Review by Benjamin Hunting, photos by Benjamin Hunting and courtesy of Jaguar

There are three important developments in the history of humanity that have marked our course from the primordial ooze to bipedal locomotion: the discovery of fire, the development of antibiotics, and the invention of the manual transmission. While a flaming F-Type would be an obvious non-starter, and even I question the utility of an automobile that dispenses life-saving medication, it’s only logical that the latest iteration of Jaguar’s fantastic sports car be equipped with a clutch.

The 2016 Jaguar F-Type has not only been blessed with a row-your-own gearbox, but it’s also added the trickster of high performance driving to its options list: all-wheel drive. You can choose one of these new tricks but not both – manual is available as RWD only.

A sometimes boon, oft-times blunt object, there’s no question that four-wheel motivation opens up a whole new market for the F-Type, especially in Canada. Just how much has the inclusion of a stick and a snow-friendly drivetrain improved Jaguar’s coupe-and-convertible threat? At the British brand’s invitation, I set out to the Monticello Motor Club’s members-only race track to find out.

Have You Ever Been Mellow?

It’s rare for an automaker to lead with an autobox and then ret-con in a manual three years into production, which points to just how hungry Jaguar is to score points with enthusiasts. Lurking in the back of my mind as I settled into the driver’s seat of the stick-shift F-Type for the first time, however, was a slight twinge of worry. The eight-speed, ZF-sourced automatic that has been standard with the fixed-roof and drop-top versions of the F-Type since the car was introduced for the 2014 model year is in fact one of my favourite gearboxes on the market. Its ability to quickly paddle-swap cogs, matched with the soniferous and rambunctious squall emitted from the car’s active exhaust system, give it a uniquely visceral character that’s easy to love and hard to duplicate.

It was clear from the get-go that the six-speed that is now available with the 2016 Jaguar F-Type’s supercharged V6 (in both base and S form) had an altogether different experience to offer drivers. Gone is the off-throttle burble and rev-matched ‘blatt’ that accompany the auto unit and in its place is a more direct connection between the throttle and the car’s rear wheels. Shift throws are somewhat longer than I would have expected, but clutch engagement is quick and to the point, and purists will be happy to note the absence of any computer-controlled throttle blipping when selecting a lower gear. The 380 horsepower, 3.0L supercharged V6 in the F-Type S that I piloted didn’t feel any quicker with the 6MT, but nor did the car’s forward momentum feel hampered by the clutch-and-stick setup, even from a launch.

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