Warren Pole takes Jaguar’s XKR on a run to the sun to pop the big question. But did his girlfriend fall for him or the car?

(The Times)

“WHERE DO YOU see our relationship going?” the girlfriend purred, all sparkling eyes and pouting lips one evening. I almost choked on my Chianti, only just avoiding spraying a large portion of it across the freshly painted kitchen wall, which may have given quite the wrong impression.

My shock came not so much from surprise but at the realisation my nascent proposal plans were about to be blown out of the water. Because having already decided to ask her to marry me but not yet having quite turned these thoughts into a plan of dashing action, here I was being invited to blurt it out in the kitchen on a Wednesday night while battling to be heard over a washing machine now gearing up for full spin. Which wasn’t how I had imagined the moment going down at all.

But the girlfriend was now looking at me as a lion might a gazelle. Before eating it. I had to say something and had two options: come clean and rob the big event of all romance, or stall for time. I opted for the latter and thought I did well. The girlfriend thought I wanted to leave her.

Hoping when she went out the next day she would actually return, I set to work on the proposal. Barcelona would be the location with a plush boutique hotel as a fitting love shack, and we were driving because flying short haul hemmed in among the stag dos, disgruntled businessmen upset they don’t fly first any more and vomiting babies is no way to begin what should be a seminal moment in one’s life. Give me the boundless possibilities of a ferry crossing and a full tank of fuel any day.

Possibilities which get even better with the right set of wheels, which in my case meant a Jaguar XKR. Because for adding a sense of occasion and a seductive dollop of refined style to a trip like this, a plum GT is a hard thing to beat for a kid-free couple on the run. And that’s exactly what the XKR is. A sleek Jekyll and Hyde of a thing as capable of wafting two people in regal comfort from one country to another in a single hit as it is of laying waste to winding ribbons of tarmac.

On the dawn of our departure I left the house, bags in hand, headed for my van before diverting and popping the boot on the XKR parked nearby. The girlfriend’s face was a picture. This was going perfectly I thought.

“It’s beautiful,” she purred, stroking the car’s haunches and dropping into a mild rapture, punctuating my previously smug reverie not to mention my male ego, with just the smallest hint of jealousy. Was I being upstaged by a car?

Pushing the thought from my mind I slipped into the Jaguar’s luxurious leather confines and we cruised South to Dover as the sun came up. The car felt good, great even as the supercharged V8 lurking within its loins hinted at what it could do once freed from the shackles of Gatso Britain on the unfettered and unpopulated continental roads ahead.

But out of the corner of my eye I couldn’t help notice the girlfriend’s ever-increasing infatuation with the XKR as she revelled in it from her seat beside me. “The shapes” she murmured, pointing out how even the lines of the interior door handle mirrored those of the car outside, before getting very excited about the Jaguar logo on the steering wheel and whooping in delight as she played with the myriad options of the on-board computer.

XKR takes a well-earned breather in rural France

Across the channel the excellent sat nav breezed us down, around and beyond Paris as the sun warmed up and at Orleans we left the soulless efficiency of the péage, diving in country and pointing the snarling XKR South before strafing the countryside ahead with surges of raw power punctuated by leisurely dawdles depending on how the scenery and surroundings took our fancy.

As the light waned we rolled into another postage stamp-sized French village near Clermont-Ferrand, finding a room in its only hotel where the owner even let me park the car in his garden for the night.

After coffee and croissants we hit the road the next morning for more of the same, soaring over the sky-high Millau bridge before scaling the Southern tip of the Pyrenees on what has to be one of the world’s finest stretches of motorway – three lanes of twisting well-cambered madness which shamelessly dare you to coax the best out of whatever you may be in. The XKR didn’t disappoint.

The future Mrs Pole removes 1000 miles of splattered bugs near the Spanish border

It wasn’t disappointing the girlfriend either, and while I agreed with her boundless enthusiasm for the car a part of me did so through gritted teeth. Because this rock and roll road trip was a indeed peach, but the proposal I was about to make wouldn’t necessarily be one that came with a lifetime’s supply of supercars.

If it was the car that sealed this deal for me, what did that say about our future, our relationship, or even the very concept of female emancipation and the supposed ideal modern women are too smart to be blindsided by something as crudely and archaically macho as a firebreathing sportscar? Surely what today’s sassy woman was really after was a man who made them laugh, cooked occasionally and knew his way around the G-Spot the way our forefathers knew their way around clubbing woolly mammoths to death for breakfast.

I’d read women’s magazines, I knew this stuff, it was what they always said. It had to be true. Yet here was the woman I hoped would be my future wife going weak at the knees for the car I was driving, and it wasn’t even mine. Sweet Jesus, had the modern sisterhood had one over on me? Was all that talk of candles and ylang ylang oil the blatant cobblers it always sounded like?

Just after midnight in Barcelona, with my heart pounding and the nerves jacked up higher than the last time I lined up on a racing grid in anger, I dropped to one knee and asked the question. She said yes. The drive back was incredible, the peaceful cabin and integrated Bluetooth phone set up ideal for phoning friends and family with the breaking news as we hacked cross-continent like a speeding bullet on the homeward stretch and my paranoia of the previous day sunk to a dull memory.

So the XKR is a weapon, an object of majestic prowling mechanical beauty and for a trip like this I couldn’t think of a more perfect motor, but a very gorgeous accessory is all it is. Love on the other hand, runs a little deeper. At least it bloody better do because the car’s going back tomorrow and I’ve lost the receipt for that ring…

Planning a proposal but don’t fancy an XKR. You might also want to try…

Aston Martin Vantage coupe

Just as British and equally sleek the Vantage will leave a bigger dent in your pocket too but for the real James Bond deal it is unbeatable. Unless you happen to have a mint DB5 knocking about that is. 

Porsche 911 Carrera 4S

Shades the Jaguar for pure handling performance, but you may not want to use all of it unless you’re willing to watch your beloved throw up into her handbag by the time you canon out of the third roundabout.

Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano

Delectable, deluxe, stunningly fast and so bloody expensive you won’t sleep a wink unless it’s locked down tighter than Alcatraz every night. Not recommended unless you enjoy planning your road trips around the parking arrangements. 

Lotus Elise

“Aah, the intimate romance of a top down two-seater”, you think; “that’s my hair buggered and where am I going to put my shoes?” she thinks.


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