All cars do most things really well. Some, though, do those things well but also double down on one thing in particular and blow the roof off it. Acceleration, say, or a really sick audio system. In the case of the Jaguar F-Type, that signature has always been its exhaust note. Its gurgles, barks, and pops are over the top — almost to a fault. There are times it’s kind of embarrassing to be driving through a Home Depot parking lot in a car that snarls menacingly just pulling into a parking spot.
So when Jaguar announced earlier this year that the 2018 F-Type line would include a four-cylinder — a common move these days — my reaction was mix of “NO!” but also “phew.” A four-cylinder F-Type would lower the financial barrier to entry, reduce weight, and boost fuel economy, but also sound a little less…promiscuous…for those who like to keep a somewhat lower profile while tooling around town. But would it still feel like an F-Type? Love it or hate it, that excruciatingly well-tuned exhaust note was a part of package, and certainly distinctive, sounding downright biblical at full song.
For that reason, I was eager to finally get behind the 2-liter, four-cylinder F-Type to see if it could hold a candle to its more deep-throttled brethren, the V6 and V8 variants. I drove the new model in Norway, carving up freeways and fjords in the convertible version. As with other four-cylinder sports cars that have washed up on our shores recently — notably the Porsche 718, née the six-cylinder Boxster — there’s an obvious aural compromise in play. It doesn’t exactly sound like a movie popcorn machine wired to a subwoofer, but it still sounds a damn sight better than most sports cars. (Though truth be told, some of that is enhanced through mechanical and electrical mechanisms, which is also common practice these days.) In short, it sounds perfectly lovely, with the right mix of aggression when you’re really on it and docile humming when you’re not. It would be my day-to-day preference over the more outrageous models higher up the chain.
2018 Jaguar F-Type Four-Cylinder
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
Torque: 295 lb-ft
0-60: 5.4 seconds
Top speed: 155 mph
But as much noise as I’m making over noise, performance is what you truly want in the F-Type. The car retains its all-aluminum construction to keep weight down, and the new engine can push the car to 60 mph in a respectable-if-not-quite-mind-blowing 5.4 seconds; its electronically limited top speed is 155 mph. So it’s no rocket, but it is quick, stable — credit a chassis redesigned to take full advantage of the car’s weight loss — and still plenty responsive, thanks to its finely tuned twin-scroll turbocharger and its newly enhanced electrohydraulic combustion-control system, which helps precisely modulate fuel flow based on power demand. A slew of additional deep-tissue engine mods all conspire to optimize the four-cylinder’s performance and power efficiency, as well as fuel efficiency — though fuel economy numbers have yet to be announced.
Being the bellwether of across-the-board F-Type changes for 2018, the four-cylinder also introduces some styling and feature tweaks. All the cars get their own model-specific new front bumpers and redesigned LED headlights, and there are a new, lighter seats more interior color options. For the enthusiasts, Jag has teamed up with GoPro to develop a new app, called ReRun, that generates performance-data overlays on the owner’s own GoPro, including speed, throttle, gear, braking, g-force and more. The system works through an only slightly Rube Goldbergian setup involving wireless connection of a smartphone to the camera, with the smartphone also connected to the car’s infotainment system through a USB cable. Once everything is synced up, user videos will feature animated gauges showing the performance data, and the clips can be edited and uploaded directly to social media channels from the ReRun app. I wasn’t able to test that in Norway, but it sounds just crazy enough to probably work.
Speaking of Norway, it was a delight to behold from the F-Type, resplendent in the crisp perpetual spring that is the Norwegian summer. The car delivered a thrilling, if measured, tour of the countryside that made me forget the engine was merely a four-cylinder. Remembering that the opposite is also often true — that you can forget that a V8 is not merely a V6 unless you’re standing on it like Thor’s chauffer — that rendered the whole experience a thoroughly satisfying affair on all fronts.