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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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Rinspeed BamBoo

Frank M. RinderKnecht, founder of Rinspeed, says the Rinspeed BamBoo was designed to leisurely trundle the world’s most beautiful beaches and vacation spots. The BamBoo may be a bona fide golf cart at heart but it packs some serious punch in the engine department. Its Fräger electric motor generates 54kW, which for an electric engine is darn impressive plus it can reach a top speed of 120km/h. Range is set at 105km, so it’s the perfect beach buggy and its lightweight structure makes it easy to manoeuvre about. A large Rizzi beach scene festoons the roof while the cabin is replete with genuine bamboo fabric and hi-tech gadgets styled in a seventies theme. The Bamboo concept may come across as a little too austere for the traditionalist, but its cutting-edge design and eco friendly tendencies make it the ideal candidate for those wanting an alternative to mass production.

Rolls-Royce 102EX Phantom

The spirit of ecstasy is about to change its name to the spirit of electricity. Although the notion of an electric Roller belies the doctrine on which Rolls-Royce was founded, the ultra-luxurious carmaker is testing how its consumers react to the vehicle before putting it into production. The car employs an aluminium space-frame, with two 145kW electric motors giving it a maximum power output of 290 kW and 800 Nm – pretty much on par with the 338kW Phantom petrol version. Under the bonnet lies 640kg worth of lithium ion batteries, which is enough to deliver just under 200km of driving. Charging the car will take about 20 hours and can be done both wirelessly or using an electric plug point. The 102EX is able to go from 0-100km/h in under eight seconds and reach a limited top speed of 160km/h. An electric Rolls-Royce may open the company’s doors to affluent tree huggers, but the asking price of R10 million will probably scare them away.

Mini Rocketman

BMW design head, Adrian van Hooydonk, describes the Mini Rocketman as a British bulldog – it’s a small dog, but people take it seriously. Mini claims that the Rocketman is big enough to seat four adults yet at the same time it’s as small as the original Mini from the sixties. In fact it’s only 40cm longer and 50cm wider than the original thanks to the carbon-fibre technology borrowed from the BMW Megacity Electric Car. This concept is quite exciting because unlike the larger Minis of recent times, the Rocketman pays homage to the original Mini’s petite physique. The trademark Union Jack roof makes a return as a panoramic glass panel, using the car’s structural beams to create the diagonal and horizontal lines. LED angel eye headlights, dual hinged doors for easy access and a space-saving sliding drawer boot, round off the Rocketman’s appearance.

Jaguar C-X75

The Jaguar C-X75 is an electric supercar which boasts a unique engine configuration. A total of four electric motors constitute its power department and produce 145kW each. This means the C-X75 is able to generate 582kW and 1600Nm – all of which is available instantly. Each wheel is driven its own electric motor, so it takes only 3,4 seconds for it to reach 100km/h and will carry on going until it tops out at 330km/h. Although it’s an electric car, the Jaguar uses micro gasoline turbines to charge the battery pack. The battery will last for roughly 110km but together with the gasoline turbines, a range of 900km and emissions of only 29g/km is achievable. Its body shell is composed of aluminium and carbon-fibre, while its cabin comprises body-clutching leather seats and high-resolution screens that operate in three modes: Touring, Vmax and Heritage mode.

BMW ConnectedDrive Concept

BMWs ConnectedDrive vehicle is a concept study focusing on the development of tomorrow’s automotive technology. The car flaunts a layering dynamic which demonstrates the bond between driver, car and the environment – kind of like how an Avatar plugs its hair into a dragon and becomes one with it and the surroundings. The cabin is split into three layers: comfort, infotainment and safety – each with its own light installation. Each layer is categorised by a rhythm, motion, colour and texture and the car’s transparent surfaces relay the information via fibre-optic lighting. Aesthetically, the ConnectedDrive concept follows styling cues from the BMW Z1 with doors that slide into the body. Although, it will never go into production, the advanced technologies from this concept will gradually be introduced into all future BMW motorcars.

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A few years ago Jaguar motorcars used to be – well, boring, but that’s all in the past thanks to TATA Motors. The much-needed injection of Mumbai money has spawned a new crop of cool cats, namely the XF, XK and XJ. The XJ is Jaguar’s answer to the luxury four-door saloon segment and it’s an astonishing performer. Power is supplied through Jaguar’s legendary 5.0-litre V8 supercharged engine producing 375kW and 625Nm, and thanks to the lightweight aluminium frame, the performance figures are mighty impressive. Unlike its rivals that all exercise eight-speed automatic drivetrains, the XJ possesses a six-speed gear box with blisteringly quick changes. This culminates in a 0-100km/h pass of 4.9 seconds which isn’t bad for a car weighing 1 915kg – in fact it’s quick enough to give a BMW M3 a go at the traffic light. Its interior reflects the opulence associated with a car of this calibre: buttery-soft leather seats, ample head and leg room in the front and rear, plus its loaded with a litany of nifty features such as a beautifully crafted analogue clock, a dial-shaped gear selector, a heated steering wheel and a LCD instrument panel. The normal 5.0-litre version is just as good and although not as powerful than its supercharged sibling, it’s pretty nimble and cheaper for both the bank balance and petrol department, too.

Price: R1 539 450
Engine: 5.0-litre V8 supercharged
Power: 375kW/625Nm
0-100km/h: 4.9 seconds
Top speed: 250km/h

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