575 angry Jaguars on the loose throughout Europe's finest driving roads.
Deep in the heart of wine country sits the secluded Monverde Wine Hotel 🍇, complete with its own Health Spa amongst the lush vineyards. This therefore seems a great venue for Jaguar UKPR to take over and launch the elegant Jaguar XJR575 that has aged like a fine vintage.
Wednesday morning, and as we board the flight over to Portugal, we already know that it’s going to be a special trip. Jaguar UKPR are known for their product launches, and this is no exception. The XF Sportbrake has recently ushered itself into Showrooms, but until now hasn’t been officially driven in all engine guises. This trip pairs the gloriously well balanced and pretty XF Sportbrake with the fire-breathing XJR575, the new 575PS variant in Jaguar’s executive category.
Taking on some of Europe’s best driving roads, (one of them voted the best) we are in for a treat. Touching down at Francisco sa Carneiro airport, we are ushered into the Lounge suites and briefed on what’s to come. Mountain passes, spectacular bridges, and the thrill of the latest Jaguar range en route to a Wine Hotel deep in the Countryside is the promise, and I for one can’t wait to get stuck into the big cats abroad.
Selecting the Left Hand Drive XF Sportbrake first, we head out of the airport and onto the Portuguese Highways. Taking it all in its stride, the base model’s efficient 2.0 Diesel copes fine with the run through to the twisties, whilst the exec-estate’s interior reminds us of Jaguar’s fine craftsmanship - as we head on to our first stop for coffee at Restaurante Pena. The remarkable 1.6m long single pane glass roof is a masterstroke, and lends more than a feeling of the cabriolets that Jaguar are renowned for designing. More exciting about this car however, is that Chief Designer Ian Callum is speaking at the Hotel this evening about the inspiration behind the design – a rare glimpse into the thought process surrounding one of the most famous designers of this Generation.
Iced Cortado stop over and with the sun dropping behind the Mountainous B-Roads, it’s into the next variant – the 2.0 Petrol. Finished in Firenze Red, the contrasting black alloys reflect the dusk, as we take the narrow road back out towards the pre-programmed route and onto Monverde.
With a burbling growl from deep down in front, the Jaguar sucks up the roads with ease and the increase in power is welcome as a rain cloud passes overhead kicking streams of water up from the tarmac. The closer we get to the hotel, the windier the roads get, yet the XF Sportbrake takes all in its stride. The Ambient Lighting package supplied to our car shimmers wonderfully under the exceptional Panoramic roof, and this is certainly an option you would want to have aboard this capable estate car.
Entering the hotel is just as special as it looked in the Media Briefing. A long, undulating passage, lit from either side with warm lamps led to the main reception building and our dining destination for the evening. Exhausted from an afternoon of deep concentration and reveling in stats, I hand back the keys to the XF Sportbrake, impressed by the performance of a car that I’ve always admired in saloon form.
My next set of wheels is slightly different. Unzipping the door (yes you read that correctly) we get into the resort transport and head along the cobbles into the inky blackness. No idea where I am, we stop and the porter tells me we have arrived. Ahead, a bare brick, stone outbuilding sits, up-lit against wicker chairs and terracotta barrels. This it seems is my room for the night.
As the Monverde branded golf-cart heads back the main building, I look around the immersive black expanse and think this place must look incredible in the daylight. The room is located central to the Vineyard and a good few minutes from the road, so the sky is a glorious spattering of stars and unpolluted light.
Waking up in the more than comfortable bed, the room is something to behold. Floor to ceiling windows, overlooking the vineyards for kilometers around, with the minimalist interior lined with organic cotton and crisp whites. The bathroom (mirrored from all angles), was certainly more than reminiscent of a Bond Movie film set. It’s just a shame therefore that the sunset I’d woken up specially for was covered in a thick layer of mist rising slowly as the morning crept in.
My first memory of a real career was wanting to be a car designer, and hearing Ian Callum talk so passionately about his design philosophy is as refreshing as it is insightful, whilst sharing a beer with him the night before was both an honour and a privilege.
Still, onwards with day two. A misty morning adds a sense of mystery to proceedings, and replacing the two XF Sportbrake variants of the day before is the 3.0 V6 Diesel. Lined up next to these flanking the main building is what I’ve been looking forward to most. The Supercharged XJR575. A menacing fleet of this ultra-luxury sporting saloon finished in Velocity Blue is a rather spectacular sight, and as they set off with varying levels of wheel spin, it’s clear that today is the day most are looking forward to.
We select the XJR575-L, a long wheelbase version of this cruise missile, destined only for foreign markets. The rear leg-room is immense! (I would go as far as to say that I’ve not seen anything like it!) Up front, the infotainment system dominates the plush cabin, whilst acres of alcantara and quilted stitching line the dashboard, headlining and seats. A two-part panoramic roof finish off the luxurious environment and a subtle 575 badge adorns the central dashboard.
Firing up Jaguar’s tried and tested V8 comes with the same enjoyment as you’d expect from anything with a V8. A deep sonorous growl echoing through the fog gives a nod to what to expect from this the car as we twist the circular gear selector and head off back out of the winding cobbled driveway.
Selecting Sport (of course), we take the sat-nav directions and soon find that we are on open mountain passes, far more spectacular that the previous day. Single carriage in places with sheer drops either side, the XJR575 doesn’t ever show its size and feels particularly lean hustling down these tiny lanes. The seats are a delight – and if I had one steer to the interior engineers, it would be the sheer power you are putting into the corners perhaps could have merited automatic bolstering seats. Still, a trivial point as by the time you have reached one corner, you’ve already arrived at the next – such is the speed of this machine.
Powering on deeper and deeper into wine country sees the XJR575 excel almost everywhere. Throw it into a corner and it comes alive, feeling three sizes smaller than its physical mass states. The train-track black tyre marks on several straights up ahead show that my companions are having just as much fun in their 575’s and with that we plough on in supreme comfort and style towards the airport.
The XJR575 performs unlike any large car should. It doesn’t really have any competitors, falling between the S-Class’ AMG package and forthcoming Audi S8 for size and dynamics. The opulent cabin is still a classy place to be (all these years on), and the fresh details from the gloss carbon trim to the subtle 575 detailing still make this the one to lust after.
For me, there wouldn’t have been much else I’d have taken for the lifestyle trip along the Portuguese Vineyards. Big thank you to Adam and the Jaguar UKPR team for inviting me and letting me loose in these impressive models.