Thursday, November 8, 2012

A tough act to follow ...

Apart from being one of the best, Casino Royale was certainly the most expensive movie I ever saw … I ended up buying an Aston Martin as soon as I walked out.

I lived with that glorious piece of machinery for 5 years, and I finally said goodbye to it earlier this year with great sadness. It served me well, was thrilling to drive (and just to look at), but apart from the horrendous service bills, my kids had outgrown the back seats and practicality had to overrule emotion in my life.

So I was considering a "sensible" replacement. A Mercedes, BMW or Audi. All fine elegant cars. I would be happy with any, but none are exactly what you might call inspiring, exciting or sexy and all go well with a balding head and a pot belly (both of which I am staving off with great effort)!

Looking for an alternative that would be more interesting and "different" I considered a Cadillac Escalade 4x4 (too "gangsta"), the Porsche Panamera (too chunky) and the Maserati Quattroporte (had a "clunky" gear shift") and then stumbled across the Jaguar XJ L. A stunning looking car with 4 door sensibility.

There are a couple of versions available and according to Jeremy Clarkson, the 3 litre diesel is a great option, but living in Dubai, where petrol is cheaper than water, the option of the 5 litre V8 "Portfolio" was very appealing. 385 BHP and 0-60 in 4.5 seconds and stunning comfort and luxury to boot, this became a no brainer as soon as I set my eyes on it.

I selected mine in "Caviar" (that’s a deep burgundy colour for some reason). The "Portfolio" version is a "full option" car with upgraded rims. It has everything you can think of and it is sublime to drive. In its normal mode, it is smooth and comfortable, but remains short of being "sensible" because of the light growl you can constantly hear out of the exhaust, and then there is "Dynamic Mode". When engaged, the dials on the dashboard glow red. The car hunkers down, the suspension and the steering stiffen up. Combine that with engaging the Sport mode on the gearbox and the ratios get more aggressive and the growl from the exhaust gets more ominous.

The straight line speed of this vehicle is massively impressive as it has loads of torque on tap, especially in 3rd gear, but it lacks the sure-footedness of an all out sports car around corners. Perhaps not a bad thing as this encourages more sedate driving.

This "limousine" suddenly feels like a sports car and goes like the clappers when you put your foot down. The acceleration is incredible, but comes on so smoothly … less violent than out and out sports car, but with the massive engine it keeps on going with plenty of torque available even when getting to and exceeding (apparently) the legal speed limit.

The detail inside the car is magnificent. The touch screen computer is more logical than the Mercedes and BMW equivalents and the machined aluminium gear knob is beautiful … as is the way it raises and lowers with the ignition. The bluetooth connectivity is as per standard in most new luxury cars and there are USB connectors for iPods and other media drives which project themselves exquisitely clearly through the plethora of high end speakers dotted all over the cabin.

I've had the car a couple of weeks now and have been totally chuffed with my decision. This car is a luxury sedan that is great to self drive or be driven in. It is eminently sensible, but has enough "bad boy" in it for when the urge takes you.

I do miss the sheer coolness of my DB9 (for example, announcing proudly at the valet parking stands that "mine's the Aston"), but with the recent release of Skyfall, I was thrilled to notice what new car the lead character drove (even if it was only briefly and did in fact  belong to "M") ... nice choice Mr. Bond!

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