As a luxury realtor, my sister has to make sure her wheels transcend keeping up appearances to serve as a streamlined, well-to-do, mobile workplace with plenty of room for clientele and various real estate accouterments, like signage or home staging apparatus. After sampling a growing list of high-end German cars, only to abandon them at lease end, her decision for this period was to "Go Brit" and shop Jaguar.
In an effort to broaden appeal, Jaguar released its four-cylinder turbo diesel into an already crowded market in an effort to fuse status with fuel economy. Road warriors take heed. As a member of that ilk, my sister browsed her local Jaguar dealer in search of the consummate ride. The discussion naturally centered on torque, horsepower, mileage, and the merits of gasoline versus diesel.
The comment that resonated?
The proof is in the pudding so to speak, and what could be more apropos to going British in a diesel way, than to live with it for a few days? Jaguar North America came to the rescue, and full of anticipation, my sister, mother, and I met up in Boston, Massachusetts, to sample a Rhodium Silver, 2017 XF 20d AWD R-Sport for a little cruise up the coast of New England.
The first major plus ticked off the list? Trunk space. Three women do not travel light, and our chariot, nicknamed "Jaggie" for the trip, easily accommodated a bulging luggage assortment of the steamer variety.
Take a moment to allow this crucial little factoid to sink in.
Style-wise, the car's presence is self-assured, while not screaming nouveau riche indulgence. However, you just have to love those wicked "eyes of a scary, big cat" headlights, the striking Jaguar emblem on the grill, and a profile that says sporty in an "arrived executive" sort of way, without going all Dunhill.
Oh, New England
We point our British friend to the north, eager to launch an excursion through four New England states.
Nourishment is the cornerstone of a pleasurable outing, and with a breakfast destination in Marblehead, Massachusetts, we pass through coastal burgs with monikers like Swampscott. Settled in 1629 as a seafaring fishing village, the hamlet is considered America's first 20th century resort destination for the wealthy, and elegant seaside homes of the period gaze silently toward the Atlantic Ocean.
Coastal summer traffic yields a languid driving pace, just right for fiddling with the infotainment system, always tricky for a newbie. My sister, armed with a little dealer-provided expertise, issues forth pointers from the back seat. To no avail. Until the owner's manual can be properly perused, it's Siri to the rescue. However, we did manage to engage the climate seats, giving the phrase "chill out" real meaning, in a weird, artificially cool sort of way.
Speaking of the back seat, with designer Ian Callum unavailable for the trip, I am sole chauffer so did not participate in the rear-leg stretch, but rear passenger reports note that while the car technically seats five, legroom is a bit cramped, albeit adequate, and seating comfort for a middle passenger is questionable. The pull-down center console, however, receives high marks.
Traversing quintessential New England neighborhoods, we finally arrive in Marblehead, birthplace of the United States Navy. The historic city center is a maze of one-car-narrow 18th century lanes lined with colorful, quaint homes. Tight parking, pre-summer traffic, and fascinating car machinations with regard to oncoming vehicles prove to be the ideal petri dish for tight handling and challenged nerves. Our silver feline padded the narrow roads like a local alley cat, familiar with every back passage. The stop-start system got a workout and performs well, although it might wake with a jolt occasionally. Parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, and back-up camera, features of the optional Driver Assistance package, were very much appreciated.
After eggs Benedict and smoked salmon bagels at Haley's in Marblehead's historic downtown and now sated, Jaggie heads west, snarling through small-town-traffic crawls that signal the cusp of tourist season.
The interstate lies ahead and, while this trip is about the car, our mother is on another mission—a quest for the ultimate lobster roll. Introduced in the 1920s, whether soaked in butter or dressed with mayonnaise, it's a New England version of the hot dog, crustacean style.
After all, what journey is complete without noshing on iconic regional eats?
Rollin' Down the Highway
Our traffic merge may not have served up "retro rocket" speed, a la Kinky Friedman, after all, we're talking a 2.0L inline-four turbocharged diesel engine serving up 180 hp, but factor in torque at 318 lb-ft worth and an eight-speed automatic transmission with shift paddles, and life is good. While the "jettin' factor" may be a bit sleepy, there's a lot to be said for passive performance and a lightweight aluminum chassis. Still, it's 2 tons and 8.7 seconds to hit 60 mph. That said, once at speed, momentum is nicely maintained.
"User friendly" is such a cliche. However, our Jaggie feels balanced, planted, with little road noise. The seats are comfortable and supportive, and after many hours, driver fatigue is minimal. Leather is always nice, too.
