, but it’s also not wallowy or boaty. As you push forwards the engine note is sublime, and as you lift off there are little pops and cracks from the exhaust that will leave you grinning from ear to ear. 0 to 60 mph in the F takes 4.8 seconds, and where that may not be the quickest sprint out there, and the Boxster S can do this in less time, this isn’t a hardcore mid-engined go-kart, this is an incredibly comfortable 2 seater car with a very spacious cabin and it will still keep on going all the way to 171mph. So it’s hardly a slouch.
It may be only a 6 cylinder and there is the option for an AWD version, but to be honest the RWD model I drove is a bit lighter, a bit quicker to 62mph (4.8 seconds in the RWD and 5.1 in the AWD) and with the added bonus of a Limited Slip Diff, I personally prefer the cheaper, RWD option.
Jaguar have done a truly brilliant job of reviving the sports car and they’ve what many others have tried and failed to do. That is to make a car that doesn’t make people hate you. Whenever you see someone pull up to a garage forecourt in a Porsche or similar, people just think “oh look, a poser who gets paid too much and likes to shout about it”, but with the F-Type, people look at it longingly and admiring its curves. People actually want to talk to you about it, not throw insults at you or talk about how you’ve wasted your money because their best mate’s Corsa is quicker etc… The F-Type is a thing of beauty that the many can admire and a lucky few can enjoy.
The 400 Sport is a limited run model meaning there will be fewer of these out on the road compared to the normal 380 and 340 bhp V6 models which gives it a bit of extra exclusivity. This does come at a price though, the RWD model I drove starts at £76,150 and if you want the added bonus of the extra grip from the AWD model, that’s an extra £5,000. Is it worth it? I guess that’s down to personal taste but in my opinion, it totally is.