2018 Jaguar F-Type 400 Sport: No V8, No Problem!
Jaguar's new special edition F-Type is proof that more power isn't always best
I know many of you who worship at the altar of Lord Jeremy Clarkson and his Church of POWERRRRR are going to take some exception to this idea. Hell, I had to step back and wonder, "Who am I and what did I do with myself?" Growing up horsepower was king. Whatever version of a car had the most power was undoubtedly the best possible version of said car. That was it. There was no debate. On the very scientific Awesome Scale more horsepower always, ALWAYS moved the Awesometer (patent pending) firmly towards the more awesome side of the scale.
This still holds true for some cars, the Ford Focus for example. Standard Focus, eh, Focus ST better, Focus RS, SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!!! However, as I have gotten older and more "mature" I have found there has been a shift in my preferences. Once you start getting around the 400-500 horsepower figure I find myself thinking more isn't necessarily better. No vehicle I have driven illustrates this more than the Jaguar F-Type 400 Sport.
I have driven just about every iteration of Jaguar's two-door sports coupe. From the basic six cylinder "S" to the full lunatic "SVR". I have had the distinct pleasure of driving them on the road and on the track and I always come to the same conclusion, in any guise, the F-Type is one of the best sports coupes on the market today. The proportions are perfect the noise (more on that later) is amazing. Same applies to the steering, brakes, and handling. Rising to the top is the 400 Sport.
If you are a regular to Shifting Lanes then you will have seen my colleague, Gregson's take on the F-Type. He is 100% in the F-Type R camp. This car gives him special feelings in the trouser department. It is hard to disagree with his assessment. The F-Type R is a growling masterpiece of automotive engineering. 550 Horsepower, 3.9 seconds to 60, corner carving handling all contained within an absolutely gorgeous body. It is a fantastic piece of engineering and if you don't believe me check out Gregson's review below.
So if the R is so special what makes the 400 Sport better? Yes, I said better. This brings us back to the notion that more power isn't always the better option. It boils down to one inescapable fact, the vast majority of us do 99.999 % of our driving on, spoiler alert, public roads. These roads are complete with such annoyances as other people, speed limits and (if you live near me) a metric fuck ton of deer lurking in the bushes waiting for the perfect moment to jump out and ruin your day. Then there is the tiny detail despite what we may think we are not, in fact, the Stig. So driving at insane speeds is not only illegal it is dangerous. These factors combine to render huge horsepower to just a number. A number you tell your brag about in the never-ending country club manhood extension measuring contest. There is a reason 150 horsepower Miatas are so beloved by gearheads.
This is where the 400 Sport comes in. It doesn't have mega horsepower, the supercharged V6 has had the power output increased but only to 400 horsepower. Power goes to all four wheels via Jaguar's torque vectoring All-Wheel Drive system. Best part, it doesn't feel like it. It feels lively, it feels like a rear wheel drive car. It just so happens to have the added security of awd should you run out of talent and things start to go awry. The smaller engine means less weight up front. Weight savings you can actually feel as the front end feels sharper, more planted and more responsive than it does in the bigger, badder V8's. Combine this with the active suspension and you can enjoy the 400 Sport on a public road at normal, legal, non-lethal speeds.
That is all well and good, but the 400 Sport's piece de resistance is that engine. This is the car's defining characteristic. They plant the horsepower number all over the car and named the model after that fact. The 400 horsepower supercharged V6 is what makes this car. The power is more than enough to plant you into the excellent seats. It is a lively unit, responding quickly to your right foot's input.
Then there's the sound, that sweet glorious almost spiritual sound. It howls in such a way that you go back in time. You can't help but think about this car's inspiration, The E-Type Jag. The E-Type's 3.8 liter straight six is one of the best sounding engines ever produced. Having this sound in your life is reason enough to buy an E-Type, electrical gremlins be damned! The 400 Sport sounds like a more pissed off modern version of that engine. Close your eyes and you're suddenly Norman Dewis thrashing an original E-Type in a mad dash to make the Geneva Auto Show on time. The F-Type does what so many retro-inspired cars fail to do, it connects you to the past. It connects you to the car that inspired it all while sounding absolutely sublime.
On a normal car I can see covering the lameness with plastic, but when you build an engine this phenomenal why not show it off? Why cover it in boring ass plastic?
I may catch some flak for this but I think the 400 Sport sounds better than any other F-Type. The SVR is savage and phenomenal but never shuts up. It is at 11 always no matter if you want it to or not. The R suffers from a similar issue but at a very slightly lower level. Point is all the V8's are yelling at you all the time and on long trips or commutes to work that gets tiresome. Wait, in the same review, I said more power and more noise all the time isn't better. Early 20's me would kick my ass for saying that, but such is life as one matures into the well-rounded "adult" I am today.
The 400 Sport is a special edition so not many will be built. So if you have a spare $89,500 burning a hole in your pocket I strongly urge you to buy one sooner rather than later. The 400 Sport is an amazing machine. It looks great. Words cannot accurately describe how good it sounds. It handles and it has enough power to indulge your inner child on a back road. If you were to describe the perfect sports coupe nine times out of ten you would end up describing this car. It is that good and you owe it to yourself to get out there and try to drive one. You will not be disappointed.