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.
This is Day Two of our Jaguar F-Type test-drive. Go HERE to read Day One.
9:01 AM NUN Hotel valet
Pretty excited, as today we got our hands on a Maraschino cherry red F-Type instead of yesterday’s slate grey. Plus, there’s no sign of that stupid, yet deliciously breathed panther anywhere. Things are looking up. I don’t know what it is about the color red, but if a Jaguar indeed has “to look fast even when it’s standing still,” then this is probably the hue to select. As we approach, the hidden door handles recognize the fob in my pocket and pop out to greet us.
11:02 AM Backroads of Umbria
Did we say something about the F-Type looking fast? Holy shit is it fast, like in real life. I keep asking my driving partner Josh if he’s OK with my speeding, and although he says it’s cool his knuckles are white gripping the panic bar that arches down between the passenger seat and the center console. Its purpose is now much clearer. As we descend from the hills down the valley to the famed Urbani Truffle Academy, we encounter the fastest and funnest driving portion of our trip. Josh’s panic bar is well tested.
On these corners leading down to the tiny riverside village of Scheggino the F-Type’s superlative engineering comes to full attention. The car was simply crafted for this type of driving; its contemplation from the ground up as a weapon of stradale-conquering is in bloom. The astonishing 50/50 front-to-rear weight ratio works in conjunction with its small wheelbase; as it descends down the hillsides the F-Type bounces from corner to corner like an Olympic slalom skier. The V6 S’s 3.0L engine funnels all 380 horses to the rear wheels, which also benefit from the F-Type’s perfect balance. (To give you an idea of how intent its engineers were in achieving a 50/50 front-to-rear weight ratio, they moved the windshield fluid tank from its traditional engine placement to the trunk.)
Obviously these are not happy accidents engineers stumbled upon; this is a car that’s been imagined from tabula rasa with the driver’s experience made paramount, and it shows from the low seating position — squat and encased in the bolstered seats and buttery leather of the interior — to the large touchscreen display, glass knobs and instrumentation aimed directly at the driver. Hits of bronze can be found on the paddle shifters, Start button and the Dynamic Drive switch, an aesthetic detail picked up from Bell & Ross watches. At the press of the Start button a series of mechanisms launch — such as the deployable center vent that rises out of the dash — giving a sense of theater to the proceedings. The unwinding is decidedly British, the sort of well-crafted luxury that separates a Bentley from a Maserati. There is a sense of well-intentioned civility over unbridled passion. One isn’t better, it just… is.
Another marvel of the F-Type is its aluminum monocoque frame, constructed without welds — its all rivets and bonds, making its chassis the stiffest convertible the world has ever seen. Thank Jag’s long experience with the lightweight material as they’ve been producing aluminum-framed cars since the 2003 XJ. Sure the manufacturing precision is high, and therefore its cost, but when you’re squealing around Umbrian switchbacks in a car that feels as taught as Hussein Bolt’s flexed quadricep you’ll be grateful. And considering it’s a convertible, the most vulnerable segment to torsional rigidity, this is nothing short of amazing.
Hit the Jump to continue reading The British Invasion, Day Two: How Jaguar’s Landmark F-Type V6 S Roadster Conquered Italy test drive…
“When you’re squealing around Umbrian switchbacks in a car as taught as Hussein Bolt’s flexed quadricep you will be ecstatic…”
There is a kneejerk reaction from automotive types to instantly compare the F-Type to the peerless 911, the standard against which all other two-door sports cars will be compared until the end of time (or until Porsche drops the ball). And while this thinking has reason — humans have a natural instinct to compare, especially to the best — it’s also brain-numbingly boring, not to mention quixotic. It does not allow a car to be an experience, but rather a sterile set of statistics that are analyzed and compared to other sets of data. But just because a 1998 Sammy Sosa baseball card has more home runs on it than a 1950 Ted Williams does not mean it is a better card.
