Jaguar as a brand has been through plenty of ups and downs. The automaker's history includes many beautiful vehicles, such as this classic E-Type. However, that same history has been plagued with a reputation for reliability issues.
Over the past decade, Jag's overhauled and improved its lineup and the result is a respectable stable of models. Now the automaker aims to show off its wares with a series of 18 Jaguar ALIVE driving events that allow the public to experience the new Jaguar.
The day begins behind the wheel of Jaguar's flagship XJL, where the sedan's ride quality and cabin refinement are demonstrated on public roads. This elongated version of the XJ sedan has five-more inches of rear legroom than its standard wheelbased sibling. All XJ models feature lightweight all aluminum chassis that are hundreds of pounds lighter than steel construction would be.
The XJL's seating position is extremely customizable thanks to 20-way power adjustable front seats and a power tilting and telescoping steering wheel. Dig into the climate control menus and you'll find controls for heating and cooling the seat surface and a massage feature. That wood veneer wrapped steering wheel is also heated.
Jaguar's available cabin technology hits all of the right bullet points, but the interface itself can be difficult to navigate. For example, it took me almost 3 minutes to find the audio tone controls to adjust the bass and treble levels.
The XJL displays a trio of very cool, digital gauges on a large color LCD. My co-driver for this leg of the event exclaimed, "it looks just like a videogame!" Personally, I'd prefer a good, old-fashioned physical gauge since, as you can see here, direct sunlight can wash out the digital ones.
If you've got the money to spend on the optional premium audio rig, we highly recommend you feast your ears on this Bowers & Wilkins system--easily one of the best in the business. You'll want to feed this audio rig high quality audio sources, so the XJL features HD Radio tuning, USB/iPod connectivity, and DVD Audio playback.
With the Street course behind us, we left the public roads and moved on to Jaguar's Refinement demonstration on a closed course. Here, all three of Jaguar's vehicles can be tested on a course that simulates a variety of rough road conditions. Charging speedbumps at 15 mph jostled the big XJL, but the remarkably stiff chassis emitted nary a creak or groan.
Next, we moved on to the Performance demonstration, again, a variety of Jaguar models could be tested at speed on an autocross course. Here, the Jaguar's Sport gearbox program and "Competition Mode" could be used to gain an edge as the large sedans and coupes were hustled around the cone course.
Next, we moved onto the Technology event, where the entry-level Jaguar XF is used to demonstrate the difference between the automaker's Winter, Standard, and Competition drive modes. The smoothness of the traction control program is also demonstrated by driving over a wet patch of slick plastic flooring with the system off and then on.
In addition to driving, participants are invited to hang out in Jaguar's showroom to kick the tires, settle into the seats, and crank the audio systems of the vehicles. This bright red XKR-S convertible drew much attention.
Before leaving, we were tossed the keys to a 550 horsepower XKR-S coupe and pointed down a drag strip to test the car's 0-100 mph acceleration and then its 100-0 mph stopping power. Hold onto your eyeballs, because this car's brakes hit like a brick wall!