Scratch­ing two pots sharp­ens F-type’s han­dling

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Lighter turbo four pot sharp­ens price and han­dling

PORSCHE can clearly get away with a four-cylin­der sports car, but can Jaguar? Based on ini­tial im­pres­sions of the four­pot F-type, the an­swer is yes. Be­cause when you jump in the new en­try-level F-type, it quickly impresses with its agility, per­for­mance, and – to a cer­tain ex­tent – even its sound.

A four-cylin­der F-type wasn’t in the orig­i­nal plan, but then along came Jaguar Land Rover’s new four-cylin­der In­ge­nium en­gines.

“As soon as we started pro­duc­ing that en­gine, I knew we had to do this car,” says project boss Erol Mustafa.

The on-pa­per ben­e­fits of the al­la­lu­minium, di­rect-in­jec­tion turbo four are solid: with 221kw/400nm, it loses out 29kw/50nm to the base V6, but fights back with a 52kg weight sav­ing – about 90 per­cent of this down to the en­gine it­self – and prom­ises 16 per­cent bet­ter of­fi­cial econ­omy, at 7.2L/100km.

After the su­per­charged re­sponse of other Fs, the lack of throt­tle im­me­di­acy de­tracts a lit­tle, but the turbo brings a perky hit of boost low down that makes the rear tyres feel like they’re graft­ing hard (with­out the help of an LSD) to trans­mit power, and there’s a lusti­ness to the midrange de­liv­ery too.

It feels nat­u­ral to shift well short of the 5500rpm power peak, but the tightly stacked, punchy gear changes land you bang in the power band time and again; it’s easy to get in a cross-coun­try flow.

Jaguar’s V6 and V8s sound like they’ll drown out a fire­works dis­play with their pops, fizzes, and crack­les, and any four was go­ing to have a hard time fol­low­ing those acts. But there’s an en­er­getic frisk­i­ness to the four- cylin­der sound, and you still get the pops and crack­les on the over­run. Avoid hang­ing onto high revs and the In­ge­nium 2.0-litre is re­ally quite like­able. The han­dling ben­e­fits from fewer cylin­ders too, as does re­spon­sive­ness, the four-pot F-Type's lighter nose div­ing into cor­ners with pre­ci­sion and en­thu­si­asm. There's also more ad­justa­bil­ity off-throt­tle than the V6 mod­els. Spring rates are dropped four per­cent front, three per­cent rear, but per­haps it's be­cause adap­tive dampers are off the menu that this F-Type rolls a lit­tle more freely, giv­ing you ex­tra op­tions to play with the weight trans­fer. Shame the re-tuned elec­tric power steer­ing feels heav­ier, too keen to self-cen­tre, and com­mu­ni­cates so lit­tle road-sur­face in­for­ma­tion. A few flaws, per­haps, but it's hard not to fall for Jaguar's most af­ford­able, least pow­er­ful F-Type. It's so promis­ing it makes us won­der how a lighter, more po­tent 'club­sport' ver­sion would feel. Im­prob­a­ble, per­haps, but on this ev­i­dence it'd be quite a thing.

Model Jaguar F-type Coupe En­gine 1997cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo Max power 221kw @ 5500rpm Max torque 400Nm @ 1500- 4500rpm Trans­mis­sion 8- speed au­to­matic Weight 1525kg 0-100km/ h 5.7sec ( claimed) Econ­omy 7.2L/ 100km Price $ 107,300 On sale Novem­ber

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