Jaguar has expanded the reach of its F-Type sports car for 2016. It's fundamentally the same vehicle as the one that launched as a 2014 model, carrying over the engines intact, but with some noteworthy hardware changes under the skin.
What Is It?
The 2016 Jaguar F-Type is an aluminum-intensive, two-seat, front-engine sports car that is offered in either coupe or convertible body styles. A base supercharged V6 produces 340 horsepower, while the S model increases output to 380 hp. For 2016, the 495-hp V8 S Convertible has been dropped in favor of a new R Convertible that packs the same 550-hp V8 as the R Coupe.
All-wheel drive replaces rear-wheel drive in V8 models — pour a little out for the erstwhile rear-drive R models (like our long-term 2015 F-Type R Coupe) — and is optional on V6 S variants. A manual gearbox is now available for RWD V6 models only. As before, all V8 F-Types feature an eight-speed automatic transmission with manual control via the console shifter or steering-wheel-mounted paddles.
What's With the All-Wheel-Drive System?
In applying all-wheel drive to the F-Type, Jaguar made a few tweaks to the existing body shell and powertrain.
A power takeoff sprouts near the aft end of the car's eight-speed automatic to drive a propshaft that routes power to the front wheels. To accommodate the front differential and axles, the engine's oil pan has been redesigned and the whole engine has been raised slightly in the chassis. This also necessitated a revised transmission tunnel in the car's aluminum chassis and a new hood that is exclusive to AWD models. The hood has revised vent locations and a raised center section to retain the same crush space to the engine as rear-drive variants. Spotters guide: AWD models also get a body-color rear diffuser-esque panel and side sill extensions.
There is no center differential. Instead, an electronically controlled hydraulic clutch pack varies the proportion of torque sent to the front axle, up to a maximum of 50 percent. Control of this system is integrated with the electronically controlled rear differential (on R models) and uses the brakes to actively manipulate the cornering attitude. All of the engine's torque is sent aft until the onboard electronic overlords predict that the rear tires are about to lose their bite on the asphalt or if a big rotation is imminent, at which point the center coupling proactively directs torque to the front.
In total, the AWD hardware adds 176 pounds to the curb weight of the already beefy F-Type and shifts the weight distribution forward by 1.2 percent. Stiffer front springs were fitted to compensate for this additional mass, and there are more rigid bushings in the front suspension's control arms as well as recalibrated electronically variable dampers.
What Else Is New?
All F-Types dump the rack-and-pinion steering's hydraulic assistance in favor of electric assistance for 2016, ostensibly for fuel economy. It is more likely an attempt to offset the effect of adding AWD. Combined fuel economy holds steady at 18 mpg, while city mpg slips by 1 mpg to 15 (23 mpg highway is the same as last year).
Basic warranty, scheduled maintenance and roadside assistance coverage expands to five years and 60,000 miles, which is one year and 10,000 miles longer than previously.
Enhancements to the list of standard equipment and a few interior tweaks round out the changes for this year.
How Does It Drive?
Pearl-clutching purists will probably decry Jaguar's move to electric assist for the steering, but the reality is that the F-Type's outgoing hydraulic rack was, frankly, never a benchmark in any case. The new electrically assisted rack is just as accurate and if anything offers more nuanced feel, with a more pronounced buildup of effort around center. What's more, it has none of the synthetic sensation that can be a telltale of electric assistance. It's just better.
On the road the F-Type R's all-wheel-drive system only makes its presence known when you stand on the gas from a standstill or at low speeds because the new car just digs in and hurls forward in any conditions that would have the RWD car's traction control light flashing or wheels spinning. Such is the newfound traction the front-driven wheels afford.
Yet the 2016 F-Type R Convertible we drove on the street felt less outright bonkers rapid than our long-term 2015 F-Type R Coupe. The extra mass of the AWD hardware plus the heavier drop-top body style we drove meant we were dealing with a car that's about 210 pounds heavier than our chunky long-termer, or 4,115 pounds. That's seriously hefty for an all-aluminum two-seater.
