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Jaguar is the latest car maker to introduce sports cars powered by smaller 4-cylinder engines and its F-Type 2.0 R-Dynamic rivals the segment-leading Porsche Cayman 718 and Boxster 718. The Jaguar F-Type 2.0 was launched in India a couple of months ago and is available in the convertible variant, too. While Porsche’s decision to move the 718-generation of the Boxster and Cayman from the flat-six to a turbocharged flat-four could be justified by the brand’s long association with smaller engines, Jaguar has no such history. The new 2.0-litre ‘base model’ marks the first time the iconic British brand has produced a sports car with fewer than six cylinders, in addition to the V6 and V8 powered F-Type variants that sit on top of the line-up. The powerplant in question is Jaguar Land Rover’s newly developed Ingenium turbocharged in-line four, which we have seen in most JLR cars and SUVs. While it may be short on cylinders and displacement this engine still puts out a more than healthy 296 horses and 400Nm and comes mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission, powering the rear wheels. For perspective, the power developed is slightly more than what the Jaguar XJ-S made from a 5.3-litre V-12 in the early 1990s!
“The new 2.0-litre ‘base model’ marks the first time the iconic British brand has produced a sports car with fewer than six cylinders”
Some people drive cars for the thrill of it. The mind, body and machine connect, the adrenaline rush that accompanies all that speed; for the sight of other road users falling behind as they spin a cyclone in the rear view mirror. Others drive cars because they want everyone else to know how much car they can blow up on a car. This 2-litre F-Type sits precisely at the intersection of those two desires. From its long hood to its wide rear haunches, the F-Type is one slinky stunner. A descendant of the iconic Jaguar E-type, it offers a driving experience as good as its looks. A big, single, central tailpipe drops the visual appeal, somewhat, over the quad pipes we’re used to seeing. It drives the rear wheels only, through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. There’s no four-wheel drive or manual ’box option for this version, which weighs 52kg less than the V6. Most of it would be engine weight that has dropped. A light, stripped-out, manual sounds the kind of car that people like us would love though. Other minor tweaks include full LED headlights, a freshened front end and Jaguar’s InControl Touch Pro infotainment system with navigation.
“The mass reduction over the nose helps the car feel markedly more agile than its heftier sisters when asked to turn into slower corners”
Jaguar is predictably keen to have us look at the new engine as something other than an economy option. Although the four-cylinder has dropped the entry price for the range to below Rs 1 crore, the most obvious benefit is the sharper handling and more usable power delivery. We drove the car over some of the same twisties around Pune where we had driven the V8 extensively and, honestly, could barely get close to the limit. This is a road where most corners are tight and challenging while the blind crests along with bumps and undulating surfaces tend to upset most cars. But this smaller-engined F-Type acclimatised itself brilliantly. Thanks to fractionally softer springs, the four cylinder car feels more exploitable. The mass reduction over the nose helps the car feel markedly more agile than its heftier sisters when asked to turn into slower corners, yet this Jag stays just as planted as any F-Type in the faster stuff. The engine helps in this, too. Both the V6 and the V8s frequently struggle for traction, especially exiting corners. The two litre’s lower output and gentler power delivery mean it doesn’t feels too tail-happy, even with the traction control completely switched off. Here’s an F-Type you can drive with lots of confidence, with no fear of the rear axle giving you a nasty surprise. Early V8s certainly couldn’t claim that.
“There’s no shortage of noise under enthusiastic use thanks to a sporty exhaust along with some pops and bangs when you’re off the gas”
However, the new engine isn’t the most eager for a sports car, being more keen to produce low down torque rather than high revving excitement. With the gearbox in manual mode and the car in its more aggressive Dynamic setting it’s easy to drive the sharp handling Jag close to the engine’s rev limiter at most times, without scaring yourself. Left to its own devices, though, the transmission always shifts up far too early and without much urgency. The gear changes are smooth, though. There’s no shortage of noise under enthusiastic use thanks to a sporty exhaust along with some pops and bangs when you’re off the gas. I particularly like how the engine note fades away to a pleasing background burble. But there’s no hiding the fact that you’re listening to a four cylinder which sounds… a bit tame… in a two-seat Jag especially if you’ve experienced the V8. It’s the one area where this entry level F-Type feels clearly inferior to larger engined siblings. Objectively this is a better F-Type. It may sound a bit like a hot hatch, but the flipside is you can drive it like one. Which is a proper novelty.
While the Jaguar F-Type range starts at Rs 90.93 lakh, the F-Type 2.0 R-Dynamic is priced higher than its German rival at Rs 93.67 lakh. The Porsche 718 Cayman and 718 Boxster model range starts at Rs 85.95 lakh and Rs 89.95 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) respectively. The Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG is also powered by a 2-litre 4-cylinder engine and costs Rs 75.22 lakh. If American muscle cars is your thing, then the V8 powered Ford Mustang is also an option, which retails at Rs 74.62 lakh (ex-showroom).
You can buckle down and commit to driving it as hard as you can and will, rather than sitting back and appeasing your hooligan side. It can be driven at a far higher percentage of its potential more often. I honestly think it might actually have better real world pace over its more expensive siblings, while lacking only slightly behind in the thrills it offers. The suspension is well tuned and the ride is composed. It doesn’t crash into potholes or over bumps and it’s consistent with its behavior. And you also get it with a folding soft top if you like wind in your hair. It’s credit to Jaguar who have made one model feel like two completely different cars. And this one brings the F-Type closer to Porsche in terms of price and cornering attitude than ever before.