The road winding through the mountain pass in northern Portugal had more twists than an Agatha Christie novel.
Jaguar had improved the driving character of its newly reworked F-Type and wanted us to know it. So for the car’s international media launch it chose a road regarded as one of the best pieces of tarmac in Europe — with fast, flowing bends, narrow mountain passes, and village cobbles, the N222 near Porto has a bit of everything to challenge a sports car.
“Some sections of the route are highly technical: we hope this will give you the opportunity to really experience the new F-Type’s agility and responsiveness,” read Jaguar’s pre-drive brief.
Indeed. When the British carmaker launched the F-Type in 2013 as the spiritual heir to the iconic E-Type of the 1960s, it proposed to make it a true driver’s car. The British marque had previously built fast but athletically muted grand tourers for gentlemen of a certain age, but nothing that would rock the Richter scale of true enthusiast drivers.
The F-Type changed that, bringing Jaguar into the golden circle of sharp-handling sports cars. The car had slick roadholding to go with powerful engines, and the most direct steering yet to be found in a Jaguar, even though the turning action felt a little too light for drivers seeking the ultimate in corner-carving feedback.
That’s been fixed with the F-Type’s 2020 reboot. The electric power steering’s been given more heft and “feel” in both the roadster and coupé versions, along with chassis and suspension upgrades that further evolve these two-seaters into better driver’s cars.
The one that felt most playful on those Portuguese bends was the P575 F-Type R, the intercontinental missile of the bunch with a sonorous 5.0l supercharged V8 mounted in the newly redesigned nose. Good for 0-100km/h in 3.7 seconds, it was all chest-thumping bravado as it thundered along with a noise that seemed almost loud enough to shake olives off trees in the surrounding orchards.
The car has a Quiet Start function if you don’t wish to incur the wrath of your neighbours, though.
All-wheel drive keeps the car’s heady 423kW power in check, sticking to the tar even with very indelicate throttle inputs by the driver. I also drove the entry-level P300 model with its 221kW 2.0l turbocharged, four-cylinder engine and rear-wheel drive.
The new Jaguar F-Type will be launched in SA in May. The following models will be available:
• P300 RWD R-Dynamic Convertible, R1,180,800.
• P300 RWD R-Dynamic Coupé, R1,182,700.
• P380 RWD R-Dynamic Coupé, R1,440,500.
• P380 AWD R-Dynamic Coupé First Edition, R1,579,200.
• P380 RWD R-Dynamic Convertible, R1,438,700.
• P380 AWD R-Dynamic Convertible First Edition, R1,573,000.
• P575 AWD R Convertible, R2,304,600.
• P575 AWD R Coupé, R2,306,200.
’Tis somewhat more modest than the V8 version in terms of horizon-chasing performance, but as the lightest car in the lineup, it’s endearingly agile and a genuine treat to drive on winding roads.
It blurts a surprisingly hoarse sound for a four-cylinder, and the 5.7 second 0-100km/h sprint isn’t exactly pedestrian.
This Jag is also available as a 280kW 3.0l V6 supercharged P380 version, in a choice of rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel drive — though these weren’t available to drive at the launch.
The F-Type’s curve-hugging nature is married to an impressively bump-soaking ride for a sports car. The active suspension is calibrated for low-speed comfort and high-speed control, and my two-day, 600km road trip passed by without any middle-aged body aches.
In a styling revamp that involves more than a dash of Botox, the 2020 F-Type adopts slim horizontal headlamps to replace the vertical ones, to exaggerate the car’s visual width and give it a more pressed-down look.
The daytime running lights have a signature J shape, and at the rear the slim tail-lights are redesigned with an LED chicane signature.
Interior updates see the analogue instruments replaced by a customisable digital panel with three display themes, and a modernised touch-screen infotainment system. The cabin’s look and feel has been updated with Windsor Leather and satin-finish Noble Chrome.
• From the April issue of Wanted 2020.