We were lucky enough to attend the first stop of the Jaguar Alive Driving Experience at Cardinal's Stadium in Phoenix, AZ on April 14. The Jaguar crew had a tent setup in the parking lot with a French Racing blue XKR-S on display, along with an E-Type and XJ.
After signing the attendance slip we were shuffled into a drivers meeting to introduced the day's activities.
First up was a trip through the city in the XJL, followed by a 0-60mph run in a XKR-S, then a traction control demo and a winner-takes-all autocross event.
The massaging seats were the most memorial experience from the city drive, along with the 385hp 5.0L V8 engine rocketing us to 60mph in 5.4secs.
The depth of technology in the XJL was cool. We noted that all the necessities like AC, radio and even the heated steering wheel were easy to locate and adjust.
After arriving back at base camp we could choose our own adventure. Most of our group went straight to the autocross to lock down a fast time for the grand prize. We, however, wanted to get a more comfortable with the handling of the XKR-S before putting it all on the line.
The Jaguar team had a wet skid pad set to show off the traction control features of the coupe. Needless to say, we got pretty loose, bouncing off the rev-limiter. However, when the traction control was on it would obviously cut power immediately after sensing a problem. So we then took the XKR-S through a small autocross to log more seat time.
The first corner came up fast and the brakes handled the deceleration well. By corner three, we started pushing the limits and noted that with the traction control on and the steering at 3 o'clock, we couldn't mash the accelerator without the system policing our adolescent behavior. The instructor noted that if we were smoother on with accelerator as the wheel straightened up, our lap times would drop.
Confidently we checked into the autocross and met instructor Jason. The fastest times of the day were listed and our group had a handful of members with 30sec runs.
With the stakes high, Jason and I worked on a couple of practice runs. To be quick, the XKR-S had to be driven the way the computer wanted or it would cut power and apply the brakes all in an effort to keep the car from rotating. In the event of an accident, this feature is designed to utilize the passive safety features like crumple zones and air bags.
Driving the course we kept everything smooth as butter. Unwinding the steering, delicately applying power, avoiding any drifting to carry as much momentum through the corners. We also avoided touching the pedals while turning-in so the system wouldn't over-react.
We sailed through the finish on our timed lap and had a huge surprise when we discovered it was a 29.9sec run - ust 0.3 seconds faster anybody in our group. After obnoxiously celebrating our win, we graciously accepted a signed concept drawing of the Jaguar XJ from Selim Benhabib.
All in all, it was a great experience with the massaging seats, supercharged V8 engines and our victory dance. If you'd like to share our experience, the tour has 18 stops across the US. You can find the full list and register here: http://www.jaguarusa.com/drive-experience-private/schedule/