As the advert goes, all the bad guys choose to drive a Jaguar. That being said, it’s still okay for us good guys to drive one too. When I looked at the 4,500 kilometres we needed to traverse across the face of France on our latest road trip, I could think of no better cat to be nestled on the front grill of our car. Add the words “R Sport” and I was already in the driver’s seat.
One thing to note about a road trip through France is that there are two very distinct ways of traversing the near continent. One, which is sometimes a necessity, will see you hurtling through cities on three-lane highways at 130km/h for hours on end, with the only punctuation being the proliferation that seem to literally take the small change from your pocket. The other method, and my favourite, is to take the back roads; punching “toll free” into Google Maps and letting the B (and indeed C and D) roads take to wherever the terrain dictates. Roads that do not snake between prefectures, but rather bend themselves around mountain tops and through vast vineyards. The perfect opportunity to stick the Jaguar XE R Sport into Sport mode.
A little more about the car; the Jaguar XE R Sport does, genuinely, seem to tick all boxes. I mean, if you are looking for a motor that is as comfortable being a family saloon as it is a sports car, then the XE R Sport is perfectly suited to either character. It’s comfortable enough to clock up some serious mileage on those not-so-breath-taking roads, with plenty of room in the rear for passengers and plenty of room and accessibility in the front cockpit to make driving a breeze. The adaptive cruise control and fully customisable electronic dashboard were fantastic when it came to adapting to French driving conditions and in autopilot it became effortless to navigate from A to B.
Considering the both of us, as bloggers, were on a two-week road trip through the country with limitless weight allowance on our baggage, the boot space was certainly adequate. We easily fit in two full-sized suitcases, along with a small hand luggage suitcase and backpack. This, admittedly, was one thing that I was a little apprehensive about with the XE being the smaller of the options in the Jaguar family, but we were more than satisfied with what this car had to offer. The panoramic sunroof also let in a lot of light when we were driving and we didn’t feel claustrophobic at all on a seven-hour drive, despite my choice of a fairly low driving position. Any monotony was broken by the excellent Meridian sound system which, along with unbeatable sound quality, would effortlessly push sounds into any corner of the car we wanted (perfect for when Katie and Pepi wanted a little peace and quiet for one of their naps on the journey).
The real fun, however, was when you moved the drive mode from “D” to “S”. Sports mode, while not summoning any extra horses from the bonnet, stiffened up the suspension and definitely made the whole driving experience feel edgier. The engine roars louder through the gears and the drive around the smaller mountain roads or the French Riviera becomes more of a head-turner. The exterior package is also more reflective of Sport mode too; the black 18-inch alloy wheels and extended side sills all adding to the sportier look. Inside, every need is taken care of, with the huge split-view touchscreen and HUD working in tandem to make navigating the roads almost second nature.
As for the roads, there were two on the road trip that stood out in particular. Neither are for the faint hearted; both requiring nerves of steel as you traverse at 90-degree angles up or down huge ravines. The D6 from Saint Paul-de-Vence to Valensole is arguably the more scenic of the two, with the crescendo coming in the form of the Verdon Gorge which emerges towards the end of the drive. Rocky outcrops give way to a gorge swathed in the most vivid turquoise colour; Verdon Gorge more reminiscent of a Caribbean Sea than an inland lake. Pass through the gorge and you are rewarded with the Instagram-famous purple fields of Valensole. In comparison, the D27 is a little more fear-inducing, with two-way roads more novelty than obligatory. It’s a slightly more interesting way to get from Toulon to St Tropez than the main roads; just be sure to look back for incredible views over a less populated area of the French Riviera.