I recently hit the two-month mark in Dubai, and this got me thinking. One of the great British traditions I have sadly let slide is the Sunday afternoon drive: jump in the car, head out of town and take any roads that look interesting for a spot of adventure. Granted ‘interesting’ roads are something of a rarity in the UAE, but I was up for some British-themed nostalgia nonetheless.
The other reason for my enthusiasm was the arrival of Jaguar’s flagship grand tourer, the XK. Some of the finer details were dangled before my nose – 5.0l V8, 0-100kph in 5.5s, 250kph top speed – before the keys were dropped into my lap. Well, my heart is not made of stone, so…
To maintain the British flavour, a trip to the Al Bahia coast in neighbouring Abu Dhabi seemed appropriate. Having donned my driving gloves and received instructions from the satnav girl, I set out.
An opening forty-minute highway run left plenty of time to enjoy the XK’s luxurious interior. The veneer of yesteryear Jags is long gone, beautiful leather upholstery now de-rigeur. A gear-lever that rises out of the centre tunnel and a trigger-esque handbrake complete the uncomplicated centre console. Thankfully, the infotainment system is similarly straightforward. Get the lumbar settings on your seat to your exacting standards, stick the XK in Comfort mode, and you’ll probably not want to get out.
Thanks to muted road noise, kilometres click past all too easily. But eventually highway boredom kicks in, and I peel off at a junction leading to…well, actually, I’m not sure. Abu Dhabi’s ongoing development does confuse the satnav girl temporarily: on-screen at least, I appear to be driving through the dunes. Soon after, the coastline hoves into view, and this seems a good time to get some sea air.
There are cosmetic tilts towards sportiness on the exterior, such as the grooved bonnet, chrome-bedecked air inlets and two walloping exhausts. This is no XFR playmate, but the low sloping roofline and stylish contours only make this harder to remember. The XK is very pretty.
Winding country lanes are in short supply, so a 5km stretch of road with intermittent roundabouts is our venue for some hooning. But first, I fire the Big Cat into life: a roar on start-up goes nicely with the prominent ‘growl’ on the overrun.
Locked in Sport mode, the XK launches into roundabouts with vim and enthusiasm. Sometimes too much: the front can wash wide if pushed too far, and on dusty roads the Jaguar becomes a bit tail happy. Let’s not forget the XK weighs close to two tonnes.
By and large though, ample weight to the steering means the XK is surprisingly nimble and quick-fire gear changes produce linear rather than violent acceleration. Lower your eyes to the speedometer and your eyebrows may go the other way. Bizarrely the only violence comes when the anchor is thrown: the brakes are very good. I lose two hours effortlessly.
And that’s just the point. This afternoon isn’t about performance (and the XK is hardly lacking), but taking a drive simply for the sake of it. And the Jaguar has helped my nostalgia no end. All that remains is a traditional Sunday picnic: red and white checked tablecloth, cucumber sandwiches and ginger ale. My gas station samosa and can of Red Bull may not quite complete the picture.