And yet, even after driving the original convertible and the subsequent coupe, we've never quite shaken the notion that Jaguar erred a bit too heavily on the Grand Touring side of the equation for a proper sports car. That's partially because even the base model comes with a boatload of weight-adding luxury features. But perhaps more importantly, it's because the F-Type has only been available with an automatic transmission. Admittedly, the gearbox in question is a damned good paddle-shifted eight-speed ZF unit, but it's always chafed a bit that Jaguar wasn't committed to offering purists a manual – even if such a model would never be a high-volume proposition.
Apparently we weren't the only ones bothered by three-pedal omission. According to Russ Varney, F-Type Vehicle Program Director,
For 2016, our chafing has ended. That's because Jaguar has just introduced a new six-speed ZF manual for V6-equipped rear-wheel-drive models. We mention that last bit because for the new model year, the F-Type will also be available with all-wheel drive, a move that ought to move the car up on shoppers' consideration lists in Northern climates. Critically, the AWD system's default torque split is 100-percent to the rear axle to preserve the F-Type's balance and feel, but 50 percent can be directed to the front when called upon.
"These things [transmissions] don't come cheap, but if you want to establish a credible car, then there are certain things that you have to go and execute. In the sports car world, you have to have performance, and, frankly, you have to have a manual transmission."
Badging aside, you'll be able to spot an AWD F on the street thanks to its slightly higher ride height (0.2-inches), reprofiled hood complete with new vents, and body-color side sills. Unfortunately, the new AWD system is heavy – we're told it adds roughly 80 kilos in curb weight – that's 176 pounds.
The 2015 model year brought with it the 550-horsepower, 502-pound-feet-of-torque F-Type R Coupe, and for 2016, the hardtop is joined by a convertible counterpart, which supplants the 495-hp, 460-lb-ft V8 S. Henceforth, all F-Type R models also receive standard AWD (the grips-at-all-paws drive system is optional on S models). So-equipped, R models will rocket to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds and keep clawing to an electronically limited top whack of 186 miles per hour.
Jaguar could have 'easily' added rev-matching, but it chose not to, to keep the car rewarding for purists.
And what about that six-speed manual? We'll have to wait to drive it, but for now, Jaguar is making the right noises, citing a shifter with 1.77-inch throws, close-ratio gearbox and pedals optimized for heel-toe work. Varney maintains Jaguar could have "easily" added rev-matching, but it purposefully chose not to in order to keep the car rewarding for purists. "It's all your own, it's not manufactured in any way," says Varney. The transmission also saves about 10 kilograms (22 pounds) over the automatic, and while pricing hasn't been announced, it should also save customers a few dollars, too.
The mechanical updates don't stop there – Jaguar will fit all 2016 F-Type models with electric power steering. Jaguar claims the technology has finally come of age, and says that all-important road feel has been maintained versus the outgoing hydraulic system in part through the use of a stiffer steering column shaft. Other changes include the availability of Jaguar's IDD on all models and an upgraded infotainment system with improved smartphone and app integration. The 770-watt Meridian audio system is now standard across the range, as well.
So what's next for the F-Type? How about a V8 manual? Varney says, "I think we always say 'Never say never.' It's a bit of a challenge, but there's a lot of things in this car that have been a challenge, and we've risen to those."