2018 Jaguar F-Type 400 Sport Coupe Review: Pushing Jag's V-6 Further Than Ever

The one-model-year-only F-Type sets a 400-horsepower high for the brand's supercharged six-cylinder.

Jaguar

Jaguar’s F-Type can’t yet match the Porsche 911 for its cornucopia of model choices, but JLR does seem to be trying. The latest proof of that: the F-Type 400 Sport, the beefiest Brit yet among the brand's V-6-powered versions. Making decisions harder, this 400 Sport is offered as a coupe or convertible, with rear- or all-wheel-drive. But the 400 Sport will force a decision: This is a short-blooming rose, a limited-production 2018 model that’s not being renewed for the 2019 model year.

Now, if it only came with a stick, the 400 Sport might be an enthusiast’s first choice. It does not, so chalk up one f-bomb against the F-Type. A six-speed manual can be had on 340-hp or 380-hp R-Dynamic models with their supercharged V-6, and those playful, clutch-pedal kitties remain my favorite versions. But for fans who don’t mind paddling a responsive eight-speed automatic—and can’t see (or pay) their way to a supercharged V-8 model that starts around $102,000—the 400 Sport packs in as much performance and luxury as Jaguar will allow, while keeping the price well under $100,000.

Jaguar

An F-Type is usually the prettiest thing at the beach

Fans of this sports car needn’t rationalize their love: You buy an F-Type because it’s beautiful. Sure, the Jaguar has other fine qualities, including some of the most boisterous-sounding V-6 and V-8 engines in the business. But five years on from its megawatt debut, the F-Type hasn’t lost its seductive powers, including over women who melt on cue when they spot one—or better yet, climb inside.

True to its name and its natty yellow “400” script badges, this Jag wrings 400 horsepower from its super-boosted V-6, a new high for this 3.0-liter engine. (That’s also 104 more horses than the base model with its 296-hp, 2.0-liter Ingenium four-cylinder.) The 339 pound-feet of torque is unchanged from 380-hp models. So girded, a rear-drive 400 Sport coupe will smoke from 0 to 60 miles per hour in about 4.3 seconds—Jaguar says 4.8 seconds, but that's an insanely conservative estimate—and top out at 171 mph. It’s not Corvette-quick, but it's still plenty fast for a six-cylinder sports car. 

And yes, this V-6 still sounds amazing and makes the car seem even faster than it is, especially when you hit the console button that unleashes the sport exhaust’s symphony of raspy, gurgling, backfiring goodness. Every trip through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel in my neighborhood was an excuse to bask in literal wall-to-wall sound.

Jaguar

Latest F-Type squeezes 400 horses from Jaguar's supercharged V-6

To help upsell people into the 400 Sport, Jaguar adds a lower-slung front splitter, rocker panel extensions, a darkened rear diffuser, and 20-inch wheels. Larger brake rotors help tame the chubby curb weight, with 15.0-inchers up front and 14.8-inch rotors out back. Handsome, supportive “Slimline” seats—found here with 12-way power adjustments and “400” headrest logos—are new throughout the F-Type lineup, and their die-cast magnesium frames save nearly nine pounds per chair. Jaguar’s Configurable Dynamics selector, which adjusts throttle, transmission and steering weight, is standard, along with an 8.0-inch navigation touchscreen, heated steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, and aluminum “400 Sport” door sill plates.

The exterior palette is limited to three paint colors: black, white, and silver. But there’s more generosity inside. I’ve regularly dinged the F-Type’s cabin for its rubbery, downmarket sheens and hapless infotainment system; the brand’s upgraded TouchPro infotainment unit is still slow and vexing, and nothing can be done about the blind spots created by the Jaguar’s sexy, fast roofline, but the 400 Sport’s cabin now looks damn good and luxurious, thanks to thick black leather with yellow stitching covering seemingly every available surface. The makeover includes the console shift lever, whose Nissan-esque plastic gives way, finally, to a pleasing hide wrapper.

Jaguar 

That's more like it: Upgraded, black-leather interior better suits the price

I preferred using the aluminum steering-wheel paddles to spank the Jaguar through gears over a week in New York and the surrounding environs. As ever, the F-Type is great fun to a circumscribed point, which I might dub the F-Stop. The Drive’s Will Sabel Courtney says the Jaguar is an eight-tenths car, but I’d go all the way to 8.5, or even nine. It’s that last tenth that gives this Jaguar trouble. 

