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Letter from Europe - Hot Jaguar Hot, Hot Mercedes Not So Much

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By Andrew Frankl
European Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel

Jaguar and I go back to 1968. No, this is not a misprint. I joined CAR magazine in 1967 and was part of the organizing team which presented the much-coveted CAR of the Year trophy to Sir William Lyons, founder of the Jaguar Car Company.

That was a mere 54 years ago..and yet, here I am testing the company’s latest offering, the F- type. The 2023 edition is a drop-dead gorgeous with a proper V8 engine which very much sounds the part.

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I have to confess hurtling round race tracks in search of the ultimate g forces is not my scene. Never has been. Take today for instance. I gave the keys to my neighbor, a 90, yes, 90 year old lawyer who duly took me up to Sonoma and the excellent Cline winery. Not that I didn’t take much younger folks out as well, the F type was admired by all and sundry.

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Most importantly our mail man Ron. He gave me a very hard but good natured rocket for the Toyota Tundra which he declared was definitely not me. This time round I received the biggest thumbs up since the Chevrolet Corvette which to this day remains No 1 in Belvedere. In fact this the two seater the Jag is up against.

I have been looking at various so called specialist publications and one of them placed the F type behind the Toyota GR Supra and the Nissan Z. Folks, let us be serious. You pull up to the Beverly Hills Hotel in more or less the same time as the Toyota and the Nissan. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that the valet will open the Jag’s door first. There is such as thing as street cred and this the F type has in abundance.

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So far as good, but here comes the glitch. Assuming that a lady is in the passenger seat she will want to check her hair, lipstick and all that but unfortunately she can’t. The vanity mirror is so small that is verging on useless. Trust me. In a situation such as this the vanity mirror is a 100 times more important than going round corners on full opposite lock.

I am sure I am not the first to mention it and not the last. Truly silly and could be remedied in no time at all. This brings me to another silly design fault-the infotainment system. Whoever designed the screen has never been in California, the company’s No 1 target market. With the top down and the Sun behind you the screen becomes invisible. I would have thought there must be a solution. Still, these are somewhat minor problems in a highly desirable sports car.

My test car came with the 450 horsepower engine which I loved.More and more manufacturers and trying to put small V 4s into sports cars , a mistake in my opinion. Give me a V8 burbling nicely at something like 75 miles per hour and a. You will have a wonderful time and b. You will be getting over 27 miles per gallon. I don’t see the point of all wheel drive, two-wheel drive is perfectly adequate.

On our way back from Sonoma there is just one set of traffic lights. Some young man in a souped up Honda pulled up alongside revving his engine like there was no tomorrow. There certainly wasn’t for him because I’ve asked Mel to floor it and within seconds our hero was a speck in the rear view mirror. 0-60 in 4 seconds was all we needed..loved it.

The steering is excellent as is the ride although I would have preferred Michelins in place of the Pirellis. The interior is tight. Very tight. I think the company spent more time on things they’ve always been known for-the driving experience.

At Cline’s winery we bought two cases of wine which just about fit into the tiny trunk. They infotainment-when you can see it-is ok..not the best but not impossible to figure out. The speakers are excellent.

The one question I have been getting from readers for something like 25 years-would I buy one? As a first car no. As a ski-resort car-definitely not. But to drive from Mendocino to Bodega Bay or Bolinas-absolutely. A wonderful second car. No room for children, minimal for luggage but fire up that V8 and just try and contain that smile. I couldn’t.

Last week I went to see a dear friend in Sonoma. I saw a brand new F type outside his house. I popped in to say hello to a few friends at the local dealership said Dave and I left in the new F type. It made me feel 20 years younger.

I completely agree. The Sun was shining, the leafs were turning and the Jag was purring. I don’t often say this but if you are waiting for your Ferrari which all customers do take this F type for a spin. You might even end up buying it for one third of the price. The amazing thing is that the car that followed was not a huge hit with family Frankl. I have been testing cars for over 5O years, my children for about 25 and none of us were upset when the 2022 Mercedes AMG GT53 left The Autochannel,s West Coast HQ.

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How-I hear you say-can you not like a 124 thousand dollar 4 seater with 429 horsepower?! How can you-unlike a colleague working on the East Coast-not describe it as a perfect grand tourer with a cabin nicer than a 5 star hotel? A car that does everything well he added.

Well, let me just say that every year we go to Europe to drive exotica so the price did not phase us at all-a Lambo or a Maserati or a Ferrari would cost much more. If I can put it in plain English-this car is too clever by half. Too many bells, too many whistles, too complicated and on rough roads a total pain.


Having said that it is of course designed for a very specific clientele. I would describe it as young or youngish executives who revel in the fact that the AMG has infinitely adjustable interior lighting? How could we live this long without such a gizmo? Just like you would revel In the dial saying Sport+ which is what you need for the 53 to really start shifting. Definitely NOT the car for your average Mercedes buyers. Our car park at the nearby Belvedere Tennis Club is about 50 percent Mercedes and 50 percent BMW, Jaguar and Range Rover. I had a chance to show the GT53 to several owners and whilst admiring it the feeling was that it was just too much, too complicated for their needs. Having said that a member who is currently driving a very quick Audi absolutely loved it.

With Grand Prix racing becoming all the rage these days as a result of the series on Netflix You will probably be interested to know that when there is a crash-which happens in just about every race -the pace car or the medical car comes out of the pit lane and rushes to the scene. It is the 53’s bigger brother the 63 with a V8 engine but all in all there are many similarities between the two-in other words there is a good reason why the 53 and the 63 are like thoroughbreds-great engines, great handling and as the race tracks are by and large smooth the ride is ok as well.

Fuel consumption is irrelevant on a race track but on our trip to Sonoma we averaged a highly impressive 24 miles per gallon.

The base price of the AMG 53 is 102 thousand dollars but with extras-such as leather seats, performance exhaust, driver assistance package and a myriad of other bits and bobs the total came to 122 thousand dollars.

Would I buy one? Definitely not.Give me a 2022 C class cabrio for about 60 thousand dollars and I will go on an Abercrombie and Kent Wings over East Africa safari on the 50 thou I will have saved.

Don’t get me wrong. The 53 is a great automobile for certain people. I am not one of them.

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Author's Note: After listening to my children and motorsport enthusiast friends, and their desire to hear my car life tales I authored and published this book which contains my been there done that remembrances of Nazis, Communists, Formula 1, Ferrari's, the Cannonball Run, the Olympics, even a true love lost then found nearly 40 years later—Andrew Frankl’s memoir reads like a work of fantasy. But it’s all true. Inside this full-color 208-page hardcover book, complete with dust jacket, you’ll find Frankl’s reflections on his 80 years of life, love luck and automobiles... Out of 1000 copies printed there are only 15 remaining. Available on Amazon. There will not be a reprint.

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