Established 1978

Old English Charm, New-Normal Toyotas

by David and Howard Swig

Most new cars you see today seem to be painted in some variation of grey or graphite. Why is that? Black and white cars are also popular, of course, but, for the most part, the rest of the color spectrum has been mostly forgotten. Apparently, we like to blend in.   Enter the 2014 Jaguar F-Type. It is in every way the spiritual successor of the 1961 Jaguar E-Type, the model that one British publication famously called, upon the car’s introduction, “the greatest crumpet catcher in the world.” Reportedly, even Enzo Ferrari referred to the original Jaguar E-Type as “the most beautiful car ever made.” High stakes for a successor to live up to, that’s for sure.

We’re happy to say, the new F-Type does not disappoint. Those looks! The F-Type is the only new car that we’ve driven, in some time now, that actually turns heads en masse on the street. It looks expensive, exclusive —simply stunning. Its proportions are lean—as tightly drawn as the E-Type original, and the design is unmistakably Jaguar, with its covered headlights, long hood, tapered rear deck, and slim taillights.

The F-Type V8 S Convertible that we drove is not only drop-dead gorgeous; it is one exceptionally fast car. And forget any British notions of subtlety or modesty. The four exhaust pipes are a tipoff to the supercharged V8 under the hood, and with nearly five hundred horsepower—well, let’s just say it is more than adequate for a car of the F-Type’s smallish size. An 8-speed automatic transmission, with excellent paddle shifting function when desired, puts this massive power through the rear wheels.

Inside, the F-Type’s interior is comfortable, yet very snug—there’s not much room for luggage, or anything else for that matter—but you do get the distinct feeling that, at any moment, you’re going to enter a James Bond movie and join a car chase.

We chose to loudly proclaim our arrival, wherever we went, using the “selectable active exhaust,” which, at the touch of a button, changes the exhaust note from a quieter “in-town” setting to a much more snarly and aggressive growl, fitting the F-Type’s alpha character. We found that the sound is ideal for open-road driving—overall, the sounds alone made this British muscle car one of our favorite drives in 2014, thus far.

The F-Type’s slick power top works quickly with the press of a button, and the great-looking, fully power-adjustable seats, and magical disappearing air vents atop the dashboard remind you that you are indeed riding in something special.

Jaguar’s new sports car is engaging, thrilling, and, in our opinion, it is the best-looking new car on the street in quite awhile. It evokes a reaction and invites attention. While the $104,000-plus price isn’t for the faint-of-wallet, the F-Type presents a tantalizing, stylish, and worthy competitor to more traditional sports cars, such as the Porsche 911. As a successor to the E-Type, the new Jaguar is indeed admirable—and spot-on.

Fuel Cell Cars: Are They Really In Our Future?

Toyota has always been a leader in alternative fuel technologies, most successfully with the hybrid Prius, introduced in 1997. Since then, the hybrid power train has become ubiquitous, with nearly every major manufacturer offering hybrid models. Toyota created the “new normal” with the Prius and hybrids and, according to Toyota’s national manager of advanced technologies Craig Scott, it now hopes to do something similar with fuel cells.

The science behind this is simple enough: fuel cells create electricity through a process that combines hydrogen fuel and oxygen. This electricity is used to power an electric motor that drives the car. Unlike a hybrid or electric vehicle, no gasoline or lithium-ion battery is needed. And most important, fuel cells produce zero emissions!

With test markets such as California in sight, one of the biggest challenges Toyota faces is establishing the infrastructure to support a fuel cell market. Cooperation with oil companies will be the key to making hydrogen fuel accessible and cost-competitive on a large scale. A network of hydrogen refueling stations between San Francisco and Los Angeles is in the early stages of development. Ideally, the stations will be integrated into existing gas stations so you can fill up on hydrogen alongside someone who is filling up his old gas car with petrol.

Plug-in electric cars such as the Toyota RAV4 EV and Nissan Leaf have dominated the zero-emissions vehicle market up to this point. But electric cars have their limitations, namely short range capability and long charging times. Fuel cells can be driven farther and can be refueled in just a few minutes, versus several hours for an electric. Toyota hopes to launch the first fuel cell vehicles sometime next year, and you can bet that many of the early adopters will be right here in San Francisco.

David Swig is a car enthusiast and a regular participant in historic car activities. He is an expert on specialty collector cars, especially sports racing cars .

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