Tuesday – Cool in the Cotswolds?

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Jeremy After a week driving the sublime Jaguar XJ, it would be easy to assume the arrival of a Korean SUV might leave CarCouture a little flat. However, first impressions of the new Santa Fe are extremely favourable. On the outside, it cuts a thoroughly modern look, with more aggressive styling, lower front bumper and a stylish hexagonal grille.

Inside, it’s pretty sorted too, although there’s a good deal of plastic trim and a centre console that may not be to everybody’s taste. The console packs in a lot equipment on the Premium model but even the infotainment system is common-sense straightforward and easy to use.

Fitted with a 2.2-litre diesel engine, modifications to the new model mean it is 120kg lighter. The Santa Fe is certainly no slouch with smooth power delivery from the automatic gearbox and low noise levels inside the cabin.

This seven-seat version has two fold-flat seats in the boot. It looks a little tight for adult headroom in the back row but folded down, there’s a huge boot area. The dog loves it – whether adult passengers will feel the same in Row 3 remains to be seen. So far though, the Santa Fe is holding its own in the Cotswolds…

Monday – A Thoroughly Modern Jaguar

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Jeremy I’ve taken to parking the XJ front-end on to my office window. The white paint job doesn’t offend me any more – even if the bling grille looks as ostentatious as a Breitling Superocean watch. Parking it nose first also means I can ignore the back-end – the only blemish on an otherwise sublime executive saloon.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but the high, box-like bottom of the XJ makes me wince each time it peeps into view. It reminds me a lot of the brilliant BMW 6 Series – a car only flawed by a rear-end of equally disproportionate proportions. I love the rear lights of the XJ but the metal bits inbetween are a letdown.

The XJ cockpit is near faultless. A heady mix of high quality leather, discreet chrome and a low-slung dashboard, it has buttons and dials in all the right places too. The massaging front seats are the height of opulence but once you’ve used them for a week, you wonder how you are going to survive a long journey ever again.

It’s just as luxurious in the rear and every bit as upmarket as the best of Mercedes or Audi. The boot space is a little lacking – perhaps another reason why they should redesign that rear-end asap.

XJ is a fantastic, high quality machine that in 3.0 V6 guise is as good to drive as anything on the market. Sort out that heavyweight bottom and it would be difficult to match.

 

 

 

Sunday-Huffkins Challenge

JessicaThe Jag has passed a girl challenge today……
Once the many seat buttons have been pressed, in house massage parlour engaged, music selected, mirror adjusted (yes the Chanel nude lipstick works for a weekend) , it is time for the car park challenge.

The prize for negotiating the spiral entry ramp and numerous pillars of the Cheltenham multi-storey with no scratches or dents, is a delicious cup of exquisite loose leaf Lapsang Souchong with cakes (mine an award winning fruit cake) from Huffkins.

The car was immaculate, it is a pleasure to drive, responsive, fast and smooth. There is a sense of power that is easy to manage with the fun of paddle gear shift and an excellent braking system.

……….arriving at the challenge point……. yes we made it onto the car park (slowly) around the very tight, long, narrow spiral car park ramp, then easily manoeuvred into a tight space beside a pillar. There was much bleeping and flashing from the car which clearly did not believe I could negotiate such a testing space.

All in all a lovely afternoon, cake all round and a spin home across country in the spring sunshine.

I will be sad to see this car go as it is a luxurious experience to drive, though I still don’t understand why the rear end of this lovely car looks like an old Ford Sierra!

Saturday – Tara Fitzgerald In Our XJ

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Jeremy You might imagine an actress who has starred in films like Brassed Off, Sirens and Hear My Song would be used to climbing in to luxurious limos like CarCouture’s XJ. However, Tara Fitzgerald loves her old Volvo estate and admits to us that she hasn’t been in anything quite as swanky as the Jaguar in years.

“I walk as much as I can around London but when I go down to my house in Cornwall, we cram everything in to the Volvo.”

I collected Tara from Milton Keynes, where she is currently staring in an RSC production of The Winter’s Tale. We are supposed to be walking and talking in the countryside near Silverstone, for a feature in the Financial Times. Then it started raining and didn’t stop.

By the time we return to the Jaguar, the Waking the Dead actress has boots caked in mud, a sodden coat and is drenched. “That’s the trouble with a car as posh as this – you feel bad about making the seats muddy and spoiling the leather.”

I show her the XJ’s massaging heated seat button and ask if she likes the car. “It’s incredibly plush but when I think of a Jaguar, I have a certain image in my mind and it isn’t shaped like this car.

“Maybe Jaguar wanted to move on from the classic design but this model doesn’t stand out in the crowd. I wouldn’t have known it was a Jaguar until you told me.”

Tara is about to star in the third series of Game of Thrones on Sky. “It’s the biggest production I have ever worked on. There were about 100 people on set and it has been filmed in incredibly exotic locations all over the world. However, they shot my scenes in Northern Ireland!”

Would she buy an XJ? “It’s not really my sort of car. I love the interior and the gadgets but I’m used to something slightly more practical.”

Friday – Supercharged Smooth

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Jeremy Something strange has been happening in the XJ. When I pull away from a junction, big cars in the rear-view mirror become small very quickly. What’s odd about this is that I’ve not really been trying that hard – the ZF eight-speed gearbox has remained in ‘Drive’ and so far, I’ve only slipped into ‘Sport’ once.

What’s even more impressive is that the new V6 engine is so smooth. It feels totally unflustered and glides away at pace without a hint of strain. Jaguar has a long history of building performance cars but the XJ encapsulates the company ethos in one slick machine.

