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The new F-Type is the sportiest and most driver-focussed vehicle to come out of the Jaguar factory since the legendary E-Type of the ’60s and rabid XJ220 supercar of the mid-’90s. The V6 supercharged version you see here may not be as angry as the range-topping V8 S but it is as vicious and every bit as capable as its contemporary German rivals. Of course, no sports car evaluation can be considered a true test of speed and handling if a spiralling stretch of asphalt isn’t included in the itinerary. So we headed to the southernmost tip of the Cape peninsula, home to some of SA’s most pristine coastal rollercoaster drives, to test the F-Type’s performance and dynamics as well as to ascertain whether it can rekindle the tenets and emotion that first made this brand such an iconic automaker.

Body armour

At first glance our Rhodium Silver F-Type appears much bigger than the pictures suggest. At 4470mm long and 1923mm wide it’s a pretty burly and solid-looking chunk of metal but not in a negative sense. It looks proper – athletic yet lithe enough to cut through the air like a shark through water. Speaking of sharks, the F-Type bears an uncanny resemblance to the aquatic predator, especially from the front, where a collection of slatted air inlets, a sculpted clamshell bonnet and open-mouth grille impart a rather aggressive appearance. Aggressive too are the muscular haunches that house massive 295-section 20-inch wheels, but it’s only once you view it from a three-quarter angle that you truly appreciate its classical physique. Some touches echo the immortal E-Type, such as the centrally-arranged dual exhaust outlets and sleek tail-lamp design. So now that we’ve established it’s a beautiful car from the outside, what’s it like when you step over the sills and climb in to the driving seat?

In the driving seat

Once inside you’re surrounded by a non-intimidating, driver-focused cabin that’s been treated to just the right mix of luxury, style and charisma. While it lacks the tactile refinement and fit and finish of the rivalling Germans, everything has been tailored with the driver in mind. Position yourself in the cosseting racing bucket seat, clasp the thick-rimmed steering wheel and you feel as if you’re sitting only millimetres off the road surface – an illusion created by the high waistline of the doors. The instrumentation is clearly marked and laid out with all the important items such as the exhaust note amplifier, rear spoiler, roof and drive mode buttons residing nearby on the transmission tunnel. You’ll also notice the F-Type uses a joystick-style gear selector instead of the rotary dial we’ve become accustomed to in recent Jaguars. The interior, however, isn’t perfect and there are a few bugbears, one of which is the dull monochromatic palette. Why Jaguar didn’t option it with contrasting leather and trim I don’t know, but thankfully the copper-coloured engine start button, drive mode toggle and paddle shifters do add some colour variation. The other issue is the lack of luggage space. As a sports car, the F-Type is naturally not a very practical machine so there aren’t any rear seats, and the boot – rated at 193 litres – is more of a letter box than a bona fide storage area.

The rocketship experience

A longitudinally- mounted V6 rests up front and drives the rear wheels through an eight-speed ZF automatic ’box. This isn’t just any V6 however – this one is breathed upon by a Roots-type twin Vortex supercharger that helps pump out an impressive 280kW and 460Nm of torque. Not huge numbers by today’s performance car standards, but the broad spread of torque available between 3500-5000rpm supplies a linear, almost naturally aspirated-like power delivery. The 3.0-litre V6 delivers the perfect balance between power, torque and emotion so chasing the vanishing point of the distant horizon is a rather simple exercise. Zero to 100kph takes just 5.04secs, the quarter-mile 13.39 and the top speed is pegged at 275kph. Aah, but just how good is the ZF transmission I hear you say? The answer: faultless. Who needs a double-clutcher when a quick-shifting torque converter – when mapped correctly – can provide up-changes and intuitive downshifts as effectively as this transmission? Stopping power is just as impressive as the performance figures, the F-Type needing only 37m and 2.7secs to come to a complete stop from 100kph. But what’s a Jaguar sports car without the ominous soundtrack to match? The V6 S is far louder than I expected. Even louder when you fold away the roof – it growls and cusses as you pin the gas and explodes into a Travis Barker-like drum solo on the overrun. Press the sports exhaust button, place the transmission in manual with Dynamic mode selected and the F-Type transforms into a sonic mortar, shooting mechanical profanities from its centrally arranged double-barrel exhaust system with every change of gear. It’s freakin’ awesome.

