It was a contentious decision when Jaguar introduced a four-cylinder engine to one of its sports car ranges three years ago, but also a pretty smart one if you consider that, by doing so, it gave itself permission to keep dropping Bridgend-built supercharged V8s into at least some F-Types.
An element of uncertainty still surrounds the future of this mill, with the Ford plant that makes it set to close in a matter of months and only unconfirmed rumours that the line is to be moved to Jaguar Land Rover’s Wolverhampton engine facility. We’ll put a pin in that for now, however, and just trust that the right decision will be made – because few production engines mix bombastic audible charm with brute strength to such spectacular effect as this one.
It gives the F-Type a multiplicity of roles to play: the sports car, yes, but also the burbling hot rod and even the supercar-scalping point-to-point giant-slayer at times.
The car’s outright performance level is pretty monumental, although this isn’t like a modern turbocharged V8: it needs plenty of revs before hitting maximum reheat, so the F-Type R isn’t a car that’ll take off in a high gear quite like a big Porsche or Mercedes-AMG. At times, if only when you make those kinds of comparisons, it feels just a little lazy and unresponsive from around 2000rpm and the gearbox has to work that bit harder in kickdown to make up for the shortfall.
However, the pay-off is a power delivery that really comes to life above 4000rpm. You’ll seldom have the opportunity to fully uncork it on the road but you’ll vividly enjoy it on the occasions when you do. Here, the AJ-V8 has ferocity and audible drama that, for some, will border on the histrionic and juvenile. Not for anyone with petrol in their veins, mind you. Only in the way it tends to crackle and spit on the overrun did any of our testers consider the motor’s character over the top.
That the gearbox is undoubtedly slicker and feels more intuitive when operating in manual mode than when left in ‘S’ or ‘D’ is one way in which this powertrain yields a little to the very best dual-clutch performance car transmissions.
Its paddle shifts certainly come quickly enough and, by timing them yourself, you only get more out of the experience when you’re really dialled in.