Appropriate speed: PH Blog

Interesting reading the comments after Matt's review of the new four-cylinder F-Type against the 718 Cayman. I was amazed to discover the Porsche 'only' has a four-cylinder engine too. Funny, you'd have thought people would have made more of a fuss about that.

Dan has previous with F-Types and Wales...
Dan has previous with F-Types and Wales...
Clearly the £50K four-cylinder sports car is now a thing. But, seemingly based on cylinder count rather than how they actually drive, a number of people are still struggling with the concept. Much of the outrage seems inspired by the fact that cheaper hot hatches with similarly sized engines are 'faster' and therefore Porsche, Jaguar and others are having a laugh at our expense. At the other end of the scale the same stick is used to beat cars like the MX-5 and GT86, ignoring the fact if Toyota bowed to the pressure and turbocharged the latter to 300hp or so you'd still get people moaning it wasn't as fast as a Golf R. Another reason I like the fact it's stuck by its guns and not done so.

When not on four wheels I spend my time pedalling on two and see a similar fixation in the world of mountain biking, where people obsess about suspension travel as a measure of kudos and performance. Leading to huge numbers of riders heaving long-travel bikes around on the status-driven belief that more suspension is better, ignoring the fact a lighter, shorter travel bike is often more fun over the same terrain. Admitting as much would be a challenge to their masculinity though, much as suggesting a four-cylinder F-Type might actually be a better drive than one with a V8.

... and the four-cylinder car might just be more fun
... and the four-cylinder car might just be more fun
The argument could be coming around though. Maybe it's because Porsche has generously taken the grenade by being first to market with a four-cylinder car of this performance and price point, or maybe it's because Jaguar still makes V6 and V8 F-Types for those who want them. But the response to the F-Type seems a little less angry than it was when the 718s arrived on the scene.

I live in hope that's because people are waking up to the idea that handling and more subjective measures of performance can matter more to your enjoyment of a car than cylinder count or 0-60 stats. Or at the very least consider the idea. Because, let's face it, whether it's horsepower in cars or suspension travel on mountain bikes, an awful lot of us are spending a lot of money for redundant performance we'll never actually use.

I had an interesting chat with Mike Cross about this on the launch for the car. He's far too smart to gift the likes of me a sensationalist scoop like "Jaguar's head of dynamics says the basic F-Type is better than the SVR!" and is as corruptible as any of us when it comes to noisy V8s - for a thoughtful, serious engineer he sure enjoys his time on the lock stops. Clearly a four-cylinder F-Type won't bonfire its tyres like a V8 one but there's a time and a place and on the Snowdonian roads of the launch event his enthusiasm for the new car was sincere. And well-reasoned.

Mad power is great, when it can be used...
Mad power is great, when it can be used...
"There will be other roads where one of the more powerful F-Types will be more appropriate," he reckons. "But on roads like this 300hp is still a lot of power, and because it's quite a torquey engine and it's geared comparatively short you can access that performance." You'd expect him to say that of course. But he went on to make an interesting comparison with motorbikes. "I've got a 100hp motorcycle and a 200hp one," he says, "and with my level of skill I tend to enjoy riding the 100hp one more - I think that can apply to cars as well."

Having spent a lot of time in a V6 F-Type on exactly the same roads the comparison was interesting. Without doubt the 52kg weight saving off the nose has had a transformational effect and the four-cylinder car flows like none of its heavier brothers. Is that a 'sacrifice' worth making in exchange for the experience of driving a more powerful car with a louder, more impressive and charismatic engine?

It's one I'm comfortable with. What about you?







Comments (149) Join the discussion on the forum

  • W12JFD 29 Aug 2017

    I'm very much in the less power, more fun camp. And there is no need for super wide tyres for road use either. Would you have more fun with a ballerina or a shot putter?

  • g7jhp 29 Aug 2017

    Fun is the most important aspect.

    Which is why a Caterham 7 is more fun that most supercars with 2 or 3 times the power.

    You only have to watch Chris Harris's review the 2 litre 180bhp Supersport R to understand how much fun they are (even to a man who gets to play in Supercars every other day).

    Edited by g7jhp on Tuesday 29th August 11:08

  • spikyone 29 Aug 2017

    Exactly my thoughts, Dan. When the 4-pot F-Type was first mentioned on these pages, there were suggestions from some posters that it was a car for those who cared more about image (how it looks) than substance, and was not "the purists' choice". I felt the exact opposite - that you'd buy the more powerful version because it looked nice, sounded nice, and you could brag about huge power, but that 50kg less weight could mean that you'd actually have more fun with it in the real world. It's the version you'd buy for the things that can only be measured by the size of your smile.

    300bhp is still quite a lot of power. The same as a Ferrari 348. It'll hit 60 in about the same time too. It is not a slow car by most people's standards; it just looks a bit weedy in the face of the preposterous bhp arms race that the industry is currently playing out.

    The thing that will hurt the 2.0 is that the V6 is only slightly more expensive, and the gap comes down to under a grand if you go through a broker. Even as a firm believer in the less-is-more philosophy, I find myself questioning where my £50k would go...

  • E36GUY 29 Aug 2017

    Had a blat in a new M4 the other week. Car was a graet drive if a bit souless compared with Ms past but too powerful for the UK roads. TC light winking away all the time.

    Decided I am definitely in the less power more fun camp. Anything more powerful than a Golf R is kind of pointless

  • Prof Prolapse 29 Aug 2017

    Is it not a bit of an oxymoron to claim that you'd like to exchange power for increased handling performance because you "don't use all the performance"?

    Because I assume the inference is not that the big engine Jags handle so badly they can't take bends at 60mph.

    At least any fool can boot it in a straight line to make use of the power, I'd wager a very slim proportion of owners can make equivalent use of the cornering abilities of a car, much less so in the "real world". It's just exchanging one excessive bullst criterion for another.

    These cars are an emotive purchase so will always fail the rationality test. Get the car and engine you enjoy, regardless of your ability, or the roads you drive on, and use it. Because after all, you're a long time looking at the lid.

    Edited by Prof Prolapse on Tuesday 29th August 11:00

View all comments in the forums Make a comment