Cape Town - I slam on the throttle with both hands gently clutching the steering wheel. The middle and ring fingers on my right hand engage the next gear on the steering wheel mounted paddles.
The car rushes up the rev range, a loud (un)refined bark escapes from the double exhaust pipes.
Turn-in, slight lift off the accelerator, pick up speed again, turn, focus, bark! Repeat!
The 400 Sport During the 2017 edition of the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb, the British automaker revealed a special edition of its F-Type, called the 400 Sport.
The 400 in the name does of course refer to the amount of horsepower the car has to its disposal, which translates to 294kW. But more on that in a moment. The 400 Sport is Jag’s way of giving the roadster a send-off for 2017.
It might not seem like much or really necessary, but the F-Type does look a tad more special with the extra trimmings.
With the black paintwork striking a menacing look, the 400 Sport’s yellow embellishments do add more presence to the package.
Yellow brake callipers, yellow 400 Sport badges all round, yellow stitching on the inside, yellow 400 Sport badges on the dashboard and headrests. I’m no fashion expert, but black and yellow never looked this good together. And that is where I’m going to stop with the aesthetics, because the F-Type 400 Sport was never created to just be eye candy. That is only part of the story; part of the experience.
280kW vs. 294kW
Using the same 3.0-litre engine as the standard supercharged V6 models, power for the 400 Sport has been increased to 294kW as opposed to 280kW, but torque remains unchanged at 460Nm.
One would look at the roadster and think “Hmm, so only yellow trimmings and an extra 14kW” is what you get with this car, but that would be perhaps the biggest mistake one can make.
Jaguar made small changes to the entire 400 Sport that comes together to make a bigger overall change to the entire car’s driving traits. From the way it unleashes its power, to the way the traction control kicks in, the way it grips around corners… the entire car came in for an overhaul that made it better than the 280kW models it is based on.
Performance-wise the F-Type 400 Sport will reach 100km/h from standstill in 4.9 seconds and hit its speed limit at 275km/h. And just for the curious cats out there: Jag says that the 400 Sport will return 8.9 litres/100km, but during the test period it hovered around 19 litres/100km.
But regardless of this, when you understand the purpose of this car and drive it the way it was meant to be driven, spending R900 in three days on fuel will be of little concern.
Except to your wallet!
Cat and mouse
Of course the best place to experience the F-Type 400 Sport’s true nature would be on a racetrack; where limitations are few and law enforcement doesn’t see you as a duelling buddy.
But not everyone will be lucky enough to have access to a racetrack, so the next best place to put the car to the test will be a mountain pass. And boy, are we spoilt for choice down in the Cape!
The F-Type 400 Sport is a real live wire.
Though traction control was activated on all drives, it remains a handful when too much throttle is applied at a moment’s notice. The car can become tail happy when overdoing things, but driven with a fair amount of composure will make it a kitten in any hands.
However, with the opportunity at hand to test the car’s dynamic traits, the 400 Sport proved to be a real gem as a performance car. It accelerates with great intensity, but it feels a lot faster than one is actually going. There is an ongoing sense that the car will not stop accelerating, but before long the brakes need to be applied.
The huge brake discs up front ensure proper stopping prowess, but on normal (read: sedated) drives it offered a fair amount of squeal at times. But when properly heated there is no squeal to mention. In corners the F-Type will hold its line while maintaining a good balance throughout the turning action, without getting tail happy and unforgiving.
Carrying a vast amount of speed through a corner requires a driver to be confident in their decision, and the F-Type 400 Sport instils that confidence. Not everyone will be brave enough to explore the car’s limits, but those that do will be rewarded for their bravery. The F-Type is prone to some understeer when tight bends are tackled with an overzealous amount of vigour, but it’s nothing serious to write home about. It does not deter your face from smiling.
Pick of the litter?
The biggest talking point surrounding the F-Type 400 Sport is its price, because can one really justify the R190 000 premium over the rear-wheel drive 280kW F-Type Coupe R-Dynamic.
On paper it’s a big fat “NO!”, because you can’t just slap a few yellow stickers on a car, extract 14 extra kW from its engine and sell it for R1.4-million. That’s daylight robbery! But the truth is that the 400 Sport can be justified in the F-Type range.
With the small changes made, the car transformed into something better, more precise. Without verging on being technically perfect, the 400 Sport still allows the driver to be in charge and to take charge. And in the process you still manage to feel alive after every drive.
It’s a special car, this F-Type 400 Sport, and it might just be the new sweet in the range. R190k premium or not.