Sumptuous, slinky Jaguars once announced their arrival with big six-cylinder engines that boomed like the devil’s own bass trombone.
We tract-home gomers would just stand and stare, transfixed by their rich swirl of sound and sculpture.
It got even better when late-model Jags started shredding the peace with rorty V-8s that blasted out shrieks and snarls from some distant jungle.
Those wonderful noises served as Jaguar’s shouts of joy, I figured. (As you may recall, older Jags could fall suddenly silent, coasting to the curb because of bad electronics or a balky carburetor – or maybe sunspots.)
Now modern Jaguar wants us to lust after a new model of its slinky F-Type sports car powered for the first time by a – gasp — four-cylinder engine, a motor I associate with economy cars and tractors.
Could I please reclaim my hobo-hippie clothes and go back to the 20th century – or did I ever leave?
Beats me, but here’s the good news for us enthusiasts: The four-pot Jag remains very much a Jaguar, albeit one with the raspy punch of a welterweight.
Even better, the 2018 F-Type Coupe I had recently still looks like a distant cousin of the stunning early ‘60s Jaguar XK-E, maybe the sexiest thing to ever come out of stodgy old England — with the exception of Liz Hurley, of course.
Like the artsy E-Type, my white F-Type featured a fairly long hood that curved down into an oval-shaped blacked-out grille.
Sweeping vertical headlamps, meanwhile, extended back atop front fenders that were mostly smooth and muscular.
In back, the Jag sported a beefy shoulder over the rear wheels and a nicely curved top that slid down into a tapered hatchback highly reminiscent of the fabled E-Type’s rear end.
It also displays some of the best taillamps on the road – two-inch bands of red that start high on the rear fenders and curve around to larger circular main lights.
Only the tires and wheels let the coupe down some, I thought: 245/45s up front and 275/40s in back on 10-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels.
Though plenty meaty, they just didn’t seem large enough visually for the taut, prowling Jag.
Fortunately, the turbocharged 2-liter four-banger beneath the coupe’s shapely hood made good use of them with its 295-horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque.
As my colleague, Amy Plemons, noted a few weeks ago in a review of the F-Type convertible, the diminutive engine “delivers a pretty good wallop”.
Called the “Ingenium 4,” the engine felt lively and willing with good overall thrust, thanks to the turbocharger.
In fact, the all of the engine’s 295 lb.-ft. of torque is at work by 1,500 rpm, allowing it to jump pretty strongly away from stops despite having to haul 3,600 pounds of weight.
Aided by a well-tuned eight-speed automatic that clicked off rapid shifts, the lusty little engine could push the slippery coupe to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds, according to Car and Driver, emitting a muted, slightly throaty moan.
It wasn’t old-school street-symphony, but it didn’t whisper econo-box either.
The Ingenium 4 also can register 23 miles per gallon in city fuel economy and 30 on the highway – not bad for an engine making more than two horsepower per cubic inch.
I think the coupe benefited even more from the four-banger’s relatively lightweight – it is 115-pounds lighter than Jag’s mid-level 3-liter V-6.
As a result, the F-Type turned flatly into corners with the crispness of a sports car – as opposed to a cushy grand tourer – and always felt agile and confident.
Granted, the car’s ride could be a bit choppy and stiff in sport mode, but its steering felt quick and fairly light – and I figured that was an OK trade-off.
At about $66,000, my coupe qualified as an entry-level F-Type – if there is such a thing. Although the car’s black interior didn’t radiate with Jag elegance, it felt reasonably upscale.
Sleek hoods in pliable black plastic rolled over the speedometer and tachometer, for example, as the dashboard eased down onto the glove compartment.
Keep in mind: The interior was tight with not a lot of room for anything more than a bottle of water, a passenger and a pair of sunglasses, but who cares? It’s a Jaguar.
About a third of the interior appeared to be occupied by a broad center-stack that featured an 8-inch display screen with three round knobs below it for climate control.
As is becoming far too common these days, the stereo could only be tuned with touchpads on the screen.
Just try to enjoy the fine black-leather seats that offered supportive bolsters and grippy suede centers.
Incidentally, the options on my Jag included two-zone climate control ($1,380); fixed panoramic roof ($1,175); and blind-spot monitor and reverse traffic-detection ($460).
In all honesty, I still prefer Jag’s bigger engines, but the new four-cylinder F-Type manages to achieve good performance and federally mandated fuel economy in a curvaceous coupe that still wows us hicks.
Maybe the 21st century isn’t all that terrible. Maybe.