There are also those who are concerned that the AWD system will neuter the F-Type's tail-happy character. We're happy to report that it is by no means an understeering mess, and that the AWD system is about as invisible as one can reasonably expect. We piloted an R Coupe around Monticello Motor Club's 1.9-mile North Course. On track we found that it turns in eagerly and power oversteer can still be induced if you treat the throttle like a mortified housekeeper treats a spider. For sure, the yaw angles the new car achieves are less lurid, as it is clawing forward and sideways all at once. The AWD F-Type probably clicks off quicker lap times than the outgoing car, especially on tracks that have a lot of low-speed corners from which to exit, even in the dry.
Still, some drivers will miss the outright hooligan-y character of the RWD car. Rear tire-smoking horseplay may be slower, but who cares? It's fun. While the AWD system will increase the F-Type's sales potential in traditionally wet regions like the Pacific Northwest and in the Northeast, it's unfortunate that the rest of the nation has no say in the matter. Many overseas markets can choose between RWD and AWD V8 F-Types for 2016. Why not us?
The new manual transmission in V6 models, on the other hand, is a more universally welcome addition to the range. Slotting quickly from well-defined gates with reasonable throws, the shift lever does its job well enough. By contrast, the clutch has a vague, flat effort. This, paired with the obvious throttle manipulations occurring to facilitate smooth set-offs make the use of this manual gearbox feel, in a twist of irony, slightly synthetic. Still, we're glad buyers now have the option of rowing it themselves. Choosing the manual transmission also shaves 22 pounds and more than a thousand bucks from the sticker compared to the autobox.
What's the Interior Like?
Few changes were made to the cabin for 2016. It's essentially the same intimate interior with leather trim in abundance, though new gauges have been fitted and the multimedia system updated.
The firmly padded, 14-way power seats are supportive during hard cornering but have oddly shaped backrests that erode comfort. Ventilated seats are not available.
Interior storage is minimal but includes a pair of medium-size cupholders and a shallow armrest bin and door pockets. The trunk doesn't fare much better, as it maxes out at 11 cubic feet and its aperture is fairly narrow. Jaguar assures us that two golf bags will fit, but we're more inclined to think that one set of clubs in a medium bag would barely squeeze in there. That said, it is much more accommodating than the convertible's tiny 7-cubic-foot trunk.
What Features Come Standard?
This is another area where Jaguar has been busy. For 2016, Jaguar has included as standard equipment a panoramic glass roof and retractable sunshade, keyless entry and a premium audio system. The hatch on R Coupe models gains power assistance, while S variants get the entertaining driver-selectable muffler bypass valves and a flat-bottom steering wheel.
All F-Type models are now available with a torque-vectoring system for the rear wheels that uses the brakes to vary power from one side to the other. As mentioned before, the more sophisticated electronically controlled rear differential is still exclusive to the R models.
How Much Does It Cost?
With the increase in standard equipment comes an increase in base price. The 2016 R Coupe is $4,600 costlier at $104,595. Add $2,850 if you want the top to go down.
Optional features abound, the priciest of which is the carbon-ceramic brake package that holds the line at a whopping $12,000 ($14,450 for S models).
At the opposite end of the F-Type range, a base V6 with a manual starts at $65,995.
What Competing Models Should You Also Consider?
Chevrolet Corvette Z06: A powerhouse of a performer with exuberant styling flourishes, this car simply cannot be ignored, especially for the price.
Porsche 911: The sports car benchmark. Certainly less visually arresting than the F-Type, the 911 is precise, comfortable and communicative, roomy... and, relative to the Jaguar, common.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
The F-Type range covers a range of prices and performance, and the V6 S models in particular occupy a niche nearly all their own. This is a car with personality, from the evocative styling to its deliciously obnoxious exhaust that delivers a machine-gun report. The availability of a manual gearbox only increases its appeal.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
A brash, shouty car isn't for everyone, and the F-Type can't match the 911 for dynamic polish or everyday usability. The addition of all-wheel drive has not fundamentally altered the F-Type formula as much as it could have, but the fact that it is compulsory is puzzling.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.