The Jaguar shines brightest where it can stretch its pretty legs, through fast sections and open roads such as the winding Saw Mill Parkway north of Manhattan. But the tighter the turns become, the more the F-Type’s genetic flaws are revealed. On Arden Valley Road near Tuxedo, N.Y.—a challenging no-shoulder two-laner—Jaguar’s ostensibly-purebred cat started feeling more like an lasagna-stuffed Garfield. Here, as on track, the Jag feels thick-necked and bulky where you’re expecting lithe-and-limber. As ever, the F-Type’s aluminum chassis becomes a weight handicap rather than an advantage, likely because of the sheer amount of “lightweight” aluminum Jaguar had to use to deliver the requisite stiffness, NVH levels, and dynamic performance. (Modern blends of high-strength and ultra-high-strength steel, used judiciously and paired with lighter alloys and composites, can deliver a lighter chassis than straight-up aluminum).

Jaguar

Owners will know which F-Type they ended up buying

Jaguar claims that the lightest 400 Sport version, the rear-drive Coupe I drove, checks in at 3,514 pounds. The soft top convertible roof adds 44 pounds and AWD adds 177, so the 400 Sport AWD Convertible maxes out at a claimed 3,735 pounds. (AWD also adds $3,000 to the price). Yet Car and Driver says its 400 Sport Coupe tester actually weighed a whopping 3,982 pounds in AWD trim, about 300 pounds more than Jaguar’s figure. That would mean my rear-drive coupe weighed in the neighborhood of 3,800 pounds, more than some sport sedans. And the seat of my pants says that’s the right neighborhood.

Like any F-Type, the 400 Sport handles flat and its limits are relatively high. Thanks in part to those 20-inch wheels with sticky Pirelli P Zero tires, this Jag will generate an impressive 0.98 g of lateral grip on a skidpad. But as those limits approach, the Jaguar’s front and rear ends stop playing nicely together. Front tires surrender to understeer in a car that carries 54 percent of its weight up front, and the rear tires bobble rather than bite, a feeling that rarely inspires a driver to push harder.  The electric steering is eager and speedy, yet shy on feedback through the wheel. On track, or maybe a Walmart parking lot, it’s easy and fun to wrestle the F-Type around and swing that big rear end wide—but that’s just not safe or feasible on public roads lined with trees, ditches or simply two-way traffic.

Don’t get me wrong: The Jaguar offers ample speed and spirit, along with one of the fullest-throated songs of any sports car, whether you choose the crackling V-6 or the batshit-loud V-8. If you’re not too worried about taking a sports car past that nine-tenths threshold—and a great many owners never will, despite their big talk on barstools—you may be perfectly delighted with an F-Type.

Jaguar

400 Sport has apparent weight issues, yet still runs to 60 mph in about 4.3 seconds, peaks at 171 mph 

My 400 Sport also suffered a pair of mechanical glitches. The turn signal stalk actually broke, refusing to detent and lock into either a left- or right-hand signal. I can’t recall the last time that happened on one of my test cars. I also got a sudden “Transmission Overheating” warning in the driver’s display, during fairly spirited driving on that wide-open Saw Mill Parkway at an ambient temperature of just 83 degrees. I backed down, and the warning went away in less than a minute, never to return.

Starting from $90,495, or $93,595 in convertible form, the 400 Sport perches on a comfy, sensible middle rung of the F-Type’s pricing ladder. Starting from the bottom, a four-cylinder F-Type hardtop starts from $61,745. Click and climb through roughly 20 models—coupes and convertibles, with four-, six- or eight-cylinder engines and rear- or all-wheel-drive—and you’ll reach a $126,745 peak for the 575-hp F-Type SVR Convertible. Unlike a Porsche or Mercedes, the 400 Sport’s options sheet is blessedly short, so this isn’t a $90,000 sports car that ends up costing $120,000 by the time you escape the showroom. With the simple additions of the $1,430 Climate 2 package, a $410 power liftgate, and a $460 blind-spot monitor, my 400 Sport cost $92,795.

That seems fair by modern, luxury sports-car standards: This 400 Sport's out-the-door price is just $645 more than an all-out-stripper Porsche 911 Carrera making 370 horses from a twin-turbo, 3.0-liter boxer six. The Jaguar isn’t as finely sorted or light on its feet as the Porsche, or even a Corvette Grand Sport that costs $23,000 less in automatic guise. But let's not forget that Jaguar went four decades without a two-seat entry, and the F-Type is a relative newcomer. This British candidate remains a welcome player in the sports-car ranks—and definitely more than just a pretty face.

Lawrence Ulrich, The Drive’s chief auto critic, is an award-winning auto journalist and former chief auto critic for The New York Times and Detroit Free Press. The Detroit native and Brooklyn gentrifier owns a troubled ’93 Mazda RX-7 R1, but may want to give it a good home. Email him at Lawrence@thedrive.com.