There will be purists who bemoan the loss of the 5.0-litre V8 engine in the XJ but the 3.0 makes the saloon a much more sensible prospect in the current age of austerity. Besides, it still produces 335bhp and CO2 emissions have been cut to a more respectable 224g/km.

The XJ is also so very easy to drive. There’s minimum fuss whether you are bumper to bumper in town, or opening up the throttle on a A-road. The sound from the exhaust isn’t quite the rumble of the old V8 but an 825W Meridian sound system more than makes up for that.

Right, I’m off to Milton Keynes to perform chauffeur duties for CarCouture’s celebrity guest. CarCouture will reveal her verdict on the XJ over the weekend.

Thursday – Goodbye Back Seat Driver

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Jessica This car is pure couture internally,  a feeling of consideration craftsmanship and  luxury emulate from the LCD dials, to the infinite seat positions and gear system that silently retracts as you turn off the engine.  Leather trim with stitch detail takes you back to deco drinks cabinets or hand crafted thermos flasks for Gatsby style picnics.  The car is extensively branded,  however in this case it adds to the experience of being encapsulated in pure luxury. I am reminded of Alexander McQueen AW13 in the sheer attention to detail and satisfying intake of breath every time you take it in.

The display panel cleverly allows the driver to navigate and pick a radio station whilst the passenger  watches tv, armed with a pair of wireless headphones, negating the chances of back seat driver syndrome…….good news for women drivers every where.
Pick your journey times to coincide with key sporting events and it may well save on divorce lawyers down the line!

Externally the look  is more ready to wear, the distinctive design purity of the interior do not extend to body lines or features.
Sitting on your driveway  the Jag XJ could be mistaken  for any other large executive car, that said,  in times of austerity is it better to keep the luxury hidden and not scream pay rise to the neighbours?

Wednesday – Backseat Driver

 

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Jeremy David Cameron’s long-wheelbase Jaguar XJ is said to have cost in excess of £200,000. Equipped with armoured body panels and emergency oxygen, it’s a rather higher spec than our current test version.

That said, our Portfolio model is bristling with enough equipment to keep any aspiring politician happy. Writing this blog entry from where the PM might sit on the backseat, I’m surrounded by some pretty glitzy technology.

The rear seat comfort pack is a £2,750 option but allows the sumptuous seats to be electrically adjusted in all directions – perfect for finding the right position to view the monitor screens situated in the back of the front headrests.

The entertainment pack includes a beautifully tactile console (pictured) that can be removed from the centre armrest to operate DVD and music options. Three sets of wireless headphones are also provided so that the driver isn’t disturbed while passengers watch.

My feet are resting on carpeted foot bolsters – the kind  normally found in luxury limos and I can also electronically adjust the front passenger seat forward to provide more legroom. If the sun becomes too warm on the back of my neck, an electric rear sun blind swishes across.

The back of a Jaguar XJ is a very special place to sit. And although our test car costs £72,815, at least you don’t have to be a prime minister to justify owning one.

 

 

 

 

Tuesday – Digital In All The Right Places

592114_JAG_XJ_240812_102Jeremy Jaguar isn’t the first manufacturer to ditch an analogue dashboard display for something entirely different. Back in the 1980s, my father’s Citroen CX had a bizarre rotating ball that spun slowly as the car picked up pace. Inside our XJ, the standard dials have been replaced with a digital dash that looks so realistic it takes a few moments to realise that you are staring at graphics, rather than the real thing.

It’s just one of many features inside the XJ that help make the cabin a design masterclass. It may not be as roomy as some of the German competition but this is a sophisticated and very grown up interior. Wood, high quality leather and soft-touch materials adorn the cockpit – and there are so many neat touches it’s going to take the next seven days to tell you all about them.

The ignition key alone lets other people know you have arrived. It’s a solid, chunky rock of loveliness that’s heavier than my wallet – not a problem if you can afford the £72,000 price tag of our sparkling white test car. Then there’s the rotating gear knob that sits proud on top of the centre console. It is tactile, easy to grip and dispenses with the need for any kind of transmission gearstick.

I sat in the passenger seat while Jessica drove us across the Cotswolds. The centre touch screen display may not be as high res as the dashboard but using wireless headphones, I was able to listen and watch television as she enjoyed the V6 engine to the full. Dangerous for the driver? Not so because some clever gadgetry means the driver can only see button controls for other car-related functions on the same screen that I was watching TV. Next time I’m going to sit in the back seat and let you know what David Cameron feels like in his armoured XJ…

Final Thoughts on the Volvo XC60

Jessica The lasting impression I have is that of safety gadgets, should one be insulted that you might not manage to tell where the white lines are, or ultimately as a frazzled parent might your life be saved if you drop off on a motorway?  The cool design features lure you into feeling you are part of a sporty set, ultimately though you are driving a family 4 wheel drive and it is still a Volvo.

ad735055-bbce-4079-865f-e838ca5df924Jeremy It’s the last day for our Volvo XC60 . With snow forecast for tomorrow I’m going to regret handing over the keys for all sorts of reasons. This is the model that buries the myth that all Volvos are boxy estates driven by conservative types. The flowing lines of the bodywork and beautifully crafted dashboard are light years ahead of Volvos of old – a pretty SUV estate that manages to put a smile on your face every morning. I think it looks sensational from most angles – apart from head on, which is about to be rectified with a new, re-nosed version due out this summer. Solid, robust and capable of 4X4-type forays into the semi-rough stuff, the XC60 is a thoroughly modern estate car that will tick a lot of boxes for most families. Arriving tomorrow at Car Couture is the new Jaguar XJ 3.0 Supercharged V6. Find out how we get on with the luxury saloon every day next week.