You’d be forgiven for thinking that adding a manual transmission option to one of the hottest sports cars on the market would make it an almost instant classic. After all, hasn’t a traditional shift-it-yourself gearbox been what enthusiasts have been clambering for in the Jaguar F-Type ever since the convertible (followed quickly by the coupe) first appeared on the scene in 2014?
Imagine my surprise, then, when a full day behind the wheel of the 2016 Jaguar F-Type in and around New York’s Monticello Motor Club revealed that the car’s new entry-level six-speed was more of a lateral move for what is undeniably the brand’s most dynamic model. It turns out that in adding the driver engagement of a clutch-and-stick setup – available with both the base supercharged 340-horsepower F-Type V6 and the F-Type V6 S models – designers were forced to dial back the most raucous aspect of the car’s personality.
I’m referring to the F-Type’s active exhaust system, which is now standard on all but the most affordable version of the Jaguar. The manual editions of the F-Type still sound the business when at wide-open, but if you want that same off-throttle explosiveness to leave a trail of auditory destruction in your wake, you’ll have to seek out much higher revs than in the automatic, and the overall effect is muted.
Of course, the trade-off is the ability to modulate acceleration and, to a certain extent, steering with the use of your left foot and right arm instead of relying solely on the eight-speed’s steering wheel-mounted shift paddles. Shift travel is short enough to be sporty, and while it’s clear that the F-Type’s designers never intended for a clutch to crowd the footwell (it’s a bit tight in there when using both feet), the setup acquits itself well. On balance, however, in the absence of the car’s glorious soundtrack it’s hard to say whether it’s actually any more engaging than the already quick-shifting automatic.
Fortunately Jaguar’s second big change for 2016 – the addition of all-wheel drive – has had no impact on the tune played by the Jag’s quad tailpipes. Assuming you are okay sticking with the eight-speed auto, you can get all-wheel-drive on both six-cylinder and 550-horsepower supercharged V8 versions of the car. In fact, for the latter you won’t have a choice: all eight-cylinder F-Types are now AWD-only, which means saying ‘good-bye’ to tire-destroying burnouts and ‘hello’ to excellent grip even in the wet, along with rear-biased centre differential that makes mid-corner corrections at speed a pleasant, rather than hair-raising experience.
As far as choices go, either way it’s win-win: a big V8 roar attenuated by a face-saving all-wheel-drive system, or a manual transmission matched with a quieter, but still fun-to-drive V6 (and of course the option to slap AWD under the six-cylinder model, too). Both come wrapped in the 2016 Jaguar F-Type’s absolutely gorgeous bodywork, and feature a respectable amount of newly-standard equipment to temp you away from the usual cast of Porsche, Mercedes- Benz and BMW personal luxury candidates.