Story & photo by VJ Bacungan
FOR most people, luxury cars are things that are often admired from a distance. Perhaps when they see one on the street, they’ll snap a photo to share on Instagram or Twitter. But unless they’re exceedingly wealthy (or privileged enough to work in motoring like me), very few people get to even sit in these high-end machines, let alone drive these to the raggedy-edge.
But All British Cars, the new exclusive dealership of Jaguar and Land Rover, decided to let the public fully experience these objects of desire in a unique test-drive event recently at the Megatent in Libis.
“People, sometimes, go to a showroom, they do a test drive around the block and that’s it, not knowing really the other things that the vehicle can do,” Coventry Motors Corp. Assistant Vice President for PR Communications Joseph Ayllon told the BusinessMirror.
“What we’re offering today is the full experience to show you what it can do in terms of severe road conditions—wet roads, steep slopes—just to show you the safety technologies that come into play when the vehicle is put in such situations,” Ayllon added. “So that when you buy a Jaguar or a Land Rover, you know you’re not just buying a premium brand, but you’re also buying the entire package of a safe and reliable vehicle.”
Sprightly regardless of model
The event started with a safety briefing inside the Megatent by Lead Instructor James Veerapen, who talked about the dos and don’ts of Jaguar’s “The Art of Performance Tour” and Land Rover’s “Above and Beyond Tour.”
After the briefing, the group was divided into two, and I started with the Jaguar event. Following another briefing about the course, I rode shotgun with the instructors before getting to try things out.
The track started with a wet-road traction test, where the car’s tires and a specially painted road are covered in soapy water before the drivers boot the throttle. In a powerful rear-wheel-drive car, doing this usually means a back end that goes haywire.
But since the course required that Jaguar’s advanced stability-control systems remained on at all times, the vehicles handled things with aplomb, especially as the throttle was cut even with my foot to the floor. And even when we had to slam the brakes at the end, the anti-lock brakes made sure we stayed straight and true.
Next was the high-speed lane-change test, where you slammed on the brakes at around 80 kilometers per hour (kph), then swerved to avoid an obstacle. This was followed by the slalom course.
The surprise performer in this section was the Jaguar F-Pace, which competes with other high-end sport-utility vehicles like the Audi Q5 and the Porsche Macan.
Despite being more than 5 feet tall, over 6 feet wide and weighing nearly 2 tons, the F-Pace negotiated it all with confidence, with responsive steering and a firm brake pedal helping me keep maximum control. But of course, body roll was expectedly more pronounced than in the sedans. The last part of the track was a large donut, where we had to drive in a big circle at speed. The stability-control system really proved itself here when I hurled a Jaguar XE way too fast into the donut.
As I prepared myself to catch the rear end with opposite lock and some throttle, the electronics cut in and made sure that the tail-out action was replaced with safe, manageable understeer.
Let the car do the work
After getting pumped with adrenaline in the road course, we had to calm ourselves down for the Land Rover event.
Indeed, I was surprised when my instructor, racing driver Stefan Ramirez, told me to keep things below 12 kph in our gorgeous Range Rover Velar. And as I sat with him as he negotiated the course, I could see why.
We started out with perhaps the most terrifying part of the course: a 30-foot-high metal ramp designed to test the vehicles’ climb and descent capabilities. When I got behind the wheel, he told me squeeze the throttle as the nose pointed nearly 30 degrees up.
And, as we reached the crest, I slowly let the Velar creep down, took my foot off the brake pedal and let the vehicle’s hill-descent control system take me down the 25-degree slope steadily.
Next, we gave the Velar a bath as we entered the 3-foot-deep wading pool, immediately followed by a section where we climbed up and down a flight of metal stairs. Despite the tires being soaking wet, the Velar’s off-road electronics made we got through with no problem.
The final two obstacles were designed to really test both car and driver. First was the 40-degree incline, where you had to mount the left wheels up the ramp as a spotter checked your steering. Next were the axle-twisters, which were two parallel tracks with large bumps that are designed to test a vehicle’s traction and suspension travel.
Again, getting through all these was as easy as squeezing the throttle and letting the electronics do the work.
Perhaps what was most compelling about the Land Rover course was how these hugely expensive machines were able to tackle all these obstacles, all the while pampering you in a luxurious leather interior filled with intricate wood veneers and beautiful touch screens.
Speaking of those obstacles, Ayllon said all of the equipment for the Land Rover had to be shipped in from overseas.
“[The event is] actually like a caravan that goes from market to market where there is Jaguar and Land Rover presence,” he said. “And to be sure that we are consistent with how the stunts are done and carried out, we brought in the same equipment used in all the markets where the tour goes.”
“The experience is calibrated according to how the vehicles will perform because the terrain is different, the conditions are different from market to market,” Ayllon added. “But having the same equipment, having the same instructors ensure the consistency of the whole experience.”