First drive: 2016 Jaguar F-Type Manual

Don't brag about your Jag. Get the manual and brag about what you can do with it

As thrilling as the V8 version is, the F-TYPE V6 highlights the nimble sportiness of the car without the fear of it tearing its driver’s head off. Throw in the new manual gearbox, and the connection between driver and vehicle is even stronger.

Take a quick glance around your house and I’m sure you’ll find some vestigial Tchotchke from a bygone era still in use. A tea kettle. An Atari. Sure, we could all buy modern, brushed aluminum tea brewers or gaming consoles with the capability to realistically render a Parisian estate, but for many of us, these classics suit us just fine.

“Better” isn’t always the most satisfying experience, and it’s the same with cars, oddly enough. Many of us prefer a simpler way of doing things, and this is why Jaguar has finally bestowed its sporty F-Type with what it, frankly, should have had from the beginning: a manual transmission.

E-type 2.0

Since its debut in 2013, the F-Type was destined for greatness, proliferating from three models to 12 in just a couple of years. While the top of the range may be a sophisticated AWD track-attack machine with a supercharged V8, the F-Type now has a simpler yet arguably more fun iteration packed with a 3.0-liter V6 and a six-speed manual transmission sending up to 380 horsepower to the back wheels. Of course, to determine the latest Jag’s worth, some hands-on time in the back roads of the American northeast was in order.

Following up a legend isn’t easy, and few cars are as revered as Jaguar’s classic E-Type. What was intended as an exercise in aerodynamics resulted in a car that showed the world cars could go beyond beautiful to downright sexy. Many Jags since then have always had an element of the venerated sports car in their design, including the F-Type, but it thankfully avoids the easy trap of attempting to be “E-Type 2.0,” sporting its own unique, contemporary style.

45-millimeter throw distance means that shifts are smooth and quick, allowing me to hit gear changes with confidence.

The aluminum monocoque body of the F-Type remains a stunner from head to tail, beginning with its distinct front air aperture and shark gill front-quarter vents. Vertically oriented headlamps sit within the F-Type’s muscle-y front fenders, leading the eye back to its toned haunches. It’s a look that very much speaks for itself: strikingly attractive, yet with an appearance that is built foremost for performance.

It’s this underlying performance that made me so eager to experience the F-Type in its latest form. As smitten as I was with the F-Type R in both its RWD and new AWD format, I was keen to spend time with the car now unburdened from an eight-speed automatic. It was now a simple 3.0-liter V6, six-speed manual, and me. Things became far more personal.

Getting personal

Jaguar’s supercharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder provides the F-Type with 380 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque, which is sufficient power to toss the 3,500 pound two-seater around some curvy country roads. The ZF-developed gearbox is packed in an aluminum-alloy casing and a lubricated by a semi-dry sump lubrication system, which makes it lighter since it doesn’t need as much fluid.

A 45-millimeter throw distance means that shifts are smooth and quick, allowing me to hit gear changes with confidence through a spirited journey. I’m a fan of a beastly V8 as much as anyone, but not having to worry about reining in its output means you can focus on how well the Jaguar does old-school sports car without huge power numbers masking the experience.

2016 Jaguar F TYPE V6 Manual engine top angle

Off the line, the car is about a half second slower with the manual, hitting 0 to 60 in 5.3 seconds. However the F-Type makes up for a fairly docile launch with what it can do with the bends ahead. Backroads are where the coupe shines, easily holding through bends without the terror of the tail-happy V8 looming over you. The Jag and its double-wishbone suspension make short work of any twist in the road ahead, and the manual enhances the sensation of carving every bend with every shift. “Look at what the F-Type can do!” has turned into “Look at what I can do in the F-Type!”

Of course, it helps that the car is now fitted with a torque-vectoring system to gently brake the inside wheels, pulling the F-Type sharper through corners when needed. The sports car also now foregoes hydraulic steering for EPAS (electric power-assisted steering), but I could hardly feel a difference from the previous fitment. Purists might scoff, but only the most pernicious pedant will continue to grump about it after actually using it. The rest of the doubters will soon forget what they were arguing about in the first place.

In the end, with the addition of the manual transmission, Jaguar gives F-Type lovers all they ever wanted.

Time spent in the F-Type remains a complete joy, yet the allure of its V8 is hard to forget in certain instances. For one, while the car has more than enough sprinting power, anyone who has spent time with the more powerful powerplant will notice its absence in occasional overtaking instances. The brief thought of “I’d already be around this car by now if I had the V8” occasionally crept into my mind. You’ll also miss the extra cylinders while opening up the active exhaust valves with the press of the wonderful button on the center console. Pressing it still trumpets up a wonderfully sporty composition of barks and blurts from the rear pipes, but it’s more of a jazz set than it is the London Symphony Orchestra. The V6 F-Type beats out a more technical, tuned-up Japanese sports car noise rather than the goose-bump-inducing roar of the V8.

All they’ve ever wanted

If those specific points can be overlooked and there’s no lingering engine-size envy, then anyone in the market for a sexy sporty coupe can’t do much better. Starting at $77,300, skipping the AWD V8 for the manual V6 pleasantly trims at least $10,000 off the bottom line.

A manual transmission gives F-Type lovers all they ever wanted: A sexy, spirited coupe (or convertible) with a connection to the cars of the past, but in a modern contemporary package. Leave the V8 wildcat for the thrill-seekers and take the tame, slinky feline V6 home instead.

Highs

  • Easy-to-handle smile-inducing manual transmission
  • Even purists won’t notice the unobtrusive electronic steering
  • Timeless styling and simplicity

Lows

  • Exhaust note can’t match the ferocity of the V8
  • Technically slower off the line than automatic brethren
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