Compact. Sexy. Svelte. Nimble. Playful but with a touch of class. She may not be your girlfriend but you’ll love her catty ways anyway when you meet the Jaguar XE
Words Aninda Sardar
Photography Roshni Manghani
Close to midnight is when Mumbai is at its best. The chador of darkness does a pretty good job of hiding away the scars that mar this otherwise beautiful city. It’s when you actually hear the gentle lapping of the Arabian Sea against the shore if you choose to sit at the Gateway of India in Colaba peering at the pinpricks of lights on the horizon that are really ships or face the Taj Mahal hotel and spare a moment of silence for all those who never came out of it on that ghastly night that was 26/11. It’s also the time when you can take your cat for a drive without the fear of being choked by the noxious fumes of the millions of vehicles that ferry through the day carrying the city’s billions from one end to the other. No, there’s no doubt that midnight is that perfect hour when you can enjoy a prowl through the city in your sexy new Jaguar XE.
Crawl through Colaba with the windows rolled down, the sunroof open to reveal the heritage facade of the hotel that now symbolises the city’s spirit of refusing to cow down. The 365Nm of peak torque from that silky smooth 2-litre turbocharged petrol engine is ready and waiting at your right foot from a lowly 1500 revs right up to 4000rpm. Crawling will come easily as you breathe in the salty sting of a slight sea breeze. Negotiating through the myriad jumble of narrow one way lanes isn’t particularly difficult either for the steering isn’t heavy. It has just enough weight to let you know that the wheels are exactly where you want them to be. A necessary tool when negotiating through a lane with just a couple of inches to spare between rows of parked cars.
Marine Drive is peaceful at this hour and definitely worth a drive but at Chowpatty you’ll hit a crossroads. You can either continue along the shore line or you could cut through the city towards Mahalaxmi Saat Rasta and past the Mahalaxmi Race Course before eventually turning on to the Worli Seaface. The roads are relatively empty (by Mumbai standards of course) and the shops shut but the surface of the roads don’t change, excepting for the worse. The XE’s ride quality is firm but not harsh. So you notice that the black top under the rubber is anything but smooth but you don’t necessarily feel the harshness on your backside. There is a plushness in the way things are absorbed. Neither does it have that wallowy secondary bounce after the initial shock of a bump nor does it have that overt stiffness that would eventually lead to a headache after a quarter of an hour on poorly done cobblestones (or what feel like cobblestones).
At the end of Worli is Mumbai’s marvel – the sea link, a devastatingly boring stretch on which cop cameras playing paparazzi ensure you are glued to the 80km/h speed limit. Thankfully, the view through the open sunroof is gorgeous and you want it to last that little bit longer as you cruise along in silence. Where the sea link ends is where hip and happening Bandra begins. This is where you want to give in to your wild side a little bit and pump up the volume on the 6-speaker Jaguar audio system. The usual plethora of connectivity that’s now de rigueur in virtually all cars in all segments will let you access your phone and ensure you have your pick of playlists via that large touchscreen on the dash.
PERHAPS SHE WON’T HAVE YOU GRINNING LIKE A DUMB SCHOOL BOY ON HIS FIRST DATE BUT SHE WILL NOT FAIL TO MAKE YOU SMILE
Enjoyable as these beautiful places that make Mumbai as much as they have once been Bombay are, fact is the roads here are narrow and not particularly well surfaced. Definitely not a place to enjoy the 250 horses that Jaguar says is yours to play with. For that there’s only one road in the city that never sleeps. Palm Beach Road. A full 30km away in Navi Mumbai. By now it’s well past two in the morning and at this hour it takes me no more than 40 minutes to snake my way through the incessant construction that dots Mumbai’s road network to get there. Once there, I let loose. The gallop however isn’t what I expected. The rush of emotions that the BMW 330i I had driven just a couple of months ago isn’t there and even though the Jag has the same 8-speed ZF automatic transmission as the Bimmer, there seems to be a momentary hesitation here. The lag as the turbo spins to life is noticeable too as is the slight raspiness that has crept up into an otherwise smooth running engine. Nonetheless the mid-range is strong and punchy and the top-end meaty. So 100km/h comes and goes in a flash on the virtual speedo of the all-digital instrumentation. Perhaps she won’t have you grinning like a dumb school boy on his first date but she will not fail to make you smile. Perfect for a night prowl. Be it a date night or just another joy ride.