There seems to be a large number of die-hard Jaguar fans who think anything less than a V8 in a Jag sports car is blasphemy, but the F-Type P300 is here with its 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine to prove them all wrong.
The 4-cylinder engine isn’t new for the F-Type, it’s been with us for a few years now, but this P300 is the recently facelifted variant and as sceptical as I was when I first saw the press shots of the new model, in the flesh, it looks absolutely stunning. But is the i4 engine a worthy competitor to the Alpine A110 and 987 Cayman and is it pretty enough for you not to care that it doesn’t have a loud and shouty V8 under the bonnet? Personally, the fact that it has competitors like the A110 and Cayman/Boxster are proof that there is a requirement for cars like this and these downsized lumps are more than worthy of their place in a sports car.
First off, the overall new look isn’t too drastic. A little lift here, a quick nip/tuck there and some new gadgets inside, but they really do work. The old F-Type was painfully handsome in my eyes, especially in coupe form, and now the new variant looks sleeker, lower, harder and more aggressive without losing any of that typical Jag charm. The new headlights and rear lights really work and make the whole car look lower and those rear arches still make me a bit weak at the knees. It is really is one of the best looking cars on sale today.
On the road, the F-Type has an entirely different dynamic to the larger-engined variants (now only available with a V8 as the s/c V6 has now been dropped!). It feels lighter, more agile and, dare I say it, more fun on the narrow and twisty roads of Cambridgeshire. It may have lost its loose back-end lairy-ness but in exchange, it now feels like a more direct and stable machine. I must admit the 8-speed auto-box does need a bit of work to really get the car going, but that only adds to the appeal to me. It makes you feel like you’ve really earned the experience. It’s amazing how a different engine and very little else can make so much difference. Granted, the exhaust note is not to everyone’s taste (mine included) but I’ve not found a modern turbocharged i4 that I do like. The sports exhaust does give it a bit of a growl and there are some fun little pops and bangs every now and then but it’s nothing to write home about.
Although the twin-turbocharged engine is not the most powerful in its class with 300hp, and it isn’t the quickest with a 0-62mph time of 5.7seconds, but that almost doesn’t matter. What matters the most to me is how it all feels. Yes, there are hot hatches that are quicker, and yes the Porsche and Alpine are lighter and more disciplined on track, but they all lack one thing that Jaguar are the pros at. Feel. When you sit in those firm buttock-hugging sports seats and all you can see is that huge bonnet in front of you, and the beautifully sculpted haunches in the wing mirrors, you feel amazing. No other car in this category has that feel. You sit low and car feels huge around you, like sitting in a GT car 2 or 3 times the value.
Where the external changes really bring the F-Type forwards with regards to its more aggressive look and demanding road presence, the inside is where the real changes needed to be made and it certainly looks like they’ve sorted out some of those little niggles that just held the old model back a bit. The old infotainment system was exactly that, old. It felt clunky, slow and glitchy compared to a lot of other systems out there but the new 10″ Touch Pro Infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is a huge improvement. The overall system is the same now as it is in all the new JLR cars and it’s so much easier to navigate and use. One feature that hasn’t changed that I for one am quite glad about is the climate control and air-con controls – unlike many other JLR cars, they have retained simple dials that you can actually use whilst you’re driving.
Another feature that I feel separates the F-Type from others is the driver-focused layout of the cabin. You feel like the whole cockpit is built around the driver as the centre console curves around you with the stylish grab handle creating two separate zones. One for the driver, and one for the passenger. It’s not all roses inside, I still don’t fully understand the requirement for the electronic rising centre vents – they just like a lot of trouble for someone further down the line. There’s also a few slightly cheaper feeling plastics and the black plasti-dipped door handles are a bit of a disappointment, but all in all, it’s a great place to sit and one can easily sit in those sports seats for a few hundred miles and still get out feeling fresh at the end.
I always felt that Jaguar nailed it when they released the F-Type back in 2013 – I adored the XK and I do miss them having a proper flagship V8 GT car in their line-up, but I also think that the F-Type was a step in the right direction and this latest variant is still relevant. It’s almost impossible to compare it to its key competitors as even though, like the Porsche and Alpine, it’s a 2-litre turbocharged sportscar starting at around £50k, it’s a very different type of car. The biggest difference being its engine at the front instead of in the middle, and with that is its more GT-style design. Where I appreciate and enjoy the great balance of a mid-engined car, I have always leant towards the longer bonnets and shorter rears of front-engined sports cars. My dream Ferrari will always be one of the front-engined V12s over say a 360 or F355 or even 458. I just love the way they look with the seats almost on top of the rear axle and how they squat down when you plant your right foot.
Another way the F-Type is completely different from its competitors is not only how it looks to the driver/owner, but also how it looks to the public. Given the current situation, I was not out and about as much as I would have liked to have been in the car but when I was it always got attention. You will obviously get some looks in a Porsche and the Alpine will gather some glares mainly because a lot of people won’t know what it is (not sure how that’s a positive, but hey-ho) whereas, with the Jag, everyone looked. And to make it even better, they didn’t look at it like it was some flamboyant supercar being driven by a footballer, instead, they smiled and seemed to enjoy its presence. A rare thing these days. The best thing about all this is that whether you’re driving the full-fat SV8 F-Type or this entry-level P300, it all looks the same on the outside apart from the different exhaust.
It was after seeing those looks from the public that I realised how great this car really is. Yes, it drives wonderfully – the steering is direct, the front end feels more alert over the heavier-engined model and it has more than enough going for it to have a good bit of fun in a real-world scenario, but it’s also more accessible to use every day. With it being the smaller capacity engine and turbocharged, it has better fuel economy than the V8, it’s cheaper to tax, cheaper to insure, cheaper to run and still retains the fabulous styling of the more expensive variants. In today’s world, V8s are still a lovely thought, but with rising tax, fuel and other running costs they are hard to justify and Jaguar has adapted well and produced a fantastic engine that will keep the F-Type alive as without these lower emission, smaller and greener engines, the V8s wouldn’t exist at all.