Sunday – A Clear Round

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The car park at Gatcombe Horse Trials today was a mass of four-wheel drives and Volvo estates. So turning up in a Peugeot 208 with a large dog in the back raised a few eyebrows. I like to think it was because the GTi is so new on the market that it still has the novelty factor.

Fortunately, it was ‘hard going’ in the car park field, as I’m not sure the 208 has enough ground clearance to get over the rough stuff. Next week Car Couture is testing the new 2008 crossover, which would really be more at home among the mass of Land Rovers and 4x4s on display.

Driving to Gatcombe at least made my mind up on one point – the 208 GTi really is perfect for the sweeping corners of the Cotswolds. It sits squat and firm on the road, with minimal body roll and excellent brakes. Only the extra firm sports seats seem a little too harsh for comfort at times.

And while the GTi really isn’t about practicalities, I should add that the 208 has a decent sized boot, plus lots of cubbyholes and storage spaces. A nice touch is a pair of USB ports in the centre console – much more sensible than a single slot in this multimedia age.

Saturday – No Clown

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Jeremy Apparently, when I was five-years-old, I wanted to run away to the circus. I became a journalist instead, so I got there in the end…

Tonight we drove the low-slung XKR-S across the bumps and mounds of Rodborough Common in Gloucestershire to attend Giffords Circus. Giffords is a traditional, family-run touring circus with clowns, horses and a goose.

All afternoon I had been scorching around the Cotswolds with the Jag in ‘sport’ mode and making a lot of noise. So I was worried it would be impossible to drive a supercar like this in to a circus car park and hope to avoid turning heads.

But that slow  meander across the common proved something else about the supercharged XKR-S – it can keep a low profile if it wants to. At low revs those four tailpipes aren’t outrageously loud, the gearchange is slippery smooth you don’t feel like a clown.

And with a car so screamingly blue as this, that is a very good thing. Believe me.

 

Friday – Light The Blue Touch-paper And Retire…

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Jeremy The car park at Cheltenham Railway Station has probably been the location for many joyous reunions but none more welcome than the arrival of the XKR-S this afternoon.

I had spent last night at the Manchester City season launch – a musical and comedy extravaganza hosted by Jake Humphries which I don’t think any other team has ever tried to stage before. Catching the train up north, I arrived back in Cheltenham to find the Jaguar purring in the car park with the delivery driver.

Jessica and I were told the car was a rather restrained Italian racing red – in fact, it’s a remarkable shade of blue that almost matches Man City‘s sky blue strip. You wouldn’t want to have a bad hair day in a sports car this colour I can tell you.

So, first impressions of the XKR-S suggest it is going to be a week of high performance drama. Surprisingly, it’s remarkably comfortable too, much more civilised than a Porsche RS and quite usable as an everyday GT too. More tomorrow….

Tuesday – Hands Free

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Jeremy It’s impossible scribbling about the V40 without coming back to safety features. So today I set out to test the Park Assist Pilot – the system that allows the car to steer itself into a parking space.

Now, I’ve been lucky enough to drive a Formula One car, scream around Le Mans in a race-winning Peugeot, and hitch a seater with mad motorcyclist Robbie Maddison but I think I was more nervous about letting a car park itself with me in the driver’s seat.

With Pilot switched on, I drove the V40 along a quiet road with parked cars either side. The system actually identifies a space that is big enough and once I had come to a stop, I took my hand off the wheel, engaged gear and gently accelerated.

I was parking between a 2011 Range Rover and a Fiat 500 – so I was quite anxious not to ding either. The steer wheel automatically starts to turn as the car goes backwards, slowly, slowly putting you perfectly into the space.

When the V40 comes to a stop, all I had to do was engage first gear and again, the steering was done for me. It took two reverse moves and two forward to complete the parking operation but it worked perfectly.

That said, I can park equally as well and much quicker! However, if you aren’t a great parker and like the reassurance of Pilot, it’s probably well worth the money.

 

Tuesday – Reg Who?

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Jeremy – I’m just back from Roehampton Club where I spent some of the day playing croquet with Reg Bamford, the double world champion. I’m writing a feature for the FT and Reg very kindly agreed to give me a masterclass.

Never heard of Reg? Well, that’s the nature of sport. While soccer players get paid £200,000 a week, Reg can’t even land a sponsorship deal on his trainers!

Now I’m not suggesting Audi should loan him a courtesy vehicle but walking back to the car park, I couldn’t help noticing that the Audi symbol is four circles – just like the four balls that are used in croquet.

Now, surely that should have Audi clammering to sign him up? Not only is Reg a double world champion, he lives in London and is one of the nicest world sportsmen I have ever met. A true gentleman in every respect – apart from on the court, where he takes no prisoners! The four ring logo represents the four companies that joined together to form Audi in 1932.

It’s the last day with the brilliant A3 tomorrow. A perfect car in just about every respect, apart from the lifeless styling which still frustrates the hell out of me.

 

 

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!