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Let’s be honest: the concept of a four-cylinder Jaguar F-Type is about as appealing as finding yourself trapped in a small closet with Donald Trump.
After all, the F-Type has established itself as a muscular, shouty, tyre-smoking hooligan with little understanding of the concept of traction – in rear-drive form, at least. One with a four-cylinder engine would run the risk, by comparison, of feeling like a sheep in wolf’s clothing.
But, on paper, the idea of a Jaguar that’s a few cylinders short of six-pack bears some merit. A smaller, less complicated engine helps bring the cost and kerb weight down, while efficiency should rise.
Cutting some weight offsets some of what’s lost from the reduction in power, while the lower price, improved economy and reduced emissions broaden the car’s appeal to buyers. Additionally, a more affordable model would also serve as a more viable alternative to the recently flat-four'd Porsche 718 Cayman and Boxster.
Which is why, if you’re so inclined, you can now opt for a four-cylinder Jaguar F-Type, in coupe or convertible form. Two trim levels are offered: standard, and R-Dynamic – which comes with larger wheels, different trim and a switchable sports exhaust.
Prices start at £49,900 for the coupe, rising to £55,385 for the convertible, and upgrade to R-Dynamic costs an extra £3700 in either case. We tested a coupe in R-Dynamic trim, which would set you back £53,600.
HOW DOES IT STACK UP ON PAPER?
The ‘Ingenium’ engine’s cylinder count might not set your pulse racing, but its specifications should. It packs a twin-scroll turbo with ceramic ball bearings, high-pressure direct fuel injection, variable valve timing and lift, and benefits from all-aluminium construction.
Jaguar’s even gone to the trouble of fitting needle roller bearings for the engine’s twin balancer shafts and camshafts, which is one of a battery of friction-reducing systems.
The net result is 296bhp and 295lb ft, which is dispatched to an open differential at the rear via a swift-shifting eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox. Jaguar claims a 0-62mph time of 5.7sec, and flat out the F-Type will touch 155mph.
As an aside, this new F-Type is also claimed to be 52kg lighter than the supercharged V6 equivalent. That’s a 3.3 percent reduction, so won't translate to much in the real world, but every little helps – particularly given the F-Type’s tendency to tip the scales at considerably more than the quoted figures.
DOES IT FEEL POWERFUL ENOUGH?
There’s no replacement for displacement, so the saying goes, but several pounds of boost – or a hefty hit from the bottle – usually does the job.
In the case of the F-Type, its turbocharged 2.0-litre motor provides more than enough motive power to raise a smile. It’s nowhere near as aggressive as the V6 or V8 variants off the line but it moves out with conviction, pulls eagerly through the rev range and doesn’t leave you sweating tentatively when a moderately powerful diesel hatch pulls up alongside you at the lights.
You can wind the motor out to its fullest more frequently than you can in the more powerful F-Types, too – because the Ingenium's output doesn’t constantly overwhelm the available traction at the rear. It’s less spiky than its bigger brothers, as a result, which those looking for a more easily enjoyed car will appreciate.
The Jaguar’s not as quick as a Porsche Cayman S, or even as quick as the less expensive Cayman, mind – no doubt due to its heftier kerb weight. You can’t have this F-Type with a manual gearbox, either, further denting its appeal to some.
Our test car averaged around 30mpg during our brief test; not exceptional, but not disappointing either.
Our test car also exhibited an intermittent stumble at around 3500rpm when rolling off and on the throttle. It may have been a fault, but it felt more like a mapping or traction control-induced issue. We didn’t have long in the car, however, nor a chance to drive another one, so judgement will be reserved until we test another more comprehensively.
WHAT ABOUT THE NOISE, THOUGH?
Modern turbocharged four-cylinder engines are, for the most part, pretty anonymous when it comes to how they sound out of the factory – with the only notable differences commonly being the volume of piped-in noise from the speakers, exhaust or intake.
Unfortunately, despite Jaguar’s efforts, its new F-Type is no exception to this rule. The exhaust is monotone throughout the rev range, the turbocharger subdued, and there's little to charm or engage you; this is even with the optional active system. There's no real zing to the top of the rev range, either, so those looking for redline-chasing fun best look elsewhere.
Jaguar has also insisted on instating its prominent artificially induced pops and bangs on the overrun, leading to somewhat of an aural clash – with the relatively quiet powertrain suddenly erupting into the acoustic equivalent of a three-round burst from an assault rifle.
So, while the comparable Porsches have a little of that offbeat flat-four burble to distinguish them, the F-Type ends up sounding like a VW Golf R with an M16 strapped to its tail. Still, at least Jaguar didn't fit four exhaust tips.
JAGUAR'S 2.0-LITRE F-TYPE: THE VERDICT
There’s still a lot to like about the F-Type. It looks great, it’s rewarding to drive – primarily thanks to its slick, accurate steering and rear-drive set-up – and the cabin, while a little dated and trailing its rivals in places, is comfortable.
That said, this new 2.0-litre model did tramline on the seemingly smooth Norwegian roads we were testing it on, giving it a slightly restless feel, but we'll have to wait and see if other examples exhibit the same trait.
As impressive as the Ingenium is on the performance front, however, it’s difficult to justify. It’s not as thrilling or as visceral as the V6s, for a start, and it’s not so much lighter, or so dramatically more efficient in the real world, that it makes itself a stand-out choice. Our car, driven gently, averaged 31.4mpg – that's a figure not dissimilar to a V6's economy in similar conditions.
In any instance, the buyer of a high-performance £50,000 coupe – in base trim, without options – is unlikely to be troubled by a difference of several miles to the gallon.
Further weakening its footing is the fact that it’s also not that much cheaper than a V6. Devoid of options it’ll set you back £2365 less than a manual supercharged six-cylinder F-Type, or £3665 less than an automatic one. You’re talking single-digit percentage differences in price.
More to the point, this F-Type is outflanked by the ever-dominant 718 Cayman – a car that’s as powerful, more efficient, significantly quicker and far sweeter to drive. And, as a kicker, it’s also almost £9000 less expensive than an R-Dynamic F-Type.
Sure, the Cayman's devoid of the preferential number of cylinders itself – but, in this freshly downsized sports car battle, it's the far better choice.
2017 JAGUAR F-TYPE COUPE 2.0-LITRE I4 300PS R-DYNAMIC: SPECIFICATIONS
Engine: 1997cc turbocharged 16v four-cylinder petrol
Layout: Front-engined, rear-wheel drive
Gearbox: Eight-speed automatic
Power: 296bhp at 5500rpm
Torque: 295lb ft at 1500-4500rpm
Top speed: 155mph
Economy: 39.2mpg (combined)
Take a look at the new F-Type in Jaguar's official promo video.