The convertible cat hits its stride in Portugal’s wine country
We can think of no better antidote to winter and a global lockdown than this: a speedy, freeing escape into the countryside in a convertible. A warm breeze suffuses the cabin, and the smell of flowers hangs in the air. That wonderful sound? That’s a five-litre V-8 engine breaking into a raucous song.
We’re arrowing down narrow back roads in Portugal’s wine country, as gorgeous a location as you might hope to find. Though, in truth, any pretty place with scant traffic will do when it comes to a drop-top. The whole point is to taste the wind and revel in the freedom that comes with it.
But, you know, which convertible? Since the season is upon us, you may feel the urge to get yourself into a roofless ride immediately. Excellent timing, as the brand-new, next-generation Jaguar F-Type R convertible has recently arrived in dealer showrooms. Pricing is around S$500,000 for a model that’s well-optioned.
When it comes to sexy two-seaters, Jaguar achieved perfection of the form with its iconic ’60s-era E-Type. It was freedom incarnate. The F-Type R is a modern interpretation of that car, an emotional sheath of aluminium crafted to slice through the air.
You could get the F-Type as a coupe, but as we test the car around the winding roads of the Douro Valley, we have to ask ourselves: Why would you? We’d be denying ourselves the unadulterated sound of the 575hp engine and its delightful burble and gunshot crackle, loud enough to burst the budding grapes blanketing the Porto hillsides.
Weather conditions are often turbulent. Today the roads are a bit wet, and the breeze can turn chilly. But it serves to remind us why the convertible has endured all these years. Top down, the heavens open up overhead, and you become part of the landscape rather than simply a spectator. What better way to blow away the oppressive worries of a miserable winter?
The F-Type has always been a sensuous machine, and the revamped face and new narrow LED headlamps keep things fresh. (So does the newly available, out-loud “Sorrento yellow” paint job. You’ll never lose your car in a parking lot again.) The F-Type R comes only in an all-wheel-drive configuration, but the rear-biased thrust is unmistakable. On curvy roads, the front wheels add in just enough torque to pull you through tricky turns.
The front end is lively; the steering inspires confidence. Credit new chassis components and tuning as well as revamped software overseeing handling characteristics like the brake-based torque vectoring system. While there’s no manual transmission available, the ZF eight-speed automatic is a happy and efficient taskmaster.
The soft top drops in 12 seconds and folds elegantly into the rear. Of course, you sacrifice rear seats and a bit of trunk space. But such is the price of freedom.