FOXBOROUGH — This summer I spent many hours helping my 16-year old daughter gain experience driving a car. Here are two statements she never once heard me utter, nor likely ever will:
“The goal here is to get you to go as fast as possible.”
And, “Don’t worry, there’s nothing you can do to hurt this car.”
I, on the other hand, was given both these pieces of advice last weekend in a Gillette Stadium parking lot before taking a couple of late-model Jaguars out for a spin. The British car maker was holding a three-day event offering potential customers — and James Bond wannabes like me — a chance to pilot their cars through a series of cone-enclosed courses, testing the vehicles’ steering, stability control, and acceleration capabilities. Caution was not a priority, as reflected in this dialogue:
Me (after three laps around the Autocross Performance Course in a 510-horsepower, supercharged V-8 engine, XKR coupe): You want me to go faster?
Adam (seatmate, professional race car driver): Right, more aggressive on the throttle. This is for all the glory. We’re timing this lap.
Me: I normally drive a 2006 Honda Civic, you know.
Adam: Don’t drive normally, then.
Here’s what the next 38.16 seconds sounded like inside my leather-lined cockpit.
Adam: Ready? Foot to the floor. Go! Do not lift. Do not lift! DO NOT LIFT! Go! Go! GO! Turn it in hard. Look left! Brake hard brake hard brake hard! Good. Turn it in. Give it some gas! Now brake again. Turn. Turn! TURN! There you go there you go. Looking good looking good. GAS! More gas! MORE GAS! Go go go go GO GO ! Hard brakes hard brakes hard brakes! Look to the left. Pick up your target! Straighten out the wheel! STRAIGHTEN OUT THE WHEEL! Weight on the gas! WEIGHT ON THE GAS! GO GO GO GO GO ! Turn back to the right! TURN RIGHT! Easy on the gas! Turn! Now go go go go go! Through the slaloms! LEFT! To the right again! RIGHT! Good. Let’s go now! Gas! Full throttle! GO GO GO GO GO! Hard brakes hard brakes hard brakes! There you go. Done.
Me: (Silence, heavy breathing.)
Boston was the first East Coast stop on Jaguar’s ALIVE Driving Experience tour, an 18-city road show aimed at “re-introducing” the brand to younger consumers. On average, say company officials, between 800 and 1,000 invitees show up over a three-day weekend.
Not surprisingly, the biggest markets for these insanely luxurious, high performance sports cars cars — top speed: 186 miles per hour; top sticker price: $138,000 — are Miami, New York, and Los Angeles, prime habitats of the free-spending 1 percent.
“Everybody knows the Jaguar name, but they don’t know what’s in dealerships now,” explained product manager Tim Philippo, alluding to troubled times in the car maker’s history that left some dings and dents to its reputation.
He guided me toward a 2012 XKR-S model, a limited production vehicle — only 125 are available in the US — that goes from zero to 60 m.p.h. in 4.2 seconds while offering rear-seat passengers a relaxing lumbar massage. Count me in!
Coming soon is an even spiffier model, the 2013 XJ Ultimate, boasting a 825-watt, 20-speaker sound system and a champagne chilling compartment that will tip your bottle of bubbly forward with the push of a button, resulting in a smoother pour. That would be another automotive feature I won’t be exposing my 16-year old daughter to anytime soon.
My final ride of the afternoon, on the one-eighth-mile Acceleration Run course, was in a 550-hp XKR-S coupe with rear decklid spoiler. As I watched a few take off, they sounded like fighter jets leaving the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. “Basically, it’s mash the throttle,” said David, my copilot and coach. “I mean, stand on it. Foot to the floor.”
I obeyed. With a throaty roar, the car reached 76 m.p.h. along the straightway before I hit the brakes to avoid an unplanned landing on Route 1.
Back in the Jaguar hospitality tent, I glanced at a poster before heading to my Honda. “Do One Thing That Scares You Every Day,” it urged.
One more piece of advice I won’t be giving my teenage daughter. She may get my ’06 Civic, though.