Jaguar leapt back into the sports car game just a few years ago with the F-TYPE, the spiritual successor to the iconic E-Type. Though keen to take on the space between the Porsche Cayman and the 911, Jaguar offered the F-TYPE only in rear-wheel drive and only with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
While I’ve no complaints with the drivetrain layout, especially the simply fantastic automatic, the limited driveline options left some buyers wanting. Frankly, some motoring enthusiasts don’t want a car that shifts itself, or gets so violently tail-waggy as the F-TYPE.
Well, for the 2016 model, the stiff-upper-lipped men at Jaguar have heard the cries of the seemingly few and answered with a dizzying array of changes to the friskiest of kitties with a six-speed manual, all-wheel drive, and an even more powerful convertible.
Manual S Caldera Convertible
Let’s start at the baseline. For rear-wheel drive V6 models, Jaguar will now offer a six-speed manual transmission, which pairs nicely with the supercharged 3.0-liter’s 380 horsepower.
Though a nice gesture, the addition won’t do much but win Jag some enthusiast kudos, as the V6 models haven’t sold nearly as well here in the States as the V8-powered F-TYPEs.
Still, though, if someone is cross-shopping a base Cayman and an F-TYPE, a gearbox shifted not by electronics but rather with old-fashioned elbow grease will be another ticked box in the Jag’s favor.
While the manual option takes the Jag back toward the 20th century, another new feature – the Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS) – helps pull the sports car back into the 21st.
I applauded Jag for sticking with good old hydraulic power steering, rather than succumbing to industry pressure and bolting up a newfangled electronic unit. If you’re not aware, hydraulic power steering, while heavier, adds so much more visceral feel to the driving experience, as it perfectly translates what’s happening where the rubber meets the road.
The electronic steering gear will likely make the F-TYPE not only less leaky in the long term, but also slightly more efficient. What it will do to the steering feel, I have yet no clue. I am hoping for good things, however.
All-wheel drive R and S Coupe
Next we come to one of the most important pieces of kit that Jaguar could have possibly added to the F-TYPE: all-wheel drive.
Though the current rear-drive setup is not only lighter and much more rollicking, an AWD driveline will undoubtedly help bring buyers to the brand.
Not only will snow-belt shoppers feel much more comfortable with the prospect of daily driving their F-TYPE, it’ll also help keep power firmly planted to the pavement, which is perfectly exemplified with the new 0-to-60 time of the AWD F-TYPE R Coupe: 3.9 seconds.
Before, when the R Coupe was rear-drive only, it was only capable of a 60 mph sprint in a paltry 4.0 seconds. I mean, why even bother?
OK – maybe straight-line acceleration isn’t the biggest benefactor. I assure you, however, cornering will be greatly improved. Even novice drivers will feel far more comfortable burying the gas pedal into the floor mat with AWD, as the computers and mechanicals will sort out the traction.
Delightfully, the British sports car remains rear-wheel biased, with 100 percent of torque sent to the rear wheels under normal conditions. Only until the vehicle detects traction loss does it send power to the front wheels as well.
Sure, it might be less ‘hardcore,’ but it’ll be way, way more fun on a daily basis.
In addition to torque at all four wheels, Jaguar has also changed the shape of the hood for AWD-equipped models and added to it extra venting. Further differentiating the AWD models from the standard rear-drive units are body-color side-sills and “body-colored venturi on R models or valence around the exhaust tips on S models.”
Lastly, we come to perhaps the most compelling addition to the F-TYPE line: the 550-hp R Convertible. When it first launched, the Convertible (then just called “F-TYPE,” as the Coupe didn’t yet exist) was only offered up to the 488-hp S model.
Since the launch of the 550-hp R Coupe, the ‘Vert has been left in the proverbial power dust. Now that changes.
Buyers will now be able to scare the monocles off their passengers with the crackling and brutal acceleration of the supercharged 5.0-liter V8, while also subjecting them to the sun’s harmful rays.
If you’re wondering why I have described the F-TYPE R Convertible in such a violent and scary way, that’s because the car kind of is … in the best possible way.
That’s what’s brilliant about the F-TYPE: it’s both soft and gentlemanly but also shout-y and brash and full of beans and toast and rage, like any good Brit should be.
Buyers champing at the bit for the new and improved Jags won’t have to wait long, as the 2016 model year vehicles hit showrooms in the Spring of 2015. Hopefully, we’ll have our drive report on the new additions before then. So check back soon.
If you’d like to see more of what is at the Jaguar booth – or anything else, for that matter – please check out Digital Trends’ 2014 LA Auto Show topics page for all the latest.