Passenger rides


Sometime in the next week I shall go for a ride in the new Jaguar F-type and I don’t quite know what to think about it. I’d appreciate your thoughts, which is why at the end of this column I’m going to put a little proposition to you. The reason for my hesitancy is that little word ‘ride’. For while I will travel some distance on challenging roads in the most eagerly anticipated Jaguar since, well, the E-type, I will not be allowed to drive it.

These passenger rides are an old and established tool used by car manufacturers to eke out extra coverage before the car is formally launched to the press. In 25 years doing this job, I’ve never met a proper motoring journalist who liked them. This might shine bright light on what a spoilt bunch of brats we are as I am sure that if Jaguar sold rides to the public for £100 an hour, they’d not be short of trade. But not only are almost all motoring hacks terrible passengers, more importantly they know they’ll come away unable to answer the only question that matters: what’s it like to drive?

In the past it was a little more satisfactory. Often while you’d only write about how the car felt from the passenger seat, you’d actually have driven it some distance but not been allowed to say so. This may not have been any comfort to your readers at the time, but at least it spared you the indignity of having to contradict yourself later when the car you eulogised from one seat turned out to be a rather different proposition from the other. These days too many journalists have hinted too hard at the real truth – ‘had I driven it I might have been able to tell you it’s the finest handling car in its class…’ – and car manufacturers appear to have got cold feet. A ride now really is a ride and if they let me drive the F-type so much as an inch I’ll eat this laptop.

The other problem with passenger rides is you’re almost bound to be left with a good impression. Driven by seasoned professionals who know both the product and roads as well as they know the faces of their children, they are masters of masking any deficiencies you’d pick up in an instant with a steering wheel in your hand. Cars also seem far faster from the passenger seat.

However there will be useful information I am able to provide. I’ll be able to tell you how well it rides, what it sounds like and even some sense of how the car addresses the road – whether it remains poised over crests and dips and through changes of camber, surface and so on. I should be able to tell you about its refinement levels with roof up and down and the difference in perceived performance between V6 and V8 versions, both of which I understand will be available.

So here’s your question. Is the F-type such an important and interesting car that any view I can provide would be worthwhile even if it’s been gathered entirely from the wrong side of the car, or do you find such tales frustrating and would rather I wrote on another subject altogether and delayed publishing any opinion about the car until I’ve actually driven it, hopefully in April? If you had a moment to jot a response here, when I come to write this column next week, I’ll tot up the replies and bow to the will of the majority.

In the meantime, many thanks to the dozens of you who took the time to post comments about Mark Hales’ dire situation in this space last week. If you’re interested in helping him, you can find out how at

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