The venerable British marque Jaguar built its reputation on 2-seater sports cars, adapting the racetrack success of its D-Type into the landmark E-Type roadster — one of the most revered and beautiful cars in the history of transportation. Elegantly British and yet terminally visceral, the E-Type defined 60’s modernist chic and gave men worldwide a simple ambition: to own one. Now, 52 years after the E-Type launched Jaguar has returned to the 2-seater roadster game with their much-hyped F-Type, the long-awaited successor of the E-Type. And to prove its mettle the Brits dispatched a fleet of the stunning V6 S roadsters into the heart of Italy, the spiritual home of the sports car, to show they have nothing to fear… and to prove they have engineered a worthy successor. Here’s how it went down.
10:37 AM Somewhere over Umbria, Italy
We’re buzzing in an Astar B3 helicopter 900 feet above the countryside of Umbria, taking in the vast architecture of the Italian landscape with grateful gulps of enthusiasm. Everyone’s quiet; there is no chatting in the 850-horsepower chopper, just wide-eyed consumption of beauty. To say the least it is a privileged view — from the bird’s eye miniaturization of the world to the financial rarity of the occasion. Under the rhythmic slicing of air the symmetry of the world moves below us: the quilt of farms and their hedged pastures, the grid-like pattern of tract homes, the polka dot matrix of ancient vineyards, the terra cotta prism of rooftop bricks. Even the shifting of sheep herds moves in ebbs and flows, perceptibly simultaneous from this vantage point. Something tells me this is not going to be any ordinary car launch.
12:42 PM NUN Hotel, Spa
Once the helicopter landed at the Assisi private airport, blacked out Jaguar XJ limousines shuttled us to the 5-star NUN hotel, an ex-convent and prison built in 1275. If you believe in ghosts then this place has some seriously messed up mojo. Although that’s pretty hard to see right now from the spa I’m currently working my way through. The “Spa Museum” has four rooms, which you rotate through in order: the Tepidario with body temperature pools, a 113-degree Caldario steam room and a punishing 140-degree Sudatorio Turkish bath. And then you finish it off in the Frigidario, a room piled knee-high with ice. The frigid shower waters — bubbling forth from the ancient Perlasario Spring below — are infused with essential oils and lilac. Its cold sharpness meeting my steaming scalp as the lavender dances in my nostrils is an indulgence saved for kings. Seeing as I didn’t sleep on the flight over, and it’s nearly 4 AM my time, it’s a well needed wake-up call.
2:17 PM NUN Hotel
We’re in the chapel of the nunnery that has now been converted into a high-tech business conference room. Let’s hope both the abused nuns and homicidal prisoners see the humor in this. Jaguar executives are waxing eloquent on their sparkling new F-Type, the Great Roadster Hope of the esteemed British brand. The first true sports car Jag has built since the 1960s, the F-Type clearly has lofty ambitions: it doesn’t just want to be buoyantly compared to other great sports cars, it wants to maul them. “We’ve been absent for far too long,” says Jaguar Design Executive Julian Thompson, marking their half-century recess since the iconic E-Type. He then goes on to list the car’s many design features. “All Jaguars have to look fast,” he says confidently, “even when they are standing still.”
Hit the Jump to continue reading The British Invasion, Day One: How Jaguar’s Landmark F-Type V6 S Roadster Conquered Italy test drive…
“The F-Type belongs here. It is a great cat prowling its natural savannah…”
2:34 PM NUN Hotel valet
Outside of the NUN, getting my first glimpse of the V6 S Jag in person. Holy crap Thompson was right — the car looks blisteringly fast. Even while idling it looks like it’s in mid sprint. Although a stunner in photos, in person the F-Type is an entirely different beast. It is beautifully proportioned, from its deep, tiburón grill to its dramatic rear haunches and chrome-tipped dual-exhaust pipes. While it purports to resonate back to Jaguar’s once vaunted history there is nothing “retro” in the F-Type’s design. With the lone exception of the E-Type-referencing horizontal taillights it is ultimately modern, even in a segment that is often considered anachronistic. Many experts have sounded the death knell for the “sports car” in this mileage-focused, utility oriented automotive landscape. The F-Type makes these talking heads look like slack-jawed buffoons.
4:30 PM Backroads of Umbria
Driving through ungodly beautiful province of Perugia. Although less known than its westerly neighbor Tuscany, Umbria is stunning. Driving these roads in an F-Type is the perfect intersection of vehicle and terrain. Initially I thought it was kind of aggressive for Jaguar to parade a British sports car here in Italy, the spiritual home of the sports car, but now I’m realizing there’s nothing hostile about it: the F-Type belongs here. It is an honored guest, the pure distillation of British engineering invited to enjoy the oscillating roads of central Italy. It is a great cat prowling its natural savannah.
