The Jaguar F-type is very good at doing powerslides. But if you’re not, you might find it terrifying. That’s where the new all-wheel-drive version comes in. It borrows from the existing four-wheel-drive tech already seen on XJs and XFs, but with a unique calibration for F-type’s sporting demands.
A four-wheel-drive Jaguar F-type? Really?
All-wheel drive is the headline news on a model-year update with some pretty significant changes: new infotainment, a manual gearbox option (see right) new electric power steering, spring rates increased 10%, a replacement of the 488bhp V8 S Convertible with this 542bhp V8 R, and more.
You can spec all-wheel drive on F-type V8 R and V6 S in both convertible and coupe body styles. It adds £4850 to the sticker, and 80kg to the kerbweight, so the V8 R awd convertible we’re driving costs £91,650 and weighs 1745kg. No need to get on your knees by the front wheels, you can tell this R’s driving all four wheels by the slightly more pronounced bonnet bulge, a needs must because of the revised powertrain packaging.
So, what’s it like to drive?
It’s perhaps good and bad that we’re testing on the sopping wet Estoril circuit, which feels all kerb and no tarmac; good because we can properly experience what the system does in severely traction-limited conditions, bad because we’ll have no idea how it really feels in more typical conditions.
I set off and initially forget all about the new electric power steering, which is clearly a good sign. It’s the same basic system as the new XE (page 114), and benefits from a similar precision immediately off-centre, very even weighting as you wind on lock, and a natural self-centering effect when you pass the apex. It’s subtle and well disguised, but you can pick up on the slight steering corruption that comes with having the front wheels trying to deploy power while simultaneously changing direction.
The all-wheel drive has been designed to maintain the F-type’s rear-drive feel, and it really does; head into these glassy corners with a load of steering lock on and the stability control off, then accelerate and you’ll need a fast twirl of steering to catch the resulting slide. Keep accelerating and the slide quickly straightens, which is either godsend or killjoy, depending on your preference.
The system initially feels so rear-biased that it takes some mental recalibration to properly exploit it, because all your instincts tell you it’s rear-wheel drive. But as the corner opens, you can get on the power much, much sooner. I back-to-backed the all-wheel-drive V8 with a rear-drive V6 S; in the wet the awd was more satisfying because you could go faster and it flattered you into looking like a neater driver; my drive in the V6 felt embarrassingly scrappy and slow by comparison.
What about the 4wd V6 version?
Jaguar also had a V6 S all-wheel-drive coupe for us to sample, and the comparison was incredibly revealing, though for unexpected reasons. It produces 163lb ft less than the V8, so I assumed I’d be able to get on the power even earlier. I couldn’t. Even on the same diameter tyres, the V6 S had noticeably less traction and was trickier at the edge of adhesion. The only explanation I could come up with was how much extra traction the V8’s electronically controlled limited-slip differential provides, because it can pre-emptively gauge how much it needs to lock, where the V6’s mechanical slip diff is reactive.
Also intriguing was the brake-pedal bite on the V6 model. The V8 had the pricey ceramic brakes, the V6 the regular stoppers, but the V6’s initial pedal feel was much more positive and reassuring, even if the ultimate stopping power couldn’t compete. We’ve experienced other carbon ceramics with a vague initial feel from other makers in the past, but that’s not really the case here; the ceramics feel pretty positive, it’s just that the standard discs feel sharper.
On this circuit, in this weather, I’d have a V8 R with all-wheel drive over V6 awd or V8 rear-drive alternatives. And if you don’t like the feeling of a rear-drive car squirming about beneath you on the road, it’s the perfect choice for you too; it’s a great system.
For the rest of us who think that’s all part of the fun and know the stability control sorts it all out anyway, the V8 R with just the two driven wheels remains the F-type of choice.