Jaguar ALIVE driving school [w/video]

We love driving schools.

Any chance we get to strap into a car and fling it around the cone-laden confines of a wide-open area makes for a great day. Thus it should come as no surprise that when Jaguar rang us up on the Hoon-phone to invite us to their latest driving experience, we sputtered out a “F*#k yes!” before they finished speaking. We apologized for swearing, and marked the date on our calendar.

Keep reading to find out what went down when the marked day arrived…

Right off the bat, we could tell this wouldn’t be as fun as the Jaguar Performance R Academy we attended. That event took place at a race track, and it was strictly for machines with the R badge on the rumps of the assembled pretty kitties. This event, called Jaguar ALIVE, was geared more towards folks considering buying a Jag, and was much more tame than the tire-tearing day we experienced out in Fontana.

That doesn’t mean we were bored though…


Jaguar brought out their elite A-team of driving instructors, which include Davy Jones and Roberto Guerrero among others. If you don’t know either name, you need to Google them ASAP. I’ll save you some trouble though. Jones is the last American driver to win at Le Mans (1996), a Daytona 24 Hour winner, and possesses an icy-smooth demeanor behind the wheel of a car. Guerrero is a former CART and Indy racer who held the lap record at the Indianapolis 500 from 1992-1996, has recently switched to racing off-road, and is one of the funniest and nicest men in motorsports. There are other well-qualified instructors as well, such as Adam Andretti (who can turn tires into smoke and dust with ease) and Morgan Kavanaugh (who normally teaches cold-weather techniques to drivers trekking out to Colorado).

For the ALIVE event, Jaguar had taken over the parking lot at the Verizon Amphitheater in Irvine, Caliornia. The tarmac was split into a different sections; an autocross course, rough road simulation, traction control demonstration, and a long straightaway to show off the acceleration of the Jaguar XK-RS. We passed on the rough road simulation because we already know that modern Jag suspension can handle the ruttiest of rutted Southern California freeways. Our first task of the day was to tackle the autocross course, and show these well-funded potential buyers what the proletariat can do behind the wheel of a high-dollar, high-horsepower machine.

Not much it turns out…

Our time was respectable, but disappointing. Why? The instructor had traction control off during our first two runs through the course. When we were running through our third run, the one that was being timed, we felt that the car was dying out of the corners. A glance at the gauges, and we figured out that said instructor had turned traction back on. …sigh… Our time was low enough to be respectable, but far from the best.

Oh well, on to the other courses.

The traction control demonstration, which we initially guessed would be rather boring, was in fact quite enlightening. Piloting a Jaguar XF, we pulled onto a soap and water covered piece of rubbery plastic splayed across the parking lot. With traction turned off, we were told to floor it, and the mighty cat was reduced to a tire-spinning sculpture that went nowhere in style. Roll off the mat, and pull back on this time with traction control engaged. We were again ordered to floor it, and the car slowly and effortlessly (at least from the vantage point of driver and passenger) pulled off the mat. From there, we went over to a figure eight to sample the varying degrees of traction intervention as we tried to get the tail out. With traction control on, you can’t do it, but switch to DSC Trac and you get a little bit of slip. Turn the system completely off (thank you Jaguar!), and you can enjoy super sideways action and smokey displays of tire destruction.

After the slippery fun, it was time to move on to the Jaguar XKR-S, and a shot at straight-line glory. Jag had set up the course so that customers could see just how quickly they could make the run from zero to 60 miles per hour. This being Hooniverse, we wanted to see if we could blow past 60. Spoiler alert: We did.

So, despite the event not being as fun as the R Performance Academy, we still have a good time. Also, we had to remind ourselves that this event is designed to give potential customers a peek at what they might be able to experience if they decide to put a Jaguar in their garage. Next to the various courses was an air-conditioned tent that featured a chance to sit in an XJ and take in the Bowers & Wilkins sound system, and an E-Type stood inside to remind folks about the excellent history of the automaker. If you’re interested in buying a luxury automobile, this is an excellent event to attend, and we hope more automakers put on events like this. The Jaguar ALIVE experience travels the country to give everyone a shot at seat time in its stylish machines.

[Images courtesy of Jaguar]

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