Last week I was invited by Jaguar Land Rover to attend a JLR Experience day. It’s an event that the company runs at its Gaydon base every month, each time with a different theme.
This time, the theme was ‘Sport, speed and adventure,’ the latter part of the strap line a nod to Land Rover’s involvement with illustrious expeditions around the globe.
History aside, it was the ‘sport and speed’ bit that grabbed my attention. It would be my first chance to test the delights of the brutal 186mph Jaguar XKR-S – a car I’ve read a lot about courtesy of our man Sutcliffe, who is currently running one as his long-termer – and also to experience a 175mph passenger ride in a Jaguar XJ .
Starting big, I was handed the keys to the hottest production Jaguar to date. You probably already know the headline figures (542bhp, 0-62mph in 4.2sec etc), but driving an XKR-S on sodden tarmac requires a clear head and a steady right foot. It’s the V8 roar that really makes it, though. Just watch that rear end on a corner.
Next up, I had a go in a Range Rover Evoque. I opted for the 4x4 oil-burner. On-road, I was impressed (even pleased) by its involving steering and tight chassis, but it was its off-road capability that I was more interested to test. The result? Posh Spice has done a decent job, I’d say. It is very accomplished on the rough and, to my surprise, offers the same 500mm wading depth as a Defender.
Back on terra firma, a 175mph ride (okay 173.2mph GPS verified) in an XJ was in order. Sounds pretty exciting, but from the back of such a plush limousine you feel like you’re doing more like 90mph. Still, I’ve never been faster, which is one to tick off the list. Incidentally, if you want to hit 175mph in your XJ, you’ll need an additional £3700 for the ‘speed pack’ on top of your £91,050 XJ Supersport purchase price.
Last up, it would have been rude not to sample the delights of a Mattracks-equipped 110 military-spec Defender, originally piloted by Sir Ranulph Fiennes during his expedition to cross the Bering Strait’s in 1998. Needless to say, it’s an absolute pig on Tarmac and you’ll need gym membership to steer the thing. But if I was going to war in the UK in the snowy season, I know what I’d go for…