Some may think I feel a bit slighted. That I had somewhat drawn the short straw.
Here is a car meant to be enjoyed in the back with your legs crosses as you relax and waft along, perhaps even with a glass of whisky and on the rocks. All you really needed was a chauffeur, preferably one with smooth pair of hands and a cool tempered right foot.
Today, I am that chauffeur; working the wheel while the Boss in the back gets some work done.
But I’m in the wrong seat; one that has a steering wheel in front of it. Yet somehow I find this fun, and we’ve got a nice road ahead up to Tagaytay for a quick lunch and back.
Modern and timeless
Without a doubt, the XJ is the pride of the British tarmac fleet, setting the standard for luxury automobiles as warranted by the Queen herself; one of only two automobile manufacturers (the other being sister brand Land Rover) to bear the badge. By comparison, Rolls-Royce does not have a Royal Warrant.
Today's XJ is already a departure from the traditional one that great heads of state and government used to ride in, featuring a more modern style than the signature round quad-headlights of old. Still, Jaguar has not forgotten its roots; basking in our tropical sun, there's a measured and understated elegance about this motor car, despite the modern shape conceived by Ian Callum.
Strictly speaking, the Jaguar XJ isn't new; they've been producing this generation since 2009. Settling in, there isn't anything dated about the interior. XJ's have to be timeless classics, meaning the occupants should feel great and be able to appreciate the attention to detail when they get in one in 2018, regardless if it was made decades before.
Of course there are many modern concessions to technology like the big LCD screens, the dial-type selector for the transmission, and the numerous buttons around the cabin, and that's really the challenge: marrying modern technology with timelessness. Personally, I'm just happy that the seats are incredibly supple, and that the A/C is working full blast; our summers can make it difficult for even the coolest cats.
Thankfully, our route today isn't fixed, nor is there really a time limit to get to our destination from the new Jaguar and Land Rover showroom in Greenhills. We just need to get to the ridge of Tagaytay by around lunch, and we chose the most unhurried manner to do it with.
Grace, space and pace. That was Jaguar's old tagline, and it's something that holds true with the XJ. While everyone else along Metro Manila's main motorway was hurrying off to where ever it was they were headed, we we're just gliding along, letting the Jag absorb all the horridness of the ridged concrete and bumpy asphalt. The noise of the outside world is but a muffled sound in the distance as we glided along. Grace, indeed.
This isn't a car that leaves you wanting for space either. Being the flagship, you do feel like you've got plenty of room to move around. And if you're sitting in the back, legroom is in abundance that you can easily cross your legs for a laptop, or just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Of pace, there was plenty. Once you do find an open road like an expressway, it just accelerates with a surprising and pleasant ease for such a big, heavy motor car. When I had settled into the seat and started the engine, I didn't care to look at the badging on the back or pop the hood (or should I say bonnet?) to check what kind of motivation this XJ has. I only realized that this was a diesel when I saw the rather low rpm range for the tachometer; this Jaguar had me thinking I was in a naturally aspirated V8, not a twin turbocharged V6 diesel.
Still, we're in no rush; I was really just enjoying the drive with a warm coffee sitting in the cupholder, all while the boss was enjoying the ride.
Up we go
Off the tollway and onto the road heading up the ridge, I was eager to open up the tap a bit more and let my right foot have a bit of fun. Throttle response isn't particularly quick, but once the 8-speed transmission kicks down a gear or two, the XJ lunges forward like the animal it's named after.
Overtaking is easy and effortless. And despite this being a big, long, and heavy saloon that's meant to carry royalty and prime ministers, it really does have some great handling characteristics, managing its heft around even some tight and blind bends. The boss may not appreciate that I'm having a bit of fun behind the wheel, but thankfully this is an easy car to slow down and be smooth in, preventing his laptop from flying off or his drink from spilling.
We decide to take a little detour into a private development in Tagaytay, the guards sharply snapping a salute at whoever the dignitary is sitting in the back; such is the effect of a Jag. After a few corners, we were instantly transported to a new place, one lined with pine trees as far as the eye can see; a fitting place to enjoy wafting along with the Jaguar.
Not for anything, we just wanted to drive around a bit more, enjoy the roads and the fresh air in this cat. Take in a few sights, drive some new roads, and experience the ride; we ticked everything we can in the Jaguar checklist. The boss in the back of the XJ, perhaps even more so.
A new home
Eventually we did regroup with the rest of the guys at Balay Dako, a homey but modern Filipino restaurant up on the ridge. Everyone was already there, judging by the fleet of Land Rovers and Jaguars in the parking lot. Many of them were driving in far newer vehicles: the Discovery, the Range Rover, the Evoque, the Discovery Sport, the E-Pace, the XE, and XF, and more. No doubt they had a bit of fun going fast, no doubt hurrying to get up to Tagaytay. But not us.
Even as we sat down for a meal, there wasn't anything hurried about it. Timeless Filipino favorites like eggplant omelettes (tortang talong), crispy pork trotters (crispy pata), and crème caramel (leche flan) give a strong feel of home, and that's perhaps the point.
Jaguar and Land Rover, two timeless British automobile marques, have a new home in the Philippines. They deliver a different experience when on the road, one that is really difficult to put to words unless you try it yourself, much like the taste of good ol' crispy pata.
Now if they only had some Mang Tomas in the kitchen...