The Jaguar F-Type 400 Sport is undoubtedly a piece of automotive theatre. But does it have the performance chops to match its striking looks and sonorous heartbeat?
Pferdestärke is the answer.
The question? “What does the ‘400’ signify?”
It’s what I was most asked about the 2018 Jaguar F-Type 400 Sport. Everyone from my CarAdvice colleagues, my 18-year-old daughter and an array of random strangers in the street wanted to know.
Pferdestärke. And it has 400 of them.
For the uninitiated, Pferdestärke is the German word for, literally, ‘horse strength’, or, as we know it, horsepower. But, and it’s a point worth making, 400PS (for short) does not equate to brake horsepower. PS is in fact, the standardised DIN metric horsepower measurement, commonly used by German car makers. So the F-Type, in this 3.0-litre, six cylinder, supercharged guise has, according to the Germans, the strength of 400 horses.
Which, if I’m honest, is an unusual designation for a British car owned by an Indian company. Then again, the 394.4 Sport (the imperial British brake-horsepower) doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. Nor does the 298.5 Sport (in our beloved kilowatts).
But then, this car is ‘unusual’ if by unusual one means “remarkable or interesting because different from others”. The Jaguar is certainly that.
And that’s no bad thing. Indeed, it could even be a selling point in a market already spoiled for choice when it comes to thoroughbred sports car offerings. For some, standing out from the crowd is essential. Which is why the F-Type 400 Sport rear-wheel drive at $183,512 plus on-road costs makes a compelling case.
At that price point, it has no natural enemies.
The BMW 640i comes close ($181,810) but it is ancient now. Similarly, the Lotus Evora comes in at $180,600, but it’s a different animal altogether, a track-focused beast that can be driven on the road, but not at the level of comfort the Jaguar exudes. There’s also Nissan’s fearsome GT-R that starts at $189,000. But, it’s really not the same thing, is it? Besides, a more even match-up with the GT-R would be our tester’s all-wheel drive brother which rolls out on all four paws at $199,312.
But taking the scrap to the RWD model we have on test, one could plump for a Porsche Cayman S, which starts at $145,500 and then add around $40k of options, not exactly difficult in Porsche-land, in fact, almost obligatory.
But then, that’s not taking into account the options on our tester, which include such goodies as Jaguar’s InControl Connect pro pack ($2465) and InControl Protect ($845); blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert ($2270), panoramic roof ($2060), Secure Tracker ($1300), a powered boot lid ($1130), a rear-view camera ($1035), two-zone climate control ($1010), Auto-dimming, power-folding, heated door mirrors with memory ($780), front parking sensors ($690), DAB radio ($620), an air quality sensor ($100) and some sunvisors with vanity mirrors, a snip at just $100 (no, really, sunvisors optional).
So, aside from having an extra $20k in your bank account (or around $250pcm on a typical lease arrangement), why would you opt for the F-Type over an entry-level 911 or Vantage? Because it’s different. And for some, that’s important. But, crucially, it also needs to stack up as a sports car, to offer a level of engagement and performance that justifies its price. And by both measures, the Jaguar is on the money.
Let’s start with its styling. Looks are, of course, subjective but there’s no denying the beauty in the F-Type’s curvaceous exterior. From that long, swooping nose through to those fat, flared rear haunches, the F-Type oozes intent, a squatting, hulking presence. Dare I say, it looks much like its Animalia namesake, ready to pounce. As one of my colleagues remarked, “If I was rich, I would buy one and hang it on my lounge room wall just so I could look at it all day. It’s a work of art”.
While I reckon it would be pretty cool to have a car in your lounge room as a work of art, that’s to lose sight of what these types of car are really for – driving.
Slide inside, and there’s no mistaking the F-Type’s sporting intent. The seat hugs you tight, cocoons your body, and with 12-way electric adjustment, finding the perfect driving position is a cinch. The electrically adjustable steering wheel too, can be lowered or raised, or positioned forwards or back. And memory settings keep everything ‘just so’ for you, even after someone taller/shorter/rounder/longer-armed than you has messed with your perfect position.
The cabin oozes sumptuousness; from the 400 Sport-branded flat-bottomed steering wheel, which feels gorgeous in hand, to the Windsor-leather-trimmed 400 Sport Performance seats, finished in contrasting yellow stitching, the F-Type’s cabin is an exercise in understated sporting luxury.
There’s not much interior storage for the usual accoutrements. Finding a home for your phone and wallet is about the best the Jaguar offers. There are a couple of cupholders, but seriously, if you’re worried about how many lattes your Jaguar can hold, then this probably isn’t the car for you.
The fit and finish of the interior is excellent. It feels plush, it looks premium. From the 400 Sport-branded black brushed aluminium centre console, every touch point feels like the 200-plus large you’ve just dropped on your Jaguar.