Through the twists and turns

After treating the locals to a mechanical concert, my first chance to test the F-Type’s handling abilities avails itself in the form of Red Hill road, just above Simon’s Town. The car feels right at home in such a curvaceous environment. With Dynamic selected the throttle becomes sharper, the steering weightier, the shifts quicker, the adaptive dampers firmer and the electronic nanny’s safety grip a little looser. Tuck it into a corner and the first thing you’ll notice is the F-Type’s steering. It’s a touch on the light side but is direct and responsive. It turns in accurately thanks to the 50:50 weight distribution, reinforced underpinnings and a pukka mechanical limited-slip differential, which allows you to lean on the car’s huge reserves of grip as it marshals torque across the rear axle. It’s all very confidence inspiring and you quickly forget you’re driving a drop-top vehicle such is its stability and roadholding prowess. That said, it’s not always point-and-shoot – get too enthusiastic with the throttle pedal and things can go awry. Surprisingly, the ride quality hasn’t been compromised by the double wishbone suspension arrangement, firm damping and big wheels. It’s actually pretty good, and while bumpier surfaces do permeate the cabin, the overall ride quality is impressive for a vehicle of this calibre.

Decision time

The Jaguar F-Type is one of the most entertaining drives of 2013. In fact, it’s difficult to drive it without smiling, banging through the gears and reveling in its ballistic soundtrack – but it’s not perfect. Yes, it’s quick in a straight line and the chassis follows every flick of the steering wheel, but compared with the likes of the Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet et al, it’s clear that the F-Type lacks the clinical approach, dynamic finesse and tactile interior polish of the Germans. But let’s not forget it’s been over 50 years since Jaguar last built a proper sports car. The opposition will be well aware of the threat the F-Type poses not only at present but going forward, particularly since the V6 S one of the most affordable sports cars around. Price tags aside, it’s going to come down to preference of use – if you want a precision scalpel buy a 911or an Audi R8 V8; if you want a double-serrated battle axe infused with emotion and sonic mayhem, buy the F-Type. Simple…

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Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 driver Lewis Hamilton takes Topcar senior journalist Aaron Borrill for a brutal drive around Bilster Berg race track in Germany

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Aaron Borrill finds out whether the improvements made to the 2013 Audi RS5 make it a better car

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McLaren MP4-12C

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So, in a few days time I’ll be jetting off to Seoul, South Korea for a visit to the Hyundai headquarters. I’ll also be sampling some of the firm’s cars – more specifically, the all-new Hyundai Elantra which is part of the International Launch. This will be my first trip to Asia, so I’m pretty excited as I’m not sure what to expect, but as long as cars are involved, It’s going to be nothing less than awesome. I’ll be using this blog entry as a diary of sorts, updating you on my travels, my impressions of the Hyundai Elantra and anything else I find interesting. I may even take along my GoPro HD camera and film a small driving impression video, but that’s all dependent on time of course. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this entry and follow the diary updates.

7 June 2011 (8.46am) – It’s now just under two weeks before I take to the air for my visit to Seoul and there is still so many things I need to do. Got my international driving license sorted at the AA in Tyger Valley Mall on Saturday – so that’s a relief. This morning I got an email from Deon Sonnekus – Hyundai PR Manager – with a medical insurance dossier attached. I filled everything out and faxed it back so that appears to be sorted, too. I’ll hopefully get International Roaming setup on my Blackberry this week and then I’ll have to organise my check list. Still have a few other writing assignments to wrap up, so got to get back to work now.

9 June 2011 (6.57am) – So yesterday, I was invited to another two international launches and have to unfortunately turn one of them down due to my South Korea trip. That’s ultimately the nature of this profession – wish I could do both, but I somehow think there will be a whole lot of angry people in the office if I get my way. Anyway, it’s not too bad – I’m still on a high after driving the Nissan GT-R on Sunday. I should be getting the itinerary for my trip sometime this week. I really hope there is at least one day of leisure because I want to get my wife, daughter and family some gifts, and I need to make a small driving impression video – it seems as though I’m going to be a very busy man come 19 June.

13 June 2011 (7.52am) – I finally received my trip itinerary on Friday and as I thought, it’s going to be a very busy week. One positive, though, is that I’ll be traveling business class so there will be at least some level of comfort on the flight. Hopefully, this means wireless internet access as I’d love to get a bit of work done while in the air. According to the itinerary, I’ll be flying from Cape Town to Johannesburg, Johannesburg to Hong Kong and Hong Kong to to the Incheon Airport at Seoul. My expected arrival time at Incheon is 17:55 on Monday, June 20th. Myself and the other South African journalists will be transported to the Sheraton Grande Walkerhill Hotel overlooking the Han River at Seoul. The rest of Monday evening will be devoted to registration and an introduction to the week’s program.