Thus lulled, a bit of alarm takes place when it appears the fuel gauge is not reading properly. After driving for several hours, it has barely budged. Further, "miles until empty" information is not displayed. Pulling over to examine the owner's manual, a quick push of a button on the end of the turn indicator, and an astonishing reading of 503 miles to go lights up. What? OK, spoiler alert—40 miles to the gallon is a real number.
In fact, the entire trip's fuel expenditures—with plenty of around town driving, twisty mountain roads, inclement weather, and freeway driving—arrived at a grand total of $50. We're talking four states. OK, maybe not the geographical size of California or Texas, but still—four. Pay attention big-city drivers, where freeway crawls are the norm and high double-digit speeds a spiritual experience. You can arrive in style, with leftover funds for that all-important double espresso and buttery croissant.
Our non-petrol pussycat is equipped with an optional Meridian 825W Surround Sound system, allowing for a raucous sampling of the region's inordinate supply of '70s rock. A bit of a time warp perhaps, but the sing-along opportunities? Staggering. At one point, appalled that we are unable to recall an obscure tune, or identify the band, my sister innocently suggests pressing the "band" icon on our friendly infotainment system. DaDaDum—queue the guffaws. The system's not that intuitive.
After a quick stop in York, Massachusetts, in search of shack-like gastropubs sporting an "open" sign, we quickly realize the drawbacks of traveling before the official start of the summer season.
Cruising along, innumerable antique shopping opportunities abound. They're literally everywhere. Lynyrd Skynyrd blasting, a more extraordinary roadside concern promises "swords, knives, pipes, lingerie, body jewelry, and lots more," and an agile-kitty U-turn ensues. How can one resist such a product mix? Purchases in hand, and best left to the imagination, we hit the road once more.
Tired and ready for seafood sustenance, Mom spies Hazel's Take-out, with a mouth-watering promise of those seemingly elusive lobster rolls. The tidy little yellow and red building, with outdoor picnic table seating, and restrooms, also sports a "closed" sign. Our mother is rarely deterred, and peering inside, notes kitchen staff busily shutting down and cleaning up from the day's service. We may have borne the slightest resemblance to those sad-eyed puppies painted on velvet, because the folks graciously opened back up and heaped a few buns with glorious chunks of lobster. Not an anomaly, the natives in this region are inordinately friendly across the board.
The first time is often the most memorable for all sorts of reasons, and no longer lobster roll virgins, we later sampled shacks up and down the coast, with Hazel's the benchmark. We were spoiled. Sweet, juicy meat and plenty of it, it's no secret that consumption of good lobster can lead one to the same gastronomical nirvana as a flavorful, tender steak.
Our lodging for the next three days is Ledges by the Bay, a quaint inn perched on tranquil Glen Cove, midway between Rockland and Rockport. The ocean-view balconies are perfect for meditating on the rolling tide. In and out, we did Otis proud. Evenings, a frolicking firefly ballet pirouetted center stage across the inn's expansive lawns. Bravo!
One day, a cruise up the coast included a visit to the picture postcard coastal villages with names like Camden or Belfast. Each mirror-like marina floated fishing vessels in every size and shade.
Later, a photo op at Searsport's Bait's Motel had to be done, with no sign of Norman.
Jaggie calls, and it's time to head west to our next port of call, Montpelier, Vermont. Traveling over Highway 2 through New Hampshire, the terrain is mountainous, the roads serpentine, though not incredibly steep, and the car handles the way a sports sedan should. Speed limits vary with regularity, from 20 to 55 mph, and everything in between, and the Traffic Sign Recognition feature saved our bacon, so to speak, in those tricky little speed traps.
Too soon, it's back to Boston. The interstate offers a chance to experience the Adaptive Cruise Control, thus eliminating the prospect of plowing into the bed of a meandering farm pickup. The car rates its speed in these circumstances. It would have been nice to really let our Jaggie go, but the only way this car sees triple digits is on the odometer. Passive performance indeed.
In a hammering rainstorm, the Boston skyline appears, but we have Instinctive All Wheel Drive, pretty darned great traction, and arrive at the city limits with chutzpa intact. A good thing, since inner-city Boston at 5 p.m. can bring forth panting hyperventilation. Crawling traffic, bizarre lane merges—I always managed to be the lane farthest from the merge—poorly marked streets, and understandably impatient drivers. I crossed myself and thanked the heavens for every driver-assisting geegaw offered by the XFR. Arriving at the airport with merely a touch of PTSD, we bid our Jaggie a fond adieu.
Returning to the real world, my sister did select the diesel engine, but in the SUV F-Pace, opting for a bit more room to pile in work-related baggage. The fuel economy may have been the clincher, but still she's squiring a Jaguar, with all the prestige the brand implies.
In the end, ego presents itself in many forms.