Monday 20 November 2017

Yin, yang, Jags and Uber days

The Jaguar XE seemed to suit Campbell Spray very well, especially when a lot of family stuff was going on

IMPECCABLE DRIVING CHARACTERISTICS: the new Jaguar XE really puts it up to the BMW 3-Series
IMPECCABLE DRIVING CHARACTERISTICS: the new Jaguar XE really puts it up to the BMW 3-Series
Campbell Spray

Campbell Spray

This is going to be about cars and, in particular, the new Jaguar XE, a compact executive car which aims to do for the marque what its X-Type didn't as it was rather down-market and Ford-based. Yet there will be diversions on the way.

The XE has been very hyped, especially in Britain where there is a reverence for the Jag, although it is now owned by the India-based Tata company. How the Raj has fallen! One wonders how the marque is seen there as speeds have to be low as people and beasts freuqently wander onto even the fastest roads.

I had been looking forward to the XE and, while initially disappointed by its rear look - almost too Mondeo-like, it was a car I got to admire and my partner remarked that "you seem to like this and it suits you very well." Very Are You Being Served? Whether it "suited me" because of my age, or having lived in Britain for a lot of my early life or my passion for tweed caps, sheepskin coats and string-backed gloves (I joke about all three) is another matter.

Yet between my testing the Jaguar towards the end of August and writing this, it was all a bit yinny and yangy in my life. The sadness of one week had been followed the next by my other son Marcus's graduation ceremony for his distinction in an Economic Policy M.Sc from University College London. It was a very uplifting ceremony in a massive marquee erected in Bedford Square Gardens, much more so than the one in Trinity College about five years previously. The massive ethnic mix, with a very large sprinkling of Far Eastern - especially Chinese - names represented, probably helped.

It was good to spend a couple of days in London, which truly has a different economy to the rest of the UK. You will see more premium and super cars - from Maseratis and Ferraris to Rolls-Royces and Bentleys - in an hour than you could see in a year over here. At the other end of the scale, many of the private hire cabs are using the Toyota Prius to get around the congestion charge. But be warned, many of them are quite filthy inside and the English of the drivers is often very poor and if you don't have the postcode of your destination, they get lost.

They also can't travel in bus lanes so rush-hour journeys are a nightmare. Black cabs are a real luxury but at least they know their way around. The Uber app system is brilliantly cheap and convenient and a £30 journey in a black cab might be only £8 or less when you call a private hire car using the app which contacts the nearest available user. You don't pay cash, the fare is deducted directly via the app. Don't travel around London without it or getting an Oyster card for use on buses and tube.

While Jaguar is probably more loved in the Home Counties than in the capital there were plenty of Jaguar showrooms advertised in the part of South London I was staying. I saw a couple of XEs which reminded me of the great drive we had over the mountains to Glendalough and then back by the coast a week or two earlier. The car showed impeccable driving characteristics with great road feel. It purred - if that's what jaguars do in the wild - and I was very conscious that one of the few times I was stopped for speeding was in one of its earlier relations.

I like the wrap-round interior that cossets you cockpit-like in almost racing-car style. It has a lot of spec and while it starts at a pint under €38k (around €2k less than the equivalent BMW 3-Series) the spec of the model I tested was €46,310.

The rear-wheel drive XE range has got a host of new engines and has really put it up to the BMW model which is now in its sixth generation and is still probably a more exciting drive and has marginally more space. I'm told that the Bavarian company is worried about the competition and the new Audi A4 is just around the corner too. They are busy tweaking it.

I may be an old Brit at heart but I think I'd be happy to see the XE in my drive. It wasn't quite as earth-shattering as we were led to expect, but is very good and will do well. I might even get the cap, sheepskin coat and string-backed gloves. Or just call an Uber.

Sunday Independent

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