Obsolesence and renewal are the yin and yang of the modern car market, and their influence seems only to increase as the years pass.
These are the reasons why there is often surprisingly little sense of occasion to match the stage-managed fanfare you find when new metal is introduced to the likes of us.
Few would argue about the towering stature of, say, the Porsche 911, BMW 3-series or Ford Fiesta among their peers. When you witness the covers come off a new version of any of them, you know that you’re seeing something important. But you also know that it happens fairly regularly – every six or seven years, without fail.
By the time you’ve seen two or three new Fiestas or 3-series take their bow, each individual one seems that bit less of an event. Something new, sure, but a landmark? Not necessarily.
It’s 40 years, though, since Jaguar phased out the model that most would consider its last proper sports car and probably it’s biggest sporting legend: the E-type. Thereafter, Jaguar moved on to make larger grand touring cruisers like the XJS and XK8 instead. But then, this year, it rekindled its sporting flame.
That’s what made the launch of the F-type one of the highlights of 2013. Here was not just a special car, but a very rare and special moment as well. An automotive comet on a four-decade-long return cycle, burning its way back across the night sky. A UK car industry powerhouse finally puffing its chest out. The birth of a new British sporting icon, even. Maybe.
The car was test driven by the international press in Spain in April, but it was six weeks later when my first taste materialised, and in ideal circumstances. Early start on an early summer day; weather warm enough for roofless running; roads familiar; traffic light.
You’d take this kind of test over a far-flung Continental setting every time, because the familiarity of the route makes it easier to focus on the novelty, talent and identity of the car.
There’s plenty of all three in an F-type. In fact, there’s a different blend of all three – as well as of performance, motive character, handling precision, driver engagement and sporting reward – in each of the three model derivatives. Those seduced more by a keen price and a keen-handling car than raw point-to-point speed can look to the sub-£60k V6.
If you’ve got to have the no-compromise option no matter what it costs, the £80k V8 S will blow your socks off. It’s an unexpectedly old-fashioned, unreconstructed sort of car, ridiculously loud at full throttle, with enough power to make any ribbon of asphalt feel like speedway gravel with the electronics off.
But time and test experience have confirmed what Jaguar’s own Mike Cross suggested way back in our earliest stories on the F-type: that the definitive version isn’t the most expensive, but a carefully equipped supercharged V6 S.
The middle-sitting car has a healthy share of the V8’s bombastic pomp and ballistic pace, but just as much of the entry-level V6’s handling delicacy and precision. It does a bit of everything that any F-type does, in other words.
My hang-up about the car before I’d got on terms with it had been to do with positioning. I’d expected a Porsche Boxster rival, and what we’d been given was a 911 rival with a few glaring shortcomings on usability.
What acquaintance teaches you about the new Jag, though, is that it does things that neither Porsche can do and deserves to be defined in its own right. Not as the most complete sports car on the market in an objective sense, but definitely as a triumphant return to its roots for a British brand well and truly in the ascendant.