From £90,8609
Jaguar adds four-wheel-drive and manual gearbox options to its F-Type sports car, expanding - and improving - the range

What is it?

It’s wet under-tyre. So wet that applying liberal amounts of throttle in a conventional Jaguar F-Type R Coupé would fill the air with a heady mix of steam and vaporised rubber long before you’d reached the throttle stop.

But what’s this? The F-Type R goes. No slip, no fuss, no drama. Well, lots of drama, but of the quick and noisy rather than the slow and noisy kind.

The 2016 model year F-Type is available with four-wheel-drive, you see. Visual clues? There are subtle badges, and a bonnet reprofile necessitated by a 10mm engine lift, required to accommodate the AWD gubbins. 

Not that they take up a lot of room: alongside the automatic gearbox sits an electronically controlled clutch, which also pinches an inch or so of left-side footwell; its job is to push as much power to the front wheels as they need. 

Theoretically, that could be all of it. In reality, it’s only ever up to about 30 per cent. And most of the time it’s precisely none at all.

AWD is available on range-topping 5.0-litre R models and mid-point 3.0 V6 S models, but base 3.0 V6 cars remain rear drive only. 

On all F-Types, the steering becomes electrically rather than hydraulically assisted, but it retains Jaguar’s trademark slickness and smoothness. 

Also new for the 2016 model year (yes, I realise you still haven’t recycled your 2014 Christmas tree) is a manual gearbox option on rear-drive V6 and V6 S models. Praise be.

What's it like?

All-wheel-drive F-Type first, then, and it’s the traction difference that’s the biggie. Genuinely, it’s a huge improvement when you’re asking for a lot of power in anything other than high-grip conditions.

Much of the rest of the time, the AWD model feels just like the RWD model – because unless you’re going to trouble the rear wheels, the fronts aren’t driven at all, so it is solely rear-driven.

The electronic clutch control unit knows what throttle and steering inputs you’ve asked for, and monitors traction underfoot too, so it only sends power forward when it thinks it’s genuinely necessary. 

That means the F-Type retains its inherent character, despite a marginal increase in front spring and damper rates, to offset the 80kg weight increase and slightly raised centre of gravity. 

So it’s during acceleration, then, or once the back steps out in a corner, where the difference is felt. A rear-drive F-Type steps out quite often. In the all-wheel-drive car, the car slides a little before the front gets some power to help pull it straight.

When Jaguar lends us one without an instructor alongside who doesn’t prevent us from switching off the stability control, we’ll find out what it’s like beyond that point.

The new electrically assisted steering retains its trademark Jaguar feel: positive around the straight-ahead, slick, linear and accurate away from it. It’s a good steering rack.

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And the manual gearbox? Jolly nice too. Shift quality is smooth, although the gearlever ia set too far back – a legacy of the cabin being designed for the auto, presumably. 

The real advantage of the manual is discovering how willingly the V6 spins, with precious little flywheel effect. That’s a trait usually masked by the eight-speed automatic gearbox, so it’s a good thing if you like feeling as involved as possible.

Should I buy one?

You might just. If you couldn’t quite find the F-Type that was right for you before, these model year updates take the range from six to 14 models, and the updates broaden the appeal usefully.

That's especially true if you live somewhere the weather is a bit rubbish in winter and feared the rear-drive F-Type was a bit too ‘hot rod’ and not enough ‘sports car’. It’s still an expensive sports car, but the enjoyment levels are high.

Jaguar F-Type R AWD Coupé

Price: £91,650; Engine V8, 5000cc, supercharged, petrol; Power: 542bhp at 6500rpm; Torque: 502lb ft at 3500rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1730kg; Top speed 186mph; 0-60mph 3.9sec Economy: 25.0mpg (combined) CO2/tax band 269g/km, 35%

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

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A34 4 February 2015

Good engineering then!

But surely a cut-down XF should be around £40K, plus say an extra 5 for the bigger engine and AWD? That would make this pretty sensational! Then again, I'm sure 911s are at a similar price level...