If you are looking at these pages with lust, chances are you have very good taste. The Jaguar XJ, after all, is one of the prettiest looking high-end luxury sedans one can buy in the country today. It’s almost a rolling sculpture compared to the at times racy, at times functional but mostly traditionally well proportioned German competition that is the Audi A8, BMW 7-series and Mercedes S-class.Inside too the Jaguar is more emotive than functional. It gets a wraparound dashboard which draws inspiration from speedboats. It is minimalist and only gets customary climate control system and audio controls on the dash with other handy bits like buttons for lock/unlock and seat massagers are integrated unobtrusively as part of the central console. The central tunnel houses cupholders and the Jaguar trademark rotary gear selector knob that rises up when the ignition is turned on.Otherwise, there’s nothing else; just lots of leather and simplistic lines. The idea behind this, according to the Jaguar’s chief designer, Ian Callum, is to make Jaguars an easy place to be in. And the XJ does feel like a living room. But, for a car that commands such a high pricetag interiors still need to feel special. And they do, courtesy the lovely play of chrome. Everything from air con vents to the various buttons and knobs as well as the outline for the trim is all chrome.Things aren’t as great at the rear. Sure, the seats are well bolstered and comfortable. These are hugely accommodating too with seatback angle being nearly optimum. But, in terms of the pamper coefficient, the XJ just can’t compete with its German rivals. It lacks adjustable rear seats, the sun blinds are manual and there’s no soft closing for the doors either.It was only natural then, that we enjoyed being behind the wheel more; helped in no small measure by the engine. The XJ comes with the choice of two engines–there’s the naturally aspirated 5-litre petrol V8 for the Portfolio trim and the supercharged version of the same engine that makes 510 bhp for the Supersport. The latter puts the XJ at a higher pedestal in output terms compared to its traditional competition.When driven sedately, it moves about with the elegance befitting royalty. Step on the gas with enthusiasm and it turns primal. There’s no letting off either; the engine revs unrestricted and with a sprinter’s ability towards the redline the moment the throttle pedal is buried into the carpet. And it keeps at it gear change after gear change. If you choose to buy the Supersport, you’d desperately wait for the weekends while envying your chauffeur through the week. Price: Rs. 1.1 crore (est)On the road: From PURI TO KonarkThe distance from Puri in Orissa to the famous temple town of Konark is just under 40 km. Naturally many would not deem such a meagre distance in terms of a long drive. After all, in the last decade or so, we have progressed from being a country where 50 km on the highway could take as much as three to four hours to one where you can actually go all the way from Delhi to Kolkata or Mumbai, both over 1,500 km away from the national capital, in a day. Yet, this relatively short stretch is perhaps one of the most scenic routes to drive on.It’s a narrow two-lane highway that connects the city with the town on the coast of the mighty Bay of Bengal. But don’t let those two adjectives–narrow and two lane–pass on the opportunity to drive on this road, for it’s quite well surfaced. The route itself will see you pass numerous quaint villages on either side, so you have to slow down a little in preparation for the odd calf or even child. About a third of the way through the lush coconut trees on either side of the road give way to piles of sand, and you realise that just to your right, past the sand dune is the beach and then the sea. A couple of kilometres later you see a vast unending deep blue to the right–Bay of Bengal. Further on, as the road turns, the sea disappears, to be replaced by what looks like a dense forest. A half-broken wooden signboard tells you that you’re passing through a reserve forest. Abruptly, you drive into sunshine as the road turns sharply left. A few more kilometres of driving later it is that Konark is approaching as you see increased traffic. Reaching Konark is quite the anti-climax, for the town itself is dingy and congested with tourists. The drive to the town though is a different story altogether. It’s nothing short of magnificent, and you can’t help but look forward to the journey back.-Vikrant SinghSuzuki Bandit 1250sThis one is a genuine sports tourer with enough power and torque in its belly to justify the sports tag. If you’re looking for a bike that will scream your presence to the bystanders each time you ride in, this is not for you. This, despite its fairing and large proportions. Astride, the Bandit exudes a feeling of function over form. Instrumentation is a simple twin pod affair with an analogue tachometer and a digital console that not only shows the speed but also houses all the other tell tales. The switchgear though has a positive feel and all of them are within easy reach of the rider’s fingers. The result? Top notch ergonomics. In the confines of the city the Bandit’s 250 kg weight shows, as does its longish wheelbase. Together they rob the bike of low speed manoeuvrability. But get it out onto the open highway and it’s a different story altogether. The riding position is close to perfect; the fairing does a good job of keeping you safe from the windblast at highway speeds while mirrors are large and mostly vibe free, giving you a clear picture of what’s behind. The long wheelbase, however, ensures that the Bandit is rock stable, even when cruising comfortably at three digit highway speeds. Speaking of highways, overtaking is a must and the Bandit excels here again thanks to that refined in-line four cylinder engine, which has enough torque and more to require less downshifting through that slick six-speed gearbox. Price Rs. 8.5 lakh, ex-showroom.-Rahul Ghoshadvertisementadvertisement
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