Spain was once the envy of the world: Rich beyond imagination, with an armada so robust it could reach around the globe like God’s own hand to erase entire civilizations. Those days are … uh, long past. In fact, the economy in Spain has taken such a nosedive in recent years that a Spaniard under the age of 30 has less than a 50/50 chance of having a job.
But when you’re applying pressure to the throttle of the all-new Jaguar F-Type on a snaking road in the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees, you’re not thinking about unemployment. Instead, it might occur to you that you’ve discovered something about Spain the rest of the world should emulate: Its roads are absolutely perfect — expertly paved, maintained, and marked. They combine a perfect rhythm of curves, long undulating straights, and scenic rises through fields of blossoming rapeseed (not a typo) and sunflowers. The more power I push into the F-Type’s 490 hp V8, and the more I demand of the lightweight $92,000 two-seater, the less guilt I felt about using Spain for its roads. Karma’s a bitch. (I’m looking at you, Hernan Cortes!)
The F-Type is the first real sports car that Jaguar has produced in 50 years. That’s sort of surprising. Jaguar, after all, defined the essence of “sports car” with the 1961 E-Type, arguably the most important, most emulated, and most beautiful sports car ever. And that’s saying a lot, because Europe has produced some damn fine cars … none of which came from Spain.
So imagine the pressure on Jaguar’s engineers when they went to the drawing board with the F-Type. Indeed, when I first see it, in a gravel lot near Calle Hemingway in Pamplona, parked beside vintage C- D- and E-Types, I’m underwhelmed by the design. It’s so much bulkier, clad in the necessary impact absorbance and crumple zone features; there’s even serious design accommodation for “pedestrian impact” technology in a nod to China, which not surprisingly leads the world in car-on-person crashes. The F-Type looks like a big fat hunk of American steel compared to the feline bullet that is the E-Type. It reminds me of when I had a friend who was a male model — like, the kind of male model who wore Calvin Klein boxer-briefs on billboards in Times Square. When my buddies and I went out to clubs, we’d have to stay close enough to him to get past the bouncers, but far enough away that we didn’t disappear in the shadow of his perfection.
All of which is to say, as I fire up the engine and steer into the light Pamplona traffic, I hope the car will be able to pull off a similar balancing act.