Going green leads Jaguar to offer a 'four-pot' sports car
DESPITE the howls from luxury sports car purists, four-cylinder turbos are here to stay.
Jaguar is the latest to the party with a four-cylinder option on its F-Type coupe and convertible.
The approach isn't revolutionary - Audi's TT coupe and roadster have 2.0-litre turbos under their bonnets, as do Porsche's Boxster and Cayman. Strict emissions rules in Europe have forced sports car makers to look at smaller capacity engines.
But for Jaguar, downsizing represents an opportunity as well as a challenge.
The addition of a four-cylinder engine to its F-Type allows it to go head-to-head with Porsche and Audi at the "cheaper" end of the premium sports car market.
A starting price of $107,012 for the coupe lands it roughly halfway between the more expensive Cayman and cheaper TT. It's also almost $15,000 cheaper than the V6 version of the F-Type.
The convertible will prove to be a harder sell, as it starts at an eye-watering $125,712, with no extra equipment. By way of comparison, Audi charges roughly $500 more for a soft-top TT and Porsche about $2000.
Jaguar boss Matthew Wiesner predicts the four-cylinder model will attract new buyers to the brand and could eventually make up half of F-Type sales. He says it will also give the brand a shot in the arm in a "challenging" luxury market.
"I'd rather be doing what we're doing in a softening market than have nothing interesting and new to talk about," he says.
And the new four-cylinder model definitely falls into the new and interesting category.
The 221kW turbo is the most powerful four-cylinder the company has built and also puts out more power per litre than the V6 and V8 variants.
The numbers are line ball with the Cayman and the Jaguar has slightly more torque than the Porsche. It is heavier, though, and Jaguar 5.7-second for the sprint to 100km/h is a second slower than its German rival.
The numbers stack up pretty well against the V6 F-Type though. It's only four-tenths slower to 100km/h and the lower price tag also comes with cheaper fuel bills, as the four-cylinder is a claimed 16 per cent more fuel efficient.
The four-cylinder model is distinguished from the rest of the range by a single tailpipe and lightweight 18-inch wheels, while the entire range gets new bumpers, LED headlights, slimmer seats, improved infotainment system and new chrome and aluminium finishes in the cabin.
Autonomous emergency braking is now standard, as is lane departure warning, but lane-keep assist, blind-spot warning, rear cross traffic alert and a driver condition monitor are optional. Also optional is a reversing camera, which will set buyers back $1060.
Our test vehicle had roughly $40,000 worth of options, including keyless entry for $1200, premium paint for $5910 and a sound system for $7260.
ON THE ROAD
Sports cars are all about stimulating the senses and the four-cylinder F-type does a pretty good job of engaging its driver.
While a four-cylinder turbo will never sound as sweet as a V8 - or even a six - in full flight, the exhaust makes all the right noises, especially with the roof down in the convertible. The bolstered, leather-lined seats and sports steering wheel add to the cabin ambience, while from the outside the curves are in all the right places for a sports coupe or convertible.
The four is 50 kilograms lighter than the six and that weight comes off the front end, which makes the car more eager to change direction. The accurate, well weighted steering adds to the entertainment factor and there's plenty of grip for enthusiastic cornering.
The ride is firm and can be bumpy over pockmarked roads, but the car feels well tied down.
The engine is strong in the mid-range but there's not the shove in the back you get from some turbocharged fours. There is a slight delay in power delivery off the mark and when kicking down a gear, while the traditional eight-speed automatic transmission isn't as quick-shifting as its rivals' dual-clutch autos. However, it is smoother shifting and a better match for stop-and-go city driving.
Three and a half stars
The four-cylinder is never going to match the thrill of a V8 in full flight, but it does represent a more affordable entry into the Jaguar sports car family - as long as you don't tick too many of those boxes.