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Limited-run cars are a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, they tend to give a known motor some extra pep and a bit of exclusivity. On the other hand, they're not around forever, so you can't get all the same goodness in the same package. Sad times.
Jaguar's decided it's about time the F-Type received the "special" treatment, so to go along with its recent facelift, a new, one-year-only model has appeared -- the F-Type 400 Sport.
The 400 Sport gets Jag's tried-and-true 3.0-liter V6, but in here, it gets 400 whole horsepower. There's also 339 pound-feet of torque to play with, so it'll hit 60 mph from rest in 4.8 seconds and head on up to 171 mph. While that is pretty rapid indeed, it would be somewhat foolish not to mention that a VW Golf R with a dual-clutch gearbox will hit 62 mph in 4.6. Just had to throw that out there...
A Golf doesn't look a patch on the F-Type, though. The coupe in particular remains one of the best-looking cars out there -- for on-road presence, you can't get much better in the sub-supercar class. Jaguar's design team has been on fire in recent years. The F-Type may have been around for a while, but you can't deny it's a looker. The recent facelift is a "blink and you'll miss it" job, which is no bad thing because the pre-facelift car was stunning.
You can have your 400 Sport in two flavors -- rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. The car I tried put its power to all four wheels, a good thing considering I tested it in Wales, where rain is produced by the meter. It felt solid in fast corners on the road, only occasionally shimmying when some errant sheep droppings found their way under the rear wheels.
On the track, the 400 Sport was huge fun. A massive amount of grip means you can catapult it around corners at irresponsible speeds without fearing a spin. Even with all the electric nannies set to "nah," it only managed a quick step out before the AWD sorted the car out. Impressive stuff.
There are two driving modes to play with: Normal and Dynamic. In Normal, the Jag is a quiet, composed sports car. The engine isn't too boisterous, steering light enough to navigate a car park without making you swear, gearbox smooth enough to not really notice. It's pleasant.
Dynamic is a different ball game. The car's mood lighting turns from a restful green to angry red, throttle response is sharpened and the gearbox clings to gears longer in the Sport setting. It also lets you know when it changes ratio, the steering getting heavier and more involving. It becomes a little monster.
Speaking of steering, it's not as sharp as, say, a Porsche 911. The Jag is softer and doesn't offer quite as much feedback, though its character isn't as scalpel sharp. See, a Jag has to offer "Grace, Space and Pace," not rattle your teeth out and set silly lap times. This is most evident on the motorway: A Porsche will fill the cabin with tire roar, whereas the loudest thing in the Jag is either the AC or the driver's flatulence.
Jaguar's not just given the 400 Sport extra grunt. It's also got larger brakes. No, it didn't need them especially, but they're there and they work. Pedal travel isn't too long and there's plenty of feel to modulate them nicely. They're not carbon, just big. No bad thing.
On top of bigger stoppers, you get some 400 Sport badges inside, a big one on the front splitter (looks a bit tacky), a smaller one on the rear (also a bit tacky), some 400 Sport branding on the sills, yellow stitching and some other odds and sods to help you stand out. Now, the reasoning behind this is clear: It shows other people you've got a "special" car. But it takes a very elegant face and sticks some bright yellow zits on it. Ick.
It's fast, has a silky smooth gearbox, looks great, feels great and is every inch the Jag. But there's one thing we need to talk about in a big way -- the noise. Man, that 3.0-liter V6 sings. It sounds like a '70s F1 car. The car has an active exhaust, so you can keep it quiet around town, or you can press the "asshat" button and make all of the noise. All of it. It's high pitched and it is glorious. That is, unless you've got it set to noisy on the motorway. At 70 mph, it gets irritating in a hurry, but you can set it back to normal and get on with your journey.
In all, the Jaguar F-Type 400 Sport is a cracking car. While some of the special edition badges take a touch from its look, it'll provide all the thrills you could ask for both on road and in the car park. It's only around for one model year, so if you want one, you best get to a Jag dealer quick. And, perhaps, see if there's an option without those tacky badges.