There are no two ways about it — Jaguar’s roadster is gorgeous. Ian Callum has successfully hinted at the car’s classic heritage, yet the F-Type must be judged on its own merits, aggressive yet sleek, feminine yet hard-edged. It’s been a long time coming, but Jaguar is back with a snarling growl, and a passionate sense of purpose. The Bentley GTC Speed is, of course, a good deal more understated. No less potent under the bonnet, but at first glance ‘a bit less shouty’. The problem for the third nominee, the Mercedes E 400 Cab, is that it feels rather ordinary; be it the way it drives or looks. So round one goes to the Jaguar because, well, just look at it, while the lightly mauled Merc makes an early exit.
Despite its all-aluminium construction the F-Type weighs in at more than 1,600kg, though that’s no problem if you specify the V8 S. Its phenomenal 5.0-litre engine puts out 488bhp and 625Nm of torque, delivered through an eight-speed ZF auto ’box. And boy does it deliver. Smart engineering means that the torque converter is used only as you pull away, after which it’s locked up and you effectively have automatic use of fixed gears. Combined with engine management to control power delivery during gear changes, it’s a slick system that’s satisfying in use on both road and track.
Of course you get what you pay for in life, and if you pay over a million for a convertible, you’ll get the Speed. Some might consider that a lot of money for a car with a fabric roof and kilos of body stiffening, but not if they’ve ever fired up the GTC’s fabulous twin-turbo 6.0-litre W12 and revelled in its awesomeness. Effortless cruising, not sportscar theatricals, is the name of the game this Bentley likes to play, and it does so, so well, that frankly it’ll beat any contenders. Round two to the Bentley then — just.
A convertible means different things to different folks; some want a sportscar to fling through the bends, some want to cruise sedately at weekends and be cocooned in comfort, whilst others want a daily driver, only occasionally dropping the roof. The F-Type covers all those bases beautifully, and taller drivers will have no problems sitting comfortably under the raised roof. Just don’t expect to use the F-Type for a romantic getaway — there’s barely enough room in the tiny boot for a change of socks.
At two and a half tonnes you’ll not be flinging the GTC round a racetrack, but point the bonnet at Muscat and you’ll be there in the blink of an eye, and, if you’re not careful, the blink of a dozen speed cameras. All-wheel drive gets to grips with mountains of torque, whilst the compliant suspension and smart electronics maintain a serene ride for its occupants. That roof takes a while to raise and lower, but when you’re driving a Bentley, being the centre of attention for a few extra seconds is no great hardship.
Unlike the F-Type, there’s room in the boot for enough luggage for a fortnight’s holiday, probably to be taken in the South of France. But it’s still round three to the Jaguar because it’s so invigorating to drive, and sounds so spectacular, we’ll overlook the fact that it’s ‘cargo challenged’.
There was a danger that the F-Type had too much to live up to in the shadow of the E-Type, that it might somehow disappoint, yet the world over, critics have been unanimous in their praise. And as good as the Bentley may be, right now Jaguar’s got its claws out, and is tearing up the opposition. So it’s the Jaguar F-Type that wins Convertible of the Year.
There, there, nice pussy cat.