I have to confess, we expected the worst. After building our Jaguar XFR+ we were full of confidence, but seeing it parked next to the BMW M5 with its manual transmission and all that pedigree it brings, I honestly thought we'd aimed too high. The Jag is a great car but I'd already composed the excuses in my head about why our car had finished a distant second.
After prolonged, intensive and extended development, our drive into the hills around LA was the first time I'd driven the car and it would also be the last. The very next day it was stripped, returned to stock and is out there with its new owner who probably wonders why it feels so quick - we left them a small surprise!
Yet from the instant the 5.0 V8 fired, I knew we'd created something rather special. It was the GSR exhaust that got the spine tingling first and I advise you to watch our video at europeancarweb.com to understand just how good it sounded. A similar exhaust system can be yours if you contact the tuner...
The exhaust note wasn't going to win the battle, and yet the first time I turned-in to carve a canyon, I again understood this wasn't your average XFR. Admittedly, the stock car is a great foundation to build upon, but the relatively simple changes of sports spring rates and grippy 21" tires on Vorsteiner's lightweight wheels had done the unimaginable. We'd built a car to rival the M5. Turn the pages to the main story and you'll see that we beat the BMW in several aspects.
Now admittedly, it wasn't a level playing field. We were testing our tuned car against a stock BMW. With the same sort of mods on the M5, I'm sure the outcome would have been closer to our original predictions. And yet, there's one area the M5 can't hope to win - appearance. No matter what you do, the Jaguar is a prettier car, even without the well-placed Vorsteiner carbon pieces.
All we have left are the photos - hopefully you saw our studio pics last month? - but this is a car we'll certainly remember for a very long time.
Sometimes it's hard to convince people we don't actually have the best job in the world - a lack of staff and unrealistic deadlines see to that - but a couple of days with the new S-Class and a track day in the new 435i take some beating.
Yet for all the great stuff we do, driving through an obstacle course inside a Boeing 747 for the Range Rover Sport launch will probably always be in the top ten best things we've done. Again, the video is at www.europeancarweb.com for you to share the experience. It managed to upstage the off-road course we'd tackled the day before, which was equally memorable but almost forgotten as soon as our 21" tires hit the metal ramp and we ascended into the belly of the Jumbo.
Another memorable event this month was taking part in our suspension test. It's something I'd been trying to coordinate for years without success, and something I've never seen anywhere else. Yet a conversation with Ben Terry at AccuAir quickly got it organized and the results are in this issue.
Air suspension has polarized the European tuning scene, with traditionalists being suspicious of it. Yet it's difficult to overlook the advantages of being able to alter the ride height to clear obstacles. So we finally got two identical cars together, each using the very latest technology from the coilover and air suspension sides of the business.
I won't spoil the outcome, but please turn to the feature to read the results. We were scientific in our approach, using the same test MotorTrend puts all new cars through. But the most important aspect was always going to be the seat of the pants. How would each car feel, where would each system have an advantage?
Well, the results are in and both technologies have something to offer driving enthusiasts, as well as the stance crowd. So even if you hate the idea of air suspension, please read the story with an open mind.