First drive: 2016 Jaguar F-Type AWD in New York USA
The Jaguar F-Type has become a sort of figurehead for the once-fading British luxury carmaker, leading the charge as the brand redefines itself as a more aggressively-sporty alternative to typical premium choices. The 2-door sports car debuted less than two years ago, but more variants have been added to the line-up this year, namely an all-wheel-drive option and a manual gearbox. We drove these new versions in the outskirts of New York this summer.
The compact F-Type isn’t exactly the most advanced sports car around, based on a chopped version of the decade-old XK coupe that preceded it. However, it’s still an immensely-capable sports car, more so than the XK with which we’re intimately familiar, even though it’s still almost as heavy as the larger XK.
Still offered with a choice of a 335 hp and a 375 hp supercharged 3.0-litre V6 as entry-level choices, the 550 hp supercharged 5.0-litre V8 is now the sole eight-cylinder option, and all models are now offered with optional all-wheel-drive in regions that prefer the extra traction in icy winter weather. And on a more positive note, the V6 models now have the choice of a 6-speed manual gearbox in addition to the usual 8-speed automatic.
We’ve already talked about the earlier rear-wheel-drive V6 and V8 models so we won’t get into too much detail here about the driving bit. But does the all-wheel-drive make a difference? Having driven the V8 version both on and off the track, it’s hard to feel any extra traction in most cases. The all-wheel-drive system runs a rear-biased profile most of the time, so the ability to send power to the front wheels does not come into play in dry-weather conditions. About the only think we can say for certain was that the all-wheel-drive one did not act as tail-happy as the rear-wheel-drive model we drove last year. The rear-driven R Coupe always felt like it had too much power without the chassis balance to handle it, so this new version keeps that in check better.
A major change for the 2016 model-year is a switch to electric power steering, and we have to say, it feels no worse than the previous hydraulic setup. Truth be told, the old setup wasn’t the epitome of feedback to begin with, so switching to electric made no real difference, aside from maybe having a bit more artificial feedback. The good thing is both the sharpness and accuracy of the steering remain unaffected.
And what about the new manual option? Mated to only the V6 engines, it’s very easy to drive, with a moderately-weighted clutch that has a large biting point, so it’s not overwhelming in stop-and-go traffic, and easy to shift gears while carving mountain roads in haste. The chunky shifter has a reasonably good action with very little notchiness.
With less than 400 horses, it makes for a great sports car that’s easy to drive fast. The V6 S is fast without being overpowering like the V8 R, just right for having some fun on public roads, accompanied with that throaty exhaust growl whose loudness can be turned on and off at the press of a button.
The ride is generally bearable if the roads are good and the adaptive suspension is set in “normal” mode, but gets noticeably choppy in “sport” mode. It’s moderately noisy inside the cabin when driven in cruising mode, and there isn’t a huge difference in noise levels between the cloth-top roadster and the liftback coupe.
The Jaguar F-Type may not be ground-breaking in terms of tech, but it is desirable nonetheless simply by getting the basics of a sports-car right. Clearly they’re listening to enthusiast customers with the new options, especially the manual gearbox. Very few cars in its class offer a driving experience this visceral.
For detailed prices and specs, visit the Jaguar buyer guide.
Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury and Jaguar.