We welcome a fellow sufferer to the DTW branch of Kitty-Fanciers Anonymous.
My parents have always been baffled by my fascination with cars. The curse is not familial; neither parent has a fluid ounce of petrol in their veins. Dad preferred football to fast metal and never learned to drive. Mam passed her driving test in her thirties out of gritty necessity, her car ownership journey characterised by a series of grudgingly bought and traded-in Fiestas.
I on the other hand absorbed everything automotive like an oversized Halfords sponge. A yearly highlight was a trip to the Daily Mail British Motorshow. The week long event coincided with my birthday, making a trip to the NEC a great present for a car mad youth. One of my most vivid memories is from the 1988 show; I was ten when Jaguar launched the XJ220 to a seemingly hysterical response.
Straining for a glimpse of polished silver aluminium through a crowd of bodies forty deep evidently made quite an impression on young me, as since that day a Jaguar has been a permanent fixture on The List of Cars I Want To Own.
Much as I have come to grudgingly admit that a date with Selma Hayeck is an unlikely prospect (Selma, if you’re a fan of Driven to Write, call me), the ownership of many cars on the list has become crushingly unlikely. A Jaguar, by contrast, has always been an attainable prospect. My main hurdle to ownership was simply to acquire sufficient age to nudge the cost of insurance from eye-watering to merely unpalatable.
And so it was, as I crested the summit of 40, I found myself on the hunt for big game. Yes, I was determined to finally bag that Jag.
Three models sat at the nexus of desire and affordability: the X350/8 XJ (also known as the last old man’s Jag), an X250 XF, or for an outside punt, an X150 XK. Engine size and fuelling was not a concern thanks to negligible yearly mileage. I was also prepared to spend reasonable money on a good car; a cheap Jag certainly will not stay so once every rotten sill has been welded and every rogue warning light extinguished. Far more important were age, condition, and vendor. Then it was a case of camping out on the classifieds and pouncing on any leaper that caught my eye.
The hunt soon became a slog. A fully loaded 2010 XF Portfolio in Leamington Spa, a beauty on Autotrader, looked like it had deflected a shotgun blast on every panel. A dark green 2008 XK in Kirkby-in-Ashfield might have had 50k on the clock but the knackered interior screamed 100k+. A grey 2011 XF Prestige in Loughborough had three owners in the last two years. A rare low mileage 2008 XJ Daimler Super 8 was a Japanese import and came with no history at all.
Then Autotrader pinged something promising: a silver ’09 plate 3.0 TDV6 XF-S in Premium Luxury spec at a well-known car supermarket in Burton-Upon-Trent. At £9k it sat right at the top end of my budget, but with 49.5k on the clock and the promise of big dealer back up, it seemed worth a look.
And so, on a damp and dismal February day, I found myself in the brewing capital of the UK soberly prodding a damp cat. Apart from an odd exterior nibble befitting its age, the XF was in good fettle. The interior was immaculate, the steering wheel exhibiting none of the dog-chew wear that blights leggier Jags. Everything button worked and the car was well specified, a highlight being heated AND cooled seats. Not that I needed cooling on such a miserable day.
Time for a test drive. The engine turned over on the button and settled into a menacing tick over. To my ears at least, the JLR TDV6 is one of the better sounding diesels (hardly a great accolade, I know) and in this installation remained admirably muted in the cabin. Easing on to the mean streets of Burton, the lack of road noise was impressive; even the winter-pitted ruts of the A38 induced nary a bump-thump from the low profile tyres. Progress was smooth and hushed, just as it should be.
Once on the dual carriageway, I gave the salesman fair warning before flicking the minus paddle and forcefully adding peddle to carpet. 272 bhp might not be a huge number nowadays, but 443 lb/ft of smooth and linear torque gave a convincing recreation of a Saturn 5 rocket during launch.
Jack be nimble, Jack be quick; Jack Flash sat on a candlestick. The salesman knew from my flushed capillaries that this Jack Flash would buy the car. Opting to forgo the dealer’s finance meant no movement on the asking price, but as a sop to my fragile ego, the salesman chucked in a full tank of diesel, six month’s tax (£160), plus six month’s warranty. And just like that, the deal was done.
Collecting my new toy the next weekend, interminable winter rain finally gave way to the first glimmer of spring sun. Long bonnet pointing south towards home, the XF adopted the easy lope of a big cat in its natural environment; the motorway miles passing swiftly, quietly and oh so comfortably.
It might sound inane to you, dear reader, but with the XF on my drive for the first time, I don’t mind admitting to basking in the warm glow that comes with one of life’s small dreams achieved. I had bagged my big cat; it might not have been an XJ220, but ten year old me would have been pleased with 40 year old me. Hell, 40 year old me was pleased with 40 year old me.
So here we are, the first instalment of a new long term test. I will save detailed driving impressions and the nitty gritty of ownership for later instalments. Suffice to say, the tale of this kitty has a twist or two to share.
Long Term Test
Model: Jaguar XF-S 3.0 TDV6 Premium Luxury