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New F-Type: E-Type is re-born

2013-07-20 14:34

BIG CATS CRAWL PAST KRUGER Jaguar launched the 2013 F-type convertible in South Africa with a 400km drive on the snaking roads of Mpumalanga. Sometimes thing got a little slow. Image: LES STEPHENSON


Jaguar Land Rover SA chose Mpumalanga's Lowveld for the media launch of its superlight supercar, the Jaguar F-Type convertible. Once you learned to dodge the potholes, it turned into a stunning drive. Take a look at the F-Type image gallery.


So there is life after death, if your beliefs are attuned to an automotive afterworld: the iconic 1960’s E-Type has been reincarnated but with extra power that’s unholy, limo-like luxury and a high-tech suspension of which car designers of 50 years ago could not even have dreamed.

It’s called the F-Type and if you ever get to drive one – if “It’s Your Turn”, as the Jaguar F-Type advertising goes – then probably you too will think you’re in heaven.

It joins the XF, XJ and XK in the Jaguar lair.


Perhaps because the E-Type’s mystique has been re-created here on Earth in the production mills of grimy Birmingham in the English Midlands where it is made these cars are more devil than angel; more race car than mere sports car; road tools for potential misbehaviour but equipped to look after those misguided enough to misuse them.

Image gallery

Be warned! If you’re rich enough to afford an F-Type then you’d better be sure you’re skilled, experienced and intelligent enough to drive one. Indeed, just as sister company Land Rover offers off-road training to cover terrain that can be life-threatening, so Jaguar should offer advanced on-road tuition to its customers.

So what brought on that sermon? Well, 400km in not very many hours on the awesome (well, the awesome bits with fewer potholes) roads switchbacking like snakes through the green and forested hills of the Lowveld in first a V8 and then a mid-range V6.


The five-litre V8’s four exhausts crackle and spit on overrun like those of an F1 car and make the body panels of passing cars shudder; indeed, the shock-waves from one behind which we were caught in traffic hit us with a series of physical thuds. Then the soundtrack changed to a rising howl of pleasure as the supercharging cut back in.

Maybe the driver was playing with the switch that changes the tune...

Anyway, the F is a strictly two-seater based on a shortened platform of the XK convertible - Wheels24 showed you the similarly sized concept car, the C-X16, from the Frankfurt auto show in 2011 and a coupe version is expected in 2014.

For now, though, there are three models, each supercharged...

• The least expensive (at R845 000) has Jaguar’s new three-litre V6 capable of 250kW/450Nm, 0-100km/h in 5.3sec and 260km/h.

• Then there's the F-Type S (R975 000) with the same engine but upmuscled up to 280kW/460Nm to haul from 0-100 in 4.9sec and on to 275km/h.

• Finally there's the five-litre, V8, 364kW/625Nm, F-Type S (R1.3-million) whose penchant for howling we have mentioned but which should be spoken of in awed and hushed tones... few production wheels, two or four, will stay with its 4.3sec launch (especially if the launch assistant is used) or its 300km/h top speed. It will also go from 80-120km/h in 2.5sec.

Each of the three engines drives through an eight-speed Quickshift close-ratio automatic gearbox with super-quick changes available through the gear-shifter or via paddles, one on each side of the power-adjustable steering column.

I’ve never been so comfortable with a paddle-shift system or enjoyed one so much when moving at high speed – particularly on the snaking switchbacks of Mpumalanga’s mountain passes that Jaguar presented on the route map for the (July 18/19 2013) launch drive. Those on the F-Type are perfectly placed and shaped and rotate with the quick-ratio steering wheel.


The changes in engine and exhaust noise are instant and exhilarating – one quickly learns to identify the selected ratio by ear – and, unlike some competitors with similar systems, the gear numbers are displayed large and central on the facia and can be read at a glance.

Between the V6 S and V8 S I preferred the V6. Not that the V8 isn’t awesome to drive – it really, really is – but I’d forgo its extra 84kW in favour of a day-to-day more peaceful life. The V8 goes through the traffic like a panga, the V6 has the precision of a scalpel; the crackle and roar of the V8 is exhilarating but the harsh whine of the V6 is automotively more orchestral.

And anyway the second day’s 200km roundabout drive from White River to Kruger International via the N40 towards Kiepersol and Sabie then west and south on a huge back-roads loop over a series of mountain passes then south to the N4 and KIA was one of the two most exhilarating road drives of my life.

The  other? In a Porsche, through the mountains inland from Porches (the brand’s home town for model launches) in southern Portugal.


Not only does the Jaguar shift like few others but it is also stunningly designed, a pinnacle, I think, in the century-plus history of the automobile. Kevin Flynn, MD of Jaguar Land Rover in South Africa, said at the launch presentation in White River that the car was not only impressive “but something unique in the market”.

“I’m blown away by this car,” Flynn added: “Enzo Ferrari, who once said the E-Type was the most beautiful car ever made, was wrong (Though one could argue he might similarly have acknowledged the F-Type) and we are about to see a resurgence of the Jaguar brand.”

Colleague Peter Bevin added: “This is the most sporting Jaguar yet built, a full-blooded sports car that is 25% less expensive than a Porsche 911 and it will forever change the Jaguar brand.”

The F-Type does, however, have drawbacks – especially if you like weekends away with somebody you care about... unlike other convertibles, folding the cloth roof (12 seconds, before you ask...) does not take up boot space, of which there is very little anyway, and which space disappears if you want to play safe over the weekend and take some spare rubber with you.

You won’t even squeeze in a laptop bag and the only cabin stowage involves  a glove box, a centre console which might take a soap bag, and a vertical cubby in the cabin’s wall between the (power adjustable) seats that might just manage another.


Despite all the aero work done on the car, including the bonnet which lifts ahead of the windscreen like a shallow, surging wave, there’s a lot turbulence in the cabin with the top down.

Most of the F-Type is made of aluminium, which is ace for longevity. It’s also, says products engineer Steve Coxley, “the lowest, widest and shortest Jaguar yet” and its development took a whole 10 years. It also has the shortest wheelbase (handy for speed humps) and a very wide track and – rare, this – no spot-welds anywhere.

The cars I drove were white (V6) and black/silver ((V6) but they’re all remarkably green: about 75% of manufacture is automated and 50% of the metal is recycled aluminium – of which 95% is re-reusable.

Hey, you could be driving your old six-packs...

Find out more about the Jaguar F-Type.

Read more on:    jaguar  |  porsche  |  mpumalanga

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