The Jaguar E-type was arguably Britain's most iconic car of the 1960s, when the country was at least as hip as '90s "Cool Britannia". It was a celebrities' favourite and was even described by Enzo Ferrari, no less, as "the most beautiful car ever made".
The E-type has since become much sought after among collectors. Several are in the hands of Hong Kong- based enthusiasts, including Classic Car Club of Hong Kong chairman Ian Forster. Now there's a new cat in town: the Jaguar F-type.
An E-type successor evaded Jaguar during the rocky period in which the company was bounced around from British Leyland, to Ford Motor Company to Tata of India. So although it has made grand tourers under the XK badge, the F-type is the marque's first thoroughbred two-seater sports car since the E-type.
Launched at the Paris Motor Show last September, the front-engine, rear-wheel-drive convertible is as instantly recognisable as its predecessor. It is a sleek and classy looking car, with a muscular "power bulge" down the middle of its long bonnet. Double air intakes at either side of the large grille bring to mind the gills of a bionic shark. Vertically elongated front lights replace the E-type's classic oval-shaped lamps, while the horizontal rear lights continue Jaguar's "cat's claw" theme.
New design elements in the F-type include an automated spoiler and deployable door handles that pop open to the touch and retract for improved aerodynamics.
The F-type is available in three variants. The basic V6 model is fitted with a three-litre, 335 horsepower supercharged engine; the V6 S, which is expected to be the most popular variant in Hong Kong, has the same engine tuned to 373 horsepower, and has a Dynamic Launch feature that boosts standing starts. The five-litre V8 S, which will be more front heavy, has an output of 488 horsepower.
The V6 S hits 100km/h in 4.9 seconds - 0.4 seconds faster than the basic model, with its top speed of 260km/h - and has an electronically limited top speed of 275km/h. The V8 S is 0.6 seconds quicker, and its top speed is capped at 300km/h. A fuel-saving stop/start function, whereby the engine cuts out at a red light and kicks in again when the driver lifts the foot off the brake, is among the new technologies in the F-type.
The well-appointed, leather-wrapped interior has a "grab handle" on the passenger's side of the central console that focuses the controls in full view of the driver. The seating position is upright and comfortable, giving the driver confidence. The seat controls, including lumbar support, are conveniently located on the doors. In a typically British design quirk, air ducts are hidden atop the front console and roll open on command.
The V6 S model matches expectations on the road. It feels stable, while the steering is responsive without being clinically so. And unlike many new cars, the brakes are not painfully sharp.
The convertible's soft top, which can be raised or lowered at speeds of up to 48km/h, offers an adequate level of noise reduction. Visibility through the back window is also adequate, and generously sized wing mirrors also help.
The basic F-type costs just HK$1.28 million, while the V6 S is priced at HK$1.59 million and the V8 S goes for just under HK$2 million.