By Joel D. Pinaroc
SUBIC, ZAMBALES- I was tucked nice and tight in the driver’s cockpit and was ready to test drive the Jaguar XKR coupe.
After giving a few instructions and a few tips, George Ramirez, the designated car expert and driving instructor, gave me the go signal to ease the silver coupe along the tarmac.
It was a rather off-putting experience not to find a shift stick on the car and find instead a rather simple silver knob at the central console.
The knob turned out to be the actual shift control (for the lack of a better term) indicating “P, D, N, R” of the car’s six-speed automatic transmission.
After turning the shift knob to “D,” and releasing the handbrake, the massive car rolled slowly at first as I position it for the speed test. The car’s engine hummed and throbbed silently.
There was a good 100 meters before we reached the starting point of the speed test which is the main runway of the Subic International Airport.
George then told me that he will guide me to hit at “least 240Kph” on the speedometer although I can always ease down or speed up.
The butterflies in my stomach started churning as I finally positioned the car straight into the 4.8-kilometer-long asphalt runway.
The Jaguar XKR coupe has been clocked to sprint to 0-60Mph (100Kph) in 4.6 seconds, and reach a maximum speed of 175Mph (280Kph).
The first few seconds passed by very fast as the car hit 100Kph. George carefully reminded me to follow the straight line of the runway so as not to lose my bearing. I took the instruction to heart remembering that if I make a small mistake while driving at 200Kph or faster, it would be game over.
After a few more seconds, the speedometer literally jumped to 140Kph, then 180Kph. At 200Kph, the engine was not noisy, but started roaring.
At this point, George told me to “floor it and feel the power” of the car. That power would come from a massive 5.0-liter, V8 “supercharged,” 510-horsepower engine under the hood.
My head was yanked slightly backward immediately after I put on more pressure on the gas. At that moment, the car seemed to jerk forward which gave me the sensation that the mostly aluminum body of the Jaguar XKR coupe might have lifted a few inches off the ground.
At 240Kph, the trees and hills on the right side of the runway and the control tower on the left became blurry.
At 260Kph, my foot instinctively eased down on the gas. George quickly reminded me not to apply the brakes so soon and let the engine cool for a few seconds.
There were still a few meters of clearance before I reached a special marker along the runway indicating that at that point, the brakes should have been applied because a hairpin turn is directly ahead.
The brakes of the XKR coupe, I was told, have been upgraded to provide more stopping power to complement the built-in ABS (anti-lock braking system).
My whole run on the main runway, which can accommodate colossal 747 jumbo jets, took only a few minutes.
The speed test did not end there however as part of the test is to feel how the car responds in a not-so-smooth road. The other side of the runway near the control tower is still straight and paved but not as smooth as main runway and not as long.
As soon as I hit the gas, the flying sensation was gone, and it seemed that every minute imperfection of the surface of the road can be felt particularly on the steering wheel.
The car however was still very stable due to a computer-aided suspension system, although this time, I only reached a relatively slow 220Kph before I eased down and made my way to the holding area of the car.
I was flushed with adrenaline as I stepped out of the vehicle. I caught a faint smell of burnt tires and noticed that the 20-inch tires of the coupe were visibly worn.
It was quite an experience, and for a few minutes, I came to understand the fascination of people and their willingness to spend a fortune on fast, powerful, and elegant sports cars.
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