The old man drives a Skoda. Now, I’m not about to go on some massive rant about how rubbish Skoda’s are because they really aren’t. In fact the modern Skoda is just about the most sensible car purchase a 49 year-old man with two young children can make. It’s manufactured by the Volkswagen group, shares most of its parts with VW models and features the same kind of German precision engineering that has won the coveted badge so many awards. Skoda has now entered an era where its own trophy cabinet is starting to make its German big brother blush slightly.
It still doesn’t make up for the fact that driving his Skoda Fabia estate day in, day out is the motoring equivalent of placing your scrotum on a block of ice and waiting for it to go numb… and eventually drop off.
So as a little treat (and to rescue his man-sack) I crawled up to his suburban home in a bright red 2011 Jaguar XKR Speedpack. Initial reactions are note worthy: hardy winter gardeners temporarily ceased bubble wrapping their geraniums to stare slack-jawed as the monster grumbled past. Curtains twitched as curious neighbours investigated the crackle and pop of a fiery supercharged V8 engine. And my father was stood on his front steps in his cardigan and slippers awaiting the arrival of his sporty carriage with a big grin on his face.
Jaguar haven’t had to make too many changes to their already completely excellent XKR but the small tweaks they have installed for the 2011 model and the Speedpack extras make a massive difference. The lower sills that sexily graze the tarmac give the car a squat, sportier presence and the large rear-scoops that engulf the quad tailpipes remind fellow road goers that they’re following a serious machine. All R model Jags now come with a whole host of dynamic driving settings, meaning you can fiddle away with the XKR’s suspension and rev-range while the superb supercharged V8 engine is derestricted so driver can hit an eye-watering 174mph if they so wish.
Mention all this to my Dad and he politely nods in some faux act of understanding but deep down, he doesn’t really have a clue. To him, it looks like a very expensive, shiny car is sitting on his driveway and in some ways he’s right. The XKR comes in at just shy of £80,000.
Upon exiting the rear-wheels broke traction with the greasy autumnal road surface and we experienced a brief bout sideways action, much to his utter bemusement, shock and sheer disbelief. “Why would you want to do that?!” he screeched like a child who had just been thrown into the Atlantic.
But once he’d swapped slippers for suitable shoes and lowered himself into the deep, figure hugging front seats it was a different story. The sheer quantity of technology before the old man led to a barrage of questions. “What does this do?” pointing to one of the silvery, lozenge-shaped buttons that adjusts every conceivable angle of his chair. “What material is this?” while stroking the plush Suedecloth roof lining. “What the hell is that?” after observing the gear selection disc rise out of the centre console like some futuristic space craft. The disc was neatly slipped into reverse and we were backing out of the drive, making sure that low-slung front-end didn’t scrape on the annoyingly high curbs.
We rumbled along the avenue, switching off the impressive bowers & Wilkins sound system to appreciate the bellowing exhaust note and sidled up to the T-junction, a touch of the indicator stalk and the nose was finally pointing towards a clear stretch of road. I subtly flicked the gear selection disc in to ‘sport’ mode, while changing all the dampening settings to their most vicious. The right foot was buried, the back-end kicked up a bit of fuss but in the blink of an eye the speedometer was crawling up to 60, 70, 80, 90mph while my Dad was having trouble forcing expletives out of his breathless body. “Bloody hell, that’s not right” was the first recognisable sentence that tumbled from his dry, tacky mouth, just as we approached a broad, sweeping roundabout. Upon exiting the rear-wheels broke traction with the greasy autumnal road surface and we experienced a brief bout sideways action, much to his utter bemusement, shock and sheer disbelief. “Why would you want to do that?!” he screeched like a child who had just been thrown into the Atlantic. I sensed some tension in his voice so reigned in the mad driving a bit, that and the fact that we were stuck in the kind of idling traffic you find on a Sunday. I looked over to see a pale and rather panic-stricken man sat in the passenger seat. It’s the sort of face that only a car like the Jaguar XKR can produce, a face that comes from suddenly being awoken from a five year Skoda coma, a face that I take for granted and a face that makes the £80,000 price tag completely worth it.
“It’s a bonkers car for bonkers people” mumbles my father as we arrive back to the safety and open-fire warmth of his house. The colour has now returned to his face and so has the wry smile that shone when the car first arrived. I agree with him, it’s a bonkers car but a brilliantly bonkers car, one that would never fail to put a massive grin on the driver’s face and one that would have me seriously thinking about that Aston Martin purchase. Jaguar certainly haven’t reinvented the wheel with the new XKR but they’ve done enough to make it a bloody drop-dead gorgeous, very fast, utterly brilliant wheel. And a wheel that successfully made my Dad almost soil himself.
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