Combine aesthetics and theatrics and the elegant sound of thunder with the golden ratio formula. Shake well, then add speed, comfort and decadent luxury to obtain a story of mixology applied to car and travel as well as a unique, unforgettable, ‘copy and paste’ grand tour of Italy’s most famous region. Because when it comes to contemporary two-seater convertibles, few cars – if any – are sexier and more visually harmonious than the Jaguar F-Type S. And in the sphere of cultural heritage and absolute beauty nothing on this planet is a match for Tuscany’s sublime art, exquisite renaissance architecture and “if I’m dreaming please don’t wake me up” landscapes.
So, as one may imagine, discovering Maremma’s Etruscan coastline and its XIIIth century Saracen towers, or driving on the cypress lined roads of UNESCO’s World Heritage Val d’Orcia’s rolling hills and becoming immersed in Mugello’s river valley serenity – the land of Giotto and the Medici – pristine nature accompanied by the sumptuous melody of the 3 liter V6 Jaguar engine reverberating throughout the hills, is an addictive assault on all five senses.
My seven days on the road with the F-Type S AWD start on a damp and sticky late spring morning in Rome’s eternal historic center. I quietly exit the city – noticing the ‘head turner’ capability of the car – and reach the highway that will take me North to Civitavecchia. While storming down the A12, I immediately appreciate the grand tourer qualities of the Jag. Once on the Via Aurelia I decide to take a short detour in the countryside to test the F-Type’s driving dynamics on Maremma’s winding roads where the four-wheel-drive system makes changes of directions a little more cumbersome but at the same time safer when the tarmac is dusty and slippery. This said, being a fan of exiting a corner sideways, I would definitely choose the rear-wheel-drive model and save 5k in the process. Also, when compared to the F-Type Coupè S and the ferocious R (that I had both driven in Aragon Race Track during the international launch), the convertible is obviously less rigid and not as sharp in turns, but in my opinion much more fun and jazzy to drive; especially when the roof is down; a feature that enhances the wonderful melody from the V6 once full power driving mode is selected.
As I progressively become one with the vehicle and appreciate ever more the precise feedback of the steering in fast sweepers, ominous clouds start to obscure the sizzling June sun while the calmness of vineyards, hay stack fields and medieval villages perched on hill tops like Scansano (home of the Morellino wine), are shattered by the machine gun crackling noise of the engine during gas release or down-shifts of the 8-speed gear box; a further confirmation that the sound from the exhausts of this machine is really nothing short of a masterpiece and a guaranteed crowd pleaser. And the same goes for its sleek silhouette. So, the most stylish Jaguar convertible since the E-Type looks the part and thanks to 380bhp, is pretty quick too; the top speed is 273km/h and 0 to 100 in dealt with in less than 5 seconds. However, more important than numbers, is the intangible feeling and sense of pantomime that comes with the F-Type convertible experience.
It’s now late afternoon in Tuscany and I’ve already covered 300km when the dark grey clouds start dropping buckets of water just as I drive into the Tower of Talamonaccio. A Saracen defence structure perched on a cliff with unobstructed views of the Tyrrhenian sea, Argentario, il Giglio Island, and famous for providing the setting for a scene of James Bond 007 Quantum of Solace. After spending the night in this gracious, sophisticated property, I wake up to a sunflower golden dawn and head inland towards Val D’Orcia, driving by the villages of Montalcino, Pienza, Monticchiello (location of the hugely photographed cypress lined road) and into Montepulciano for an exclusive photoshoot of the F-Type in the breathtaking XVth century Piazza Grande – where the crowds start to form aiming their camera towards the car instead of the Romanic Church and Florentine style palace of the Municipality – followed by a visit of “From Patches to the Decadentism” exhibition in Montepulciano Fortress displaying a particular take of Italian art on local panoramas and fragments of life in the late XIX century.
Most of the paintings come from private collections or from the local Rotary Club, and as I scan through their particular execution with patches, stains and the realistic application of light and shadows on landscapes and people, I cannot help drawing a parallel with the “Tuscan Naturalism” of my recent drive in the area. Absorbed by enlightened thoughts I sit down for dinner at Osteria del Borgo and after the meal, while unwinding in the terrace of Hotel Il Riccio with the sun setting on Montepulciano’s old town and the valley below, I reflect on the fact that despite two days of non-stop chop chop driving, I simply couldn’t wait for the morning to hop back in the car and go through a thousand more twist and turns in Tuscany’s glorious countryside. And this, in my opinion, is exactly what a luxury two-seater sports car should do; put a huge smile on your face, make you feel exceptional while enveloping the driver with expectations and excitement. And, rest assured, cruising through the Asciano-Trequanda (a 15km stretch of astonishing road along the Crete Senesi) with the sun hitting Val D’Orcia and creating pockets of green silky shadows and light games between the smooth, soft, whipped cream like hills, is indeed one of those unique activities that is worth doing in life.
While in the area, I also recommend exploring the less glamorous but equally gorgeous green Val D’Elsa, where, amidst woods, rivers and ‘poggi’, La Speranza Restaurant serves the best ‘Fiorentina’ steak ever, and where discerning travelers wouldn’t want to miss a stay in Relais La Suvera; that was built in the XIIIth century as a jail surrounded by nature and then became the very modest home for Pope Giulio II, packed – ça va sans dire – with invaluable art, books and sculptures. In recent years, wonderful La Suvera has been transformed into a five star retreat, where guests can enjoy spacious, elegant, impeccably styled rooms with period furniture, spotless service and courtyard and gardens that are a hymn to inner peace and tranquility.
The delicate equilibrium and refined proportions of the F-Type fit the fine art surroundings like a glove. Beauty, at the end, is, at its core, all about proportions and the correct usage of the golden ratio formula. Time to leave the dreamy Tuscan Villa and point north towards Mugello, where the MotoGp weekend is about to start. For the last 200km of my test-drive I decide to focus exclusively on the car, trying to take in for one last time that highly pleasurable and very special feeling that starting from the tip of the fingers reaches the brain during accelerations, down shifts, gas releases, steering and breaking. The Jaguar F-Type – fast, elegant, refined and well assembled – really is a perfectly balanced jewel of exquisite design and theatrical performances where every single drive – as it should be for a sporty and modernly aristocratic two-seater convertible – is accompanied by a wonderful sense of excitement and occasion that nowadays, very few models possess.