One of the most-awaited released at this year's Paris Motor Show, opened yesterday for press, was the new Jaguar F-Type.
We'd had more than enough hints about the new Jag - a chance for Jaguar Land Rover owners Tata to prove to the world's legions of Jaguar tragics that it is deserving of what is still, to some, the greatest of the British marques.
It w teased in close-to-production form at the New York Motor Show, and dangled, disguised, in front of its growing legions of fans at events like the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
The new Jag is as pretty as the pictures that the Pouncing Cat anoraks have been poring over for the last six months. And while it isn't exactly echoing the ground-breaking design that saw its forbears like the C-, D- and E-Type instantly deserving of classic status, the F-Type has a bit of work to do. Don't get me wrong, the car is stunning, it just seems a bit similar to other machinery in the range - particularly the XKs. While it is mightily important for Tata and Jag design chief Ian Callum to continue building the brand by keeping a familiar face on the entire range, it would have been nice to see the boat pushed out a bit further.
While the face is quite recognisable, with its bonnet vents running alongside the bulging centre of the bonnet, the F-Type does sport a spectacular-looking rear with a gently curving deck emphasised by the overhanging bonnet line that joins the thin rear lights, sitting above two pairs of fat exhaust outlets.
Brand boss Adrian Hallmark described the F-Type at the launch as a "race car you can drive on the road", which to a degree it probably is.
As expected, the F-Type will roll out with a trio of engines - although it is unlikely to be rolling anywhere near Kiwi roads until at least the second half of next year.
At the shallower end of the gene pool are a couple of supercharged V6 options on offer - the 'base' three-litre retains its 250kW/450Nm trim that will be seen in MY2013 XJ and XF - in the F-Type S its output swells to 280kW and 460Nm. But the glory model has to be the V8 S - supercharged with the same twin-vortex blower as its stablemates, but knocking out a very healthy 364kW at 6500 rpm, fortified with a whopping 625Nm. Granted, here's no V12 to sate the Pouncing Cat traditionalists, but there's more than enough to push its 1665kg form to the legal limit in 4.3 seconds and onward to an electronically limited 300 km/h ceiling.
Something else that may see the Jag faithful wince is the lack of a manual gearbox - an endangered species in this day and age - with an eight-speed electro-whizzy 'Quickshift' system across all models that can be used in either fully automatic or 'manual' modes. It would not be at all surprising if we saw an R badge slapped on a track-focused version of the F-Type with a 'proper' gearbox in the near future.
There is no doubt that F-Type is a gorgeous example of what can be achieved with the right combination of aluminium and design genius, and Callum has continued to deliver on the inside.
High-tech wotsits and widgets have been eschewed in favour of to populating the cabin with solid-feeling rotary knobs and switch gear, the obligatory stop/start button and a beautifully-rendered gauge cluster - no crass Appley-modern touch screens here, old chap - but there is a large TFT LCD mounted in the emphasised centre stack that also tastefully divides the cabin and gives that must-have sportscar feeling of the driver being the most important person in the world.
And this is where Jaguar might just have the right idea - one that might tip buyers of Mercedes roadsters, drop-top 911s and the such into its showrooms. The driver is the most important person in that room - and the F-Type could be just the machine to prove it. It might not be as radical a design departure from the current line-up that I would have like to have seen, but the spec, soul and feel are all still there to continue the legend. The proof will come from the driver's seat, which we're now desperately keen to get into.
Watch this space over the coming days - and next week's two issues of Driven - for more coverage from the Paris Motor Show