Even with a V-6, it’s a sleek, powerful and agile update of the sexiest cat around, blogs Dan Scanlan.
Power corrupts, the old adage claims. So you would think the latest special edition of Jaguar’s F-Type, called the 400 Sport, would be a supercharged V-8 version of the first-gen cat released in 2013 as homage to the original Jaguar E-Type.
But this one-year-only version, done to reveal upgrades coming to 2018 models, proves less is more.
The 400 Sport gets an uprated version of the line’s supercharged 3-liter V-6, with 400 vs. 380 horsepower, paired with the familiar 8-speed automatic and rear-wheel-drive. All-wheel-drive is optional. With Active Exhaust switched on, the drivetrain in “Dynamic” and gearshift slapped sideways into “Sport,” the 400 Sport barks to life and screams as we lay on the throttle. With sharper throttle response and quicker shifting, our 2,500-mile-old F-Type jumped off the line. We hit 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, and 100 mph in 10.8 seconds, with an exhaust “whoomp!” at each quick shift, a loud POP-pop-snarl overrun on deceleration that was wonderful under an overpass! For comparison, an F-Type SVR we tested a year ago with supercharged 5-liter V-8 and 575-horsepower did 60-mph in 3.3 seconds, with 100-mph in 7.8.
The paddle shifters were easy to grab and quick-acting. Active Exhaust gave the pipes’ growl a sharper edge under power, not the mode to use in a quiet neighborhood. Even with active exhaust shut off, the F-Type snarls and pops a bit under hard acceleration. Auto stop/start helped net an average 22-mpg on premium. For sure, there’s power with grace and pace in the F-Type. The 400 Sport is agile with a high FTD (fun to drive) quotient. The basic F-Type’s forged aluminum double wishbone suspension up front and multilink in back gets adaptive damping that reads the car’s body motion, roll and pitch to firm up or soften as needed. This version also gets some chassis upgrades with new dampers and anti-roll bars, wider tires on lightweight forged wheels, stiffer rear suspension knuckles and torque vectoring.
With the adaptive damping in “Normal,” the result was a very firm but surprisingly forgiving ride, supple over most surfaces. It quickly handled bumps with a tight rebound that had some softness at its limit, plus a bit of tire noise. Switch it to “Dynamic” and a harder edge appeared, ride motions more tightly controlled, each bump quickly handled, yet rebound at full compression still buffered a bit.
Agility was the key to this alloy-intensive roadster, with composure in curves. Highway ramps were its meat, the car neutral as it carved through with no hint of understeer. Push hard into a tighter turn and there was minimal lean as well as great grip from Pirelli tires on its way into curves, both ends grabbing with super tight control. It easily flows out of a curve, rear tires easy to goose into a bit of tail out if needed. On our skidpad, there was some understeer, but it was very controllable, the car’s G-force meter’s data log showed a full 1G in turns, .62G on launch at full throttle, plus a .99G in hard braking. Jaguar’s electric power-assisted steering has a nice weight and feel and was super direct with no play dead center. For stopping power, huge (15-inch front/14.8-inch rear) disc brakes with black calipers and 400 SPORT logos in front. The pedal reacted quickly and precisely, stopping the 3,735-pound. droptop quickly, with no nosedive or drama at any speed. Repeated hard stops saw no fade from them either.
The F-Type’s design origins are clear – the E-Type is there in its shape. There’s a wide-mouth grille with gloss black bumper bar and growling cat dead center. The headlights get stacked LED elements for 2018, while the LED J-Blade daytime running lights are updated to act as flashing amber turn signals now. Side intakes flanking the grille lose the past generation’s “shark gill” for larger single openings. And Sport 400 gets a deep lower air dam with yellow graphics, while the long bonnet retains the E-Type’s central power bulge, flanked by gray intakes.
Flared fenders tightly frame aggressive low-profile Pirelli P-ZERO rubber, P255/35ZR20-inchers up front and wider P295/30ZR20’s in back. They roll on 5-spoke satin black alloy wheels framing huge disc brakes with “400 Sport” yellow and black badging up front. The 400 Sport-specific side skirts visually lower the silver convertible on a relatively long (103.2-in.) wheelbase. The short rear deck gets a speed-activated spoiler, Jaguar leaping cat badge dead center. The black cloth top looks clean and compact, going under in 10 seconds to reveal twin roll hoops aft of head restraints. LED taillights are slim streaks clawed into the upper edge of the tail, their rounded bulls-eyes now accentuated by darker lenses. Even standing still, it attracted comments.
Inside, a cozy cockpit for two with redesigned “Performance” seats that premiere in the 400 Sport. The 12-way power seats are slimmer on die-cast magnesium alloy frames – 17 pounds less than the previous seats. They are firm, supportive and fairly comfortable, although that wore a bit thin on longer trips. A brushed black aluminum center console accent climbs all the way to upper center air vents that dramatically rise when you tap the pulsing red “Start” button. Dual yellow stitching accents the leather-clad dash, seats, armrests and flat-bottomed power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, with aluminum gearshift paddles in back. The wheel frames a straightforward gauge package – 190-hp speedometer and 8,000-rpm (6,600-rpm redline) tach, a color LCD screen in between with radio info, time, outside temperature, digital speedometer, trip computer and gearshift position. Oddly, no voice command for audio and navigation.
The main color touchscreen has navigation, audio, climate control, parking sensors, backup camera with cross-traffic, and phone. The G-force display is part of a performance page with engine/transmission/steering/suspension setup, stopwatch and gas and brake force. The electronic gearshift base is beautiful alloy surrounded by stitched leather with buttons for exhaust enhancement, rear spoiler, stability control, power top and auto engine-off. To the left, a switch to select “Normal,” “Snow/ice” or “Performance” settings for engine, throttle, suspension and stability control. Polished alloy pedals are underfoot, where the thinner seats gave just enough legroom with the seat all the way aft. Storage is very limited inside, while the tiny trunk is shared with a battery and power top, deep enough to handle some soft bags. Top up, it’s a bit difficult to see when a lane change is needed. Wind buffeting is livable when down, and that exhaust sound is addictive.
As for how much kitty litter it takes to buy a 400 Sport, a base rear-wheel-drive Jaguar F-Type with 340-horsepower V-6 starts at $59,900 for the coupe and $63,000 for the convertible. Our 400 Sport convertible was $92,600 for almost everything standard except: $1,400 dual-zone climate control; $350 suede interior accents; $850 Meridian sound system; $450 blind spot monitor and $150 wind deflector for a final price of $96,795. For $125,000, you can opt for the top-of-the-line SVR convertible with 575-horsepower and all-wheel-drive.
For more information about the full range of Jaguar F-Types, please visit https://www.jaguarusa.com/all-models/f-type/models/index.html