One auto enthusiast, two luxury cars from iconic marques, and 24 hours to spend behind the wheel… Sounds like a dream? Gaurav Nagpal lives that memorable reality on a pleasant, rain-soaked day
I wake up early in t he morning on a pleasant weekend, with the fragrance of rain-soaked greens wafting in through my window. Energised, I decide this is a good time to drive to the Neemrana Fort, about 120 km away. The Delhi-Jaipur highway has some well-paved stretches but also parts that are more akin to the surface of a golf ball. A low-riding sedan would be out of its depth on such stretches, and “traditional” SUVs do not catch my fancy.
So I hop into the Volvo S60 Cross Country sedan and head out. This “one-of-a-kind” car is the only raised sedan sold in India, with Volvo’s classic understated elegance sitting atop ground clearance that bests what most compact SUVs offer. Rough roads are nary a cause for worry, neither are small rocks or washedout stretches, because the car simply swallows them and spits them out! I dare say I would not hesitate to take this car on any challenging road trip. Ladakh calling, anyone?
I feel special in the Volvo, with cosseting seats as comfy as a fancy sofa at home. The instrument display is beautiful – the speedometer, for instance, has a neeopen dle that moves in a circle, but it is all digital! The headlamps swivel with the steering, and that does wonders for visibility – it truly is a smart feature to have. Too large a bottle in the holder between the front seats, though, makes the gear lever hard to reach. The boot is a little small for this size of a car, and on a long road trip, I would be short of luggage space.
On the highway, the car picks up speed quickly, with a smooth-shifting automatic gearbox that also has a sports mode. The paddle-shifts behind the steering wheel make me feel like an F1 driver! The car darts through traffic with surprising agility, especially when weaving between numerous trucks – the high ground clearance clearly has not affected its handling prowess. Of course, the permanent all-wheel-drive helps, with sufficient grip at all times. The diesel clatter, however, is quite intrusive, especially in the higher triple digits. Overall, though, I love it.
After a satisfying sunrise sojourn, I am ready to dash off for work. Class and pace are in order, and the Jaguar XE fits the bill to the T! The big cat marries “sharp” and “elegant” better than many others, and is no understated design – this cat grabs eyeballs by the dozen and does not let go! The touchscreen infotainment system is very intuitive, especially with oh-so-many options for everything. The coolest bit? The rotary knob (“JaguarDrive Control”) rising from the centre console to let you choose among drive modes – I feel like switching the car on and off just to see that! Also, unlocking the car via the remote switches on lights under the side-view mirrors, which illuminate the patch just outside the front doors so I do not unwittingly step into a puddle. Thoughtful!
I turn the knob to ‘D’, get out on the road and floor the accelerator – and the Jag pulls me back into my seat as it rapidly zips to 50, 100, and higher triple digits. Doing this from a gradual “city” pace leads to a tad disconcerting jerk during the gear change, which is much less pronounced when in sports mode. The four-cylinder petrol mill does the 0-100 dash in a mite over eight seconds, with the figure dropping well under seven seconds in sports mode (also with paddle-shifts). Handling is fabulous too, and the Jag darts through traffic with great alacrity. The ground clearance – especially when coming from the S60 Cross Country’s 201 mm – is low but sufficient, and I do not need to slow down for small speedbreakers. And again, I have a wide smile on my face.
Picking just one is a tough call. Go for the Jaguar if you want rapid pace and in-your-face styling; plump for the Volvo if understated styling and go-anywhere ability is your priority. Either way, you shall be thrilled!