Monday, May 25, 2015

A Journey Through Space and Time with Jaguar's Best Car in Years

2014 Jaguar F-Type S Convertible Review

The first slimy invertebrate to puff up its newly mutated air sacs and leave the roiling oceans of early Earth to traverse the dry surfaces set the template for all future human beings, who did little else but migrate to all corners of the planet. Then, having become the uncontested masters of the surface world, they devised ever faster and more efficient means of moving through the land by first cultivating an understanding of the physical properties of the universe and then inventing technologies to exploit them.

The story of this journey through evolution and history envelopes all desire, all labor, all survival—all of it pulsating through time at an undiminishing rate of speed as if single-minded in its unwavering determination to arrive at this precise moment. Here, now, behind the wheel of this Jaguar F-Type, top open, barreling down Chicago's North Avenue toward nowhere in particular, having come from back there ... somewhere—none of that matters though. All that counts is now. This second. In this car.

It feels strange to talk about "this car" when relating the experience of driving the F-Type. Because, from the perspective of the only person who matters—the person driving this car at this moment—there is no car, there's only me. And in fact, there really isn't even me. There's just pure unfiltered religious-experience-grade dopamine coursing through whatever it is stuff courses through in this vague, insignificant locus of pleasurable sensations I call me.

At its very best, a car is a kind of open circuit. You sit inside, and you close the circuit. When the engineers have done their jobs, and the overseers and signer-offers and middle managers haven't managed to completely dilute the formula, a car is no longer just a four-wheeled mechanical sedan chair, it's a prosthetic device. It's a set of wings. It's the One Ring.

The F-Type is such a car. On its face it's absurd. It starts at $92,000, seats two, and has a trunk with room enough only for a set of clubs (the main reason trunks still exist), a small Tiffany's box, and several pieces of paper. It gets 16 miles to the gallon (that's city mileage, but try getting much better while still having fun), and once you add all the options that of course you're going to add because who on earth buys a base-model Jaguar, the price jumps up over $100,000.

Yes, yes, but what