Test drive your willpower

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Thing of a normal car.

Got one?

Good.

Now think about a Jaguar.

Pressing the mental ‘reset’ button has always been part of the Jaguar experience. In 1968, when the X)6 saloon was launched, motoring pundits battled to come up with an adequate description of the XJ’s extraordinary levels of grip, handling, suppleness of ride, and dynamic sophistication.

It was quite a challenge. Because, even by Jaguar’s own lofty standards, this classic sporting saloon was something special.

Now, after thirty years of technological advance and intense development, you might reasonably expect a 1999 Jaguar to be quite some machine. And you’d be right. Regrettably, the English language is still struggling to keep pace with Jaguar. Hackneyed superlatives simply don’t do justice to the instant pickup and relentless, surging, warp-drive thrust of a Jaguar XJR. Nor can they begin to portray the gamut of emotions provoked by the potent, silken hiss of the intercooled supercharger a superbly engineered, hammer-strong and massively effective turbine which force-feeds a dense fuel/air mix into the engine, boosting the 4.0 litre AJ-V8’s already robust power output to a totally uncompromising 370bhp, and hoisting torque to a road-rippling 387Ib/ft.

That means 0-60mph in 5.3 seconds, a (limited) top speed of 155mph and a deep blue ocean of refined, massive power which, once sampled, is never forgotten.

Achieving a kind of motoring nirvana wasn’t difficult for the Jaguar XK8 Convertible. All that Jaguar needed was focused design, the immense power of leading-edge technologies and the world’s most advanced

automotive engineering processes. Plus a generous helping of character.

The XK8 combines the pure luxury and sublime ride of the classic sporting Jaguar with the agile handling and effortless performance of the most single-minded sports car. Now you can be Icarus without the worry of wingmelt.

Class-leading power and torque 290bhp and 290Ib/ft pours from the 4.0 litre, 32-valve, quad-cam, all-aluminium AJ-V8 engine. All of which coalesces to guarantee dramatic performance: 0-60mph in a whisker over 6 seconds.

When the wind is the last thing you want in your hair, and the aroma of warm leather is more appropriate than the fresh scent of cool wet grass, the most watertight and draught-free hood in motor production will cocoon XK8 passengers in a painless world of monastic hush. Or trap the spine-tingling acoustic maelstrom generated by an optional 240 Watt, 10-speaker Harman Kardon CD audio system. The world’s fastest concert hall roof deploys in less than 20 seconds, at the press of a button, and on the fly if you need it.

It may be a beauty, but the XK8 is no beast. It’s just as easy to drive as any other Jaguar. To the standard ABS braking, stability control and traction control systems, add the option of CATS (Computer Active Technology Suspension) for the final honing touch to the XK8’s peerless poise.

Driving a Jaguar XK8 simply to impress others isn’t good form. Driving one to express yourself is, however, perfectly acceptable.

But you’d better be prepared for a lifetime’s obsession.

Position vacant: XJ Sport driver.

No special skills required though a basic understanding of poetry, and the workings of the adrenal gland, may be an advantage.

Few cars offer such a huge overlap of abilities, so many layers of artistry interlaced with such extraordinary versatility, as the Jaguar XJ Sport.

Much of the XJ Sport’s grace of line and distinctive, elegant styling comes from within, from the bedrock of structural integrity upon which this car’s superior dynamic balance is built. That’s why there is no conflict between the ruggedness of the Jaguar’s high-load metals and the precision-fit perfection made possible by laser-guided machinery.

Only the best quality materials are used, from the finest grade zinc-coated steels through to the airbags side as well as front which employ pressurised argon as the propellant for a cleaner discharge.

Urgent, seamless locomotion is achieved by mating the satin-smooth, elastic energy of the compact 3.2 litre V8 to a maintenance-free five-speed automatic transmission, electronically controlled by a multiplex system with gold-plated connectors for thought-fast responses. Standard X) Sport features like switchable stability control, second generation Servotronic speed-sensitive power steering, sports suspension and powerful anti-lock braking all ensure the delivery of a uniquely personal driving experience.

Some may grade the XJ Sport by stars, blobs, or marks out of ten. Owners, on the other hand, tend to define this car’s appeal in more emotive terms.

Poetry beats a blob any day.

Like all Jaguar XJ saloons, the XJ Sport 3.2 (left and above) immerses its occupants in a total environment of dreamlike luxury and utterly convincing performance. All Jaguars boast the classic )-gate 5-speed electronic automatic transmission. XJR (right) features 12-way electrically adjustable front seats as standard.

‘Driving should be a joy, not a chore.’ When he issued this edict, Jaguar’s founder Sir William Lyons set the tone for a spectacular dynasty of richly crafted but supremely functional Jaguar interiors, culminating in the ’99 XJ and XK series. To call this sumptuous environment an ‘interior’ is a bit like calling the Ritz Hotel a furnished dwelling-place.

Texture fans will appreciate the buttery leather, the warm weave of the cloth, the lush carpeting, the handsomely figured (real) wood. Tradition doesn’t have to exclude technology, either: electric driver’s seat height adjustment, automatic climate control and an 8-speaker audio system with steering wheel-mounted controls are all standard fare.

To that you can add world class durability, quality and reliability. Ask the respondents to a recent well-known national survey.

When you buy a Jaguar, ownership expectations naturally run high. And yet the XJ series didn’t just meet owners’ expectations in this 114-vehicle survey, it exceeded them by a margin large enough to put the XJ series into third place, one of only two British cars in the survey’s top 50.

No wonder Jaguar sales, both here and overseas, are at an all-time high. Even the notoriously fastidious German market which, it must be said, has a fairly decent motor industry of its own can’t get enough Jaguars.

Amazing the difference a nice interior makes. Of course, there are some downsides. If you think you might have a problem with constantly cleaning nose-prints off your windows, for example, you might be better off thinking about another car.

Think you know about Jaguars now?

Think again.

We’ve talked about the Jaguar’s panoramic spread of abilities. We’ve mentioned the peerless blend of technology and tradition.

But no words or pictures can prepare you for the tactile, visceral pleasure of driving a Jaguar. The view along the bonnet. The solid crunch of the doors. The feel of the materials. The muted snarl of performance.

Jaguars are fierce creatures, for sure.

But they are also pussy cats. The DNA strand that is essentially and exclusively Jaguar, the elegant, sensuous, original quality of a Jaguar, is something quite special. Primal. Alive.

Life, so they say, is all about choices.

Of course, the best choice of all is not having to make a choice.

What good fortune, then, that Jaguars, probably uniquely, are cars you can buy with your head as well as your heart. There are no choices to be made, no compromises necessary. You can have everything. Luxury and handling. Performance and reliability. Ride and responsiveness. High residuals and low ownership costs. Opulence and good taste. Jaguar makes it all possible.

One final piece of advice, though.

A Jaguar test drive can have a strange effect on the unwary or the impressionable. You may experience a feeling of irresistible temptation.

Don’t worry. This is perfectly normal.

Just go with the flow.

You deserve it.

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