A high-octane mix of elegance and adrenaline pumped through Jaguar Cars Ltd “Alive Driving Experience,” a three-day rally at Rye Playland, just north of Manhattan in Rye, N.Y., last month.
Rye was the 10th stop on the legendary British carmaker’s 18-city U.S. victory lap for the 2013 models – next up is Atlanta, November 30 through December 2 . Leading the pack of 50 Jaguars, the all-wheel-drive XJL and rear-wheel XKR-S were put through their paces by test drivers and a squadron of 22 professional drivers.
Inside, under a marquis tent, the VIP welcome (which included high tea, hors d’oeuvres, and a killer goodie bag of Jag swag) invited luxury auto consumers to tour the posh carmaker’s new line, video room, and auto exhibition gallery.
Founded in 1922 as the Swallow Sidecar Company by Sir William Lyons, Jaguar spent nearly a decade as a subsidiary of Ford before its acquisition by deep-pocketed Tata Motors in 2008.
The bold 2013 F-TYPE, the first Jaguar designed exclusively under Tata ownership, remained on a pedestal. Its preliminary reviews from the 2012 Paris Auto Show were raves – at Rye, it was primed for pre-order by connoisseurs, off limits to eager drivers.
On the four obstacle courses outside, rubber burned during the performances of the XKR-S and XJL, both part of the Ford legacy. One driver gently guided this novice on the finer points of taming a Jag: “Don’t be shy about using the breaks.”
The XKR-S coupe (available as a convertible) has a top speed of 186 mph sustained by hardcore chassis control and the stability of 20-inch tires. Only 100 of the French Racing Blue models are made every year.
On the “0-60” course, lumbar snugly tucked into the powerseat of the keyless XKR-S and adrenaline pumping, this reporter clicked the automatic gear into Sports mode. The steering wheel descended down and the rest was left to the 550 horsepower at 6000 rpm, 0-60 in under five seconds.
For Bond-like action at full throttle, nothing beats the full-size Jaguar saloon in the XJL. For an outdoor show, the aluminum bodied XJL is gentle and sophisticated, a spy in black tie. Differing from the XJ only by an extension in the back seat (“L” for the extra five inches of legroom that transform the rear into a roomy first class row), the XJL boasts Instinctive All-Wheel Drive that made mincemeat out of the “Performance” obstacle course.
XJL is the ride of choice for Judy Dench and the British secret service in the new James Bond movie, “Skyfall.” For a covert upgrade, Jaguar offers the XJ Sentinel, an armored version of the XJ sports saloon that differs from its thin-skinned brother only by a bullet-proof interior cell. Another variation is the civilized 2013 XJL Ultimate, featuring a rear suite of two individual seats with touch screens and a mini bar complete with snifters, flutes, and shot glasses.
Jaguar’s ultra-refined safety systems emphasize traction control and hardcore stability on winter roads, sand dunes, and icy hillsides. For extremes, it could blast through a blizzard in Siberia, the rocky roads of Chile, or the desert off-roads of the United Arab Emirates. Most at the event were more concerned with the notorious potholes of the Harlem River Drive.
After the Rye event, the Flushing, N.Y. and Philadelphia stops on the Jaguar tour were cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy. The road show hits Atlanta this week just in time for holiday peak season for U.S. auto sales.