I’m not saying the Jaguar F-Type is the best performing sports car in the world. I’m not here to argue its performance metrics, and convince you that 0-62 in 4.8 seconds (or 4.2 seconds in the V8) and 171 mph is fast enough to have a really good jaunt, any time, anywhere. And I’m not here to tell you that the F-Type is a superior track car to the Porsche 911. Sorry. What I am here to tell you is that none of that matters. At all. Because if you’re buying the F-Type to play Ayrton Senna at Laguna Seca then you’ve already missed the point. If your blood does not course through your body with electric vigor at the sound of the V6 engine bubbling and crackling as you dance through gears then you are a dead man walking. There’s nothing that the F-Type can do for you. The point is, in Jaguar’s half-century waiting for a follow-up to their E-Type masterpiece it has finally created a car that can shoulder that Promethean expectation. And that says everything.
1:42 PM Urbani Truffle Academy
They’ve taken away my cherry red F-Type. I am sad. Somewhat placating my depression is a giant plate before me filled with truffles of every size, shape and color. Black truffle beef filet, porcini mushrooms with white truffle, artichokes drizzled in truffle oil, shaved truffle with strawberries, truffle bacon fried in truffle fat, truffle sushi sprinkled with truffle roe and truffle shisu. “Everywhere you look around you are truffle trees,” proclaims Olga Urbani, the Truffle Queen of Umbria. Still beautiful but with leathery orange skin — like an aging football blessed with exceptional cheekbones — Olga points to the floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows behind her with great ceremony. Green mountains shoot into the sky; she literally owns the whole valley.
For the record, we just finished a tour of the Urbani lair, and entered a treasure room of truffles. You know those cartoons where they show a dragon lying on a comically immense pile of gold? It was like that, only with truffles. The dank smell hung in the air like sulfur, somewhat in juxtaposition to the fact that we were standing in the midst of nearly $20 million in fungus. Despite what Mae West might argue, too much of a good thing can be a very bad thing.
“Were we seriously being invited to dinner at the mansion of the British Ambassador to Italy…?”
5:12 PM First Luxury Art Hotel, Rome
After being chauffeured to our hotel in Rome I found a gilded envelope resting on the desk. Inside was a personalized letter from “Her British Majesty’s Ambassador Christopher Prentice” inviting me to dinner at his sprawling manor, the Villa Wolkonsky. Were we seriously being invited to the home of the British Ambassador to Italy?
8:22 PM Villa Wolkonsky ,British Ambassador to Italy’s Mansion
Goddammit, we’re really having dinner with the British Ambassador. We’re seated at a long table in one of those grand halls befitting of Marie Antoinette, flower arrangements majestic and pristine. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m nervous as hell. It’s like dining with your grade school principal, a cop and a Kennedy all at once. Ambassador Prentice is not only eminently charming he’s also movie star handsome, with silver fox hair that looks like it smells of freshly minted thousand dollar bills.
Over Aberdeen Angus beef filet and cheddar cheese soufflé conversation bounces from “royal warrants” to diplomatic maneuvers with Gibraltar to the defense status of the independent state of San Marino (“a dozen sorry pike men”), and various other tales of behind-the-scenes ambassadorship. Finally, over homemade limoncello a toast is made to the F-Type, Britain’s great hope for roadster glory. Glasses clink victoriously.
Then there is a walk through the sprawling Villa Wolkonsky estate. There’s a fleet of priceless Jaguars adorning the courtyard (C-Type, D-Type, E-Type) while a small string section plays in evening gowns. There is a statue of Minerva, and ancient Roman aqueducts dating from the first century AD slicing the lawn in half. There is an air of Eyes Wide Shut appreciated with every step. There is awe, and bewilderment. It’s the type of well barricaded manor you walk past during your lazy European wanderings, wondering what lies behind those antique stone walls, never to know. Then one day — with your stomach extended from cheesy soufflé and pistachio meringue, your mind hazy and pleasurably dulled by vintage Abbazia di Novacella Kerner port wine — you find yourself suddenly there. And it doesn’t seem like an achievement, or even an eventuality of fate, but rather there’s an unexpected feeling of… dare I say it, guilt. That perhaps you’ve fooled everyone into thinking you belong there. That one day they’ll awaken from their truffle-bred stupor, look around and realize you’re the only naked emperor in their midst. And who knows, maybe they’ll be right.
A look at the collected C-, D-, E- and F-Types on the lawn of the Villa Wolkonsky estate…