The driving life with young children is wild in itself – any attempt to maintain an orderly vehicle is a façade at best, a complete failure at worst. Seatbacks become a vertical stomping ground and windows are painted with any number of grotesque substances, from banana sludge to sticky mango fruit leather. My 2-year-old monkey has even been caught swinging from the ceiling handle as though he were dangling in the canopy of a jungle.
As if all that normal kiddie abuse weren’t enough, we decided to step things up a notch by testing the Jaguar XJR’s survival potential out in the wild: Camping with kids at a national park. Surrounded by everything from bears to mountain lions, this Jaguar should feel right at home, shouldn’t it? Even for those who aren’t the camping type, I’ve known a couple of desperate moms who have succumbed to this adventurous affair for the sake of their pleading children. The reason is simple: Barefoot children with s’mores-smudged mouths and chocolate-stained clothing, jumping up and down all around a tent, seem to share a common trait: They grin from ear to ear!
A successful camping trip requires lots of stuff, and at first glance the Jaguar’s trunk looks misleadingly tiny. Luckily, my husband packed the car and fit in a respectable amount of gear: four sleeping bags, two Therm-a-Rests, a full-sized air mattress, one tent, a stove, a cooler, camping cookware, two kid’s camping chairs, clothes for all and diapers for one. Because the trunk’s opening is so shallow, we were able to easily remove the entire camping arsenal, only to put most of it right back in again due to pesky bears in the area. Yikes! The center console is a bear – by far the tiniest I’ve ever seen, made to store a cell phone, a couple of pens, a credit card and nothing more. The only item I kept in there was my digital camera, which barely fit. Even my husband, who rarely pays attention to those kinds of things, laughingly questioned where the other part of the center console was. The two front cupholders also look miniscule, but they nicely housed both a bottle of Perrier and – later on, in an effort to decompress from the primitive weekend – a great big espresso ice cream shake.
The highlight in storage space is the rear center armrest. My sons were ecstatic that they not only had the standard cupholders, but also a place for their snacks, a separate activity tray for their Legos and a slot for crayons and pencils. The rear side window blinds and automatic rear window shade also gave the kids a nice break from the intense sunlight pouring into the vehicle.
Unfortunately, our little backseat passengers were also able to easily tinker with the temperature control and seat-heater buttons on the rear of the center console, which turned disastrous in short order. My toddler’s busy toes were constantly finding their way to these controls, raising and lowering the fan speed, while our 6-year-old felt obligated to tattle on his brother with relentless consistency. While I’m on a rant, let me not forget to mention that the Latch child-seat anchors are as difficult to access as a bear-proof trash container is for a bear. I also found accessing the climate controls through the navigation system much too cumbersome; I prefer plain old buttons for such basic functions.
Aside from some of its shortcomings – and disregarding the curious looks we got – the Jaguar XJR performed better than expected in the wilderness. As we left the campground, a BMW owner admiringly waved us on, commenting, “There goes the fast cat.” Indeed, it took cruise control to keep this supercharged cat’s speed in check. Like many a wild beast, this one does not like to lollygag, and it has power as well as grace.
*For more information on the Jaguar XJR and its safety features, visit Cars.com. LET’S TALK NUMBERS
Latch Connectors: 2
Seating Capacity (includes driver): 5
IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair
Fun Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove On): Good Times -Groove On
Base price: $80,835
Price as tested: $82,850
Engine: 400-hp, 4.2-liter V-8
Fuel: 17/24 mpg
Ground Clearance: 5.1″
Turning Radius: 19.0′
Cargo space: 16.4 cu. ft.
NHTSA Crash-Test Ratings
Driver’s side: Not Rated
Passenger’s side: Not Rated
Front occupant: Not Rated
Rear occupant: Not Rated
Rollover resistance: Not Rated