5:32 PM Tenuta Castelbuono vineyard
We’re staring up into the large vaunted dome of Carapace — a gigantic metallic structure that sits atop the Tenuta Castelbuono vineyard. The Carapace was born as a dream of building a winery that was a shrine for Sagrantino, the prized local grape. So master sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro — perhaps best known for his Sphere within a Sphere outside the United Nations building — was hired to build this livable sculpture. The idea was to create something that should be integrated with the nature of the area, a sculpture in architectural scale. The result was the Carapace. Not only is the turtle a symbol of prosperity, but it also protects the sacred Sagrantino di Montefalco wine hidden deep in the cellar below. “It was like being in a renaissance workshop,” says a young bespectacled architect of working with Pomodoro on the 5-year project. Outside, a giant red arrow sticks in the fertile Italian soil like an exclamation point, Pomodoro’s signature that proclaims, ‘Here resides a masterpiece.’
The Jaguar F-Type lounging in front of Arnaldo Pomodoro’s Carapace
6:03 PM Backroads of Umbria
I wish there were words to describe the maniacal gurgling and cackling of the F-Type’s V6 engine. While revving it is heavenly, while downshifting it is a malevolent, cursing pub wench drunk on petrol. Once you hear it, you will never forget it.
6:52 PM Backroads of Umbria
“It smells like rain,” says my drive partner Josh just as the dark sky cracks and rain pours into our open top. That’s OK, the roof goes up in 12 seconds while we’re still driving at 27 mph. SBTRKT plays over the Meridian soundsystem, perfectly fitting the mood as rain taps on the car. One flaw becomes apparent: with the top up the F-Type’s rear visibility is seriously compromised. Let’s hope you don’t spend much time with the roof on.
8:03 PM Torre di Moravola
The series of ridiculous buildings we’re visiting keeps getting more ridiculous, and has hit its apex. The Torre di Moravola is a twelfth-century watchtower stacked high in the forested hills, discovered in 2001 after a half-century of neglect and reclaimed by Chris and Seonaid Chong. The British couple has transformed the imposing stone structure into one of the more unique boutique hotels I’ve set foot in. Completely gutted, Moravola retains its medieval exposed stone charm while modernizing its soul with heated concrete floors, pietra serena stone baths, landscaped terraces, a sprawling infinity pool surrounded by ancient oak trees and an overall minimalist’s aesthetic. The long day of driving is now done, and I’m sipping on my third elderberry martini watching the light play on the green Carpini Valley below.
The Great Cat prowling the ancient hills of Assissi
9:14 PM Torre di Moravola
Besides being a very exclusive “hotel” (the tower only has 5 rooms), the Chongs specialize in the slow food movement, utilizing seasonal local foods like foraged asparagus and porcini mushrooms plucked from the surrounding hills. The end result is exquisite, and I’ve polished off not only my helping of wild boar gnocchi but two more. There’s also the starter that looked like an insanely clawed crawfish, and green apple and calvados sorbet. Then Seonaid mentions her secret single malt scotch collection, and before we know it our table is toasting with drams of Glenlivet Nàdurra 16-year, the delicious Speyside expression perfectly fueling the epicurean glow we’re all feeling. There is a distinct comfort that comes from a belly full of wild boar gnocchi mingling with decades old scotch warmed in the hearth of a medieval watchtower. The decadence is making my head swim.
10:22 PM Torre di Moravola
No joke, there are two guys swinging on the wall of the Torre di Moravola like Spider-Man. The superheroes surprised as all when they leapt off the watchtower’s battlements and started repelling down its face, stopping to perform acrobatics high above us. Jaguar set up a big soundsystem and the men flip over each other in a sort of medieval Cirque de Soleil to the echo of recorded jaguars roaring through the hillsides. High contrast projections of fire swim around their contorting bodies that are otherwise only illuminated by the cold blue light of the full moon. I don’t know if it’s the half dozen drams of Nàdurra I’ve happily ingested, the small intestines languishing in rich porcini mushroom sauce or the dazzling display of Italian-acrobatics-meets-Vegas-lightshow bouncing around before my eyes, but the sensory indulgence is overwhelming. I need some sleep.
3:33 AM NUN Hotel, bedroom
As I lie in the high thread count linens of my hotel bed, a gorgeous great cat sits on my chest. I stroke his luxurious pelt, his immense weight and soft purring like a vibrator on my heart. Each breath he exhales fills my nostrils with the pleasant aromas of lilac, lavender and wild boar gnocchi. Then I suddenly realize the time — I only have three hours of sleep before I gotta be up driving again… Get off me you stupid cat! I yell in his indifferent ears. “Go back to sleep gentle fool, the night is yours,” it whispers to me in a soft Scottish brogue. I’m wondering why it’s wearing mountain climbing harnesses and a giant turtle shell, but I don’t care because all I want is sweet, sweet sleep. What time is it in L.A. right now I wonder, 6 PM?!
Man, I gotta stop taking Ambien on these intercontinental jaunts or I’m seriously gonna lose my mind…
This was only Day One of our British Invasion, Jaguar F-Type V6 S Roadster feature — continue reading Day Two HERE…