I’ve been doing a bit of asking around regarding international roaming for my mobile phone and it seems as though it might be quite a costly affair. The only other alternative is buying a local simcard when I land, or using Skype to connect with my family. I’d much prefer the use of my phone but I still have a few days to mull things over.

15 June 2011 (7.17am)

I received  a complimentary Cutters & Buck collared shirt and toiletry bag in the post yesterday from Hyundai South Africa – a really nice gift that will come in handy on the trip. I’ve also discovered that activating full international roaming on my mobile phone can turn into a very costly affair. To make a call from Korea to South Africa will cost R26 per minute and I find that utterly ridiculous. So, I’ll be using a text message roaming service which works out to R2 per message – not bad and at least I can keep in contact with my wife and family. I only have one or two more things to do before I start packing; I better get a start on it as if I leave things for the last minute, I know I’ll forget something important.

Here is a preview shot of the car I’ll be driving in Seoul: the all-new Hyundai Elantra. It’s actually a very good looking vehicle and I’m actually really excited to get a taste of what Asian roads have to offer.

19 June 2011 (7.59am)

It’s Father’s Day today – my first Father’s Day as a father and now I have to board a flight to Korea. The weather is pretty miserable too, but luckily I’m flying business class so that should be alright. A little sad that I can’t spend today with my family but an exciting time beckons on the other side of the equator – I’ll make sure I bring back some awesome presents. Got an SMS this morning from a journo friend that will be accompanying me to South Korea, and he seemed quite distraught over the weather – It is very wet and windy in Cape Town but that hasn’t stopped planes from taking off before. Anyway, I have a few more things to do before I leave – like find a pair of socks (I think I packed all of them in my luggage bag). I’ll write again once I arrive in Korea.

20 June 2011 (17.50pm)

All in all I’ve traveled roughly 13000 kms and have finally arrived in Seoul, South Korea. The domestic flight from Cape Town to Joburg wasn’t too bad but upon arrival at OR Thambo International, I was told that some of the Hyundai media party had to downgrade from Business to Economy class. Not what you want to hear after spending a couple of economy-class-hours wedged between two sweaty, rank-smelling individuals. Luckily for me, our Hyundai media representative, Deon Sonnekus, sacrificed his business class seat for me. Unfortunately, Kyle Kock from Car Magazine and Deon had to sit with the plebs. Business Class was amazing, I slept well, ate well and watched a few movies. The Sheraton Grande Walkerhill Hotel isn’t that bad either, but the culture in Seoul will take some getting used to. By the way, some plonker – presumably from SAA – looted my luggage and stole a pair of brand new jeans – whoever you are, you’re an asshole.

21 June 2011 (17.40pm)

I’m really struggling to sleep. I feel like a zombie and I’m well and truly jet lagged. One positive I guess is that I’ll undoubtedly be able to sleep the whole night this evening and not resort to watching subtitled Korean television like i did last night. Today the South African journalists visited the Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group Namyang R&D Center. This place is frighteningly massive taking up 850 acres of space – that’s about 500 soccer fields. It houses all things like design and research building, engine development center, a museum, a test track and a wind tunnel. The wind tunnel and test track(s) were very interesting; traveling 3 hours to and from the hotel to get there wasn’t. I unfortunately have no photographs of the Hyundai premises as the security at the plant is very strict. Tomorrow I’ll get behind the wheel of the new Elantra. I’m really looking forward to driving a left-hand-drive car for the first time and will report on how it goes in the afternoon.

22 June 2011 (20.40pm)

Okay, so I had no luck making a driving video with my GoPro camera because the press conference was held after the test drive. The South African media drove right-hand-drive vehicles as opposed to the left-hand-drive models we thought we’d drive, which was a little annoying especially since Koreans drive on the right-hand side of the road. Overall, the car is good and a lot better than the Corolla, Cerato and Cruze. It has loads of leg room, handles well and retains an prominent shoulder line like its Sonata sibling. The auto gearbox – as expected – is terrible as you pointlessly chase after the redline. I’d love to try the manual derivative once it’s locally launched in South Africa as it will definitely be more engaging. Driving on Korean roads in cavalcade proved a little challenging. I reckon I hit 140km/h only once, otherwise I averaged a whopping 55km/h. It was good none the less and experiencing the Korean road network and countryside. I really enjoyed my time in Seoul, a memorable trip packed with laughs, friendships and a lot of strange adventures, but I’ll leave all the details for the full GQ report. I’m off to Incheon airport for my return trip to South Africa.

Aaron Borrill driving the all-new Hyundai Elantra at the International launch in Seoul, South Korea

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