Infotainment comes courtesy of an 8.0-inch touchscreen and features JLR’s familiar Touch Pro system, including the group’s proprietary Navigation Pro setup. Our car came with Jaguar’s optional InControl Connect Pro Pack which adds a beefed up sat-nav system with a host of real time information including traffic and fuel prices, a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot for up to eight devices, Remote Premium which, according to Jaguar, gives you the ability to “interact with your Jaguar from anywhere in the world”. Why you’d want to, I’m not sure, but you can switch on the climate control remotely before you get to your Jaguar, making it all cosy and nice for you.
The InControl Connect Pro pack also adds Jaguar’s InControl Apps platform which is like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but isn’t. But it does stream music and media, play audio books and stream radio stations from around the world, amongst a host of other things.
If you prefer your infotainment via Bluetooth, the good news is the F-Type’s system is seamless and quick, while the standard-fit Meridian sound system packs a wallop. But, as good as the Meridian system is, you’d be a fool to pump out some tunes when the glorious symphony that is the 3.0-litre V6 supercharged engine is available at your fingertips and under your right foot.
Press the stop/start button and the F-Type leaps into life, a cacophony of burbles and crackles that brings joy to a petrol hedonist’s heart. The engine thrums under that long snout while the exhaust note from the centrally-mounted twin pipes out back can be felt in your back. There’s an exhaust amplifier too, activated by the press of a button in the centre console – and you’d be crazy to leave that disengaged. After all, who doesn’t love a bit of emissions theatre?
On the road, the Jaguar takes on the characteristics of its namesake. Around town it slinks softly, purring gently while padding around on those big, 20-inch five-spoke paws finished in dark satin grey. Minor imperfections are dealt with easily while sharper hits, such as speed humps, don’t unsettle the big cat at all. Sure, you feel them, but the F-Type settles quickly on its paws with minimum fuss.
Playing with traffic is a surprisingly relaxing experience. There’s none of the urgency you sometimes experience with cars of this nature. The F-Type happily burbles along at docile speeds, the eight-speed auto transmission comfortably finding its rhythm, even at traffic snarl speeds. The Jag is quite happy to crawl along slowly, even if you’re not. Never once, did it feel flustered in stop/start traffic, moving off from standstill at a sedate pace with unruffled ease. No jerkiness, no hesitation from the auto ’box. And apart from that delicious thrum from the pipes out the back, the Jag remains relatively quiet at stalking speeds.
On one stretch of city highway, the F-Type purred along at the posted 80km/h speed limit in eighth gear at 1300rpm with barely a ripple.
But, let’s face it, this isn’t a car for stalking quietly around your inner city enclave. This is a car that demands to be heard. And when you let its off its leash, the F-Type responds in typically wild fashion.
Flick the drive selector mode into Dynamic, and the big cat leaps into life with a raucous snarl that is simply magnificent. Sure, it’s not the growl of a stonking V8 or the howl of a V12, but the supercharged six has a character all its own. It’s a snarl, a shriek, a yowl, a howl, and it’s glorious.
So too is the feeling when you plant your foot on the throttle. The response is instant, the Jaguar leaping forward like its namesake on a kill. With a claimed 0-100km/h time of 4.9 seconds, the F-Type is not especially fast, considering the company she keeps. But it’s the nature of that acceleration that delights. Surging from standstill, the big cat continues to pile on speed with consummate ease.
Leave the transmission in auto, and the Jag is happy to hold onto its gears to redline. Flick over to manual mode and use the paddle-shifters to control your own destiny and the Jaguar responds with a wailing willingness that is pure theatre. Each up-shift is accompanied by a delightful ‘bang’ while downshifts sing along to a cackling, crackling, burbling and bubbling soundtrack. It’s a symphony of mechanical poetry and if it doesn’t move your soul, you don’t have one.
Musical theatre is one thing, but it’s nothing without the dance to go along with the song. The F-Type doesn’t disappoint, light on its feet as it leaps from corner to corner, self-assured and direct. There’s a lot of technological choreography at play to help keep the F-Type planted and planted firmly.
Adaptive dynamics and torque vectoring combine to keep the Jag unruffled. Corners are dispatched with barely a ripple as the F-Type slinks from one turn to the next. There’s no under- or oversteer and any mid-corner ruts or imperfections do little to unsettle the Jag. It’s confidence-building and it allows you to hustle the Big Cat with as much joy as the brave pill you took that morning will allow.
From its jaw-dropping stunning looks to the sonorous sound of that supercharged six, the Jaguar F-Type 400 Sport is everything a sports car should be – heart-achingly beautiful and with an operatic heartbeat under its long snout powered by the strength of 400 horses, it delivers on performance, dynamics and theatre in equal measure.
Equally adept in traffic as it is on mountainous bends, the 400 Sport nails the brief for an engaging sports car that can pitter patter about on soft paws like a house cat but with that feline’s innate ability to explode into action when needed. It’s not perfect, nothing is, but the F-Type 400 Sport presents a compelling option for those in the market for thoroughbred sports car.
Click on the Gallery tab for more images by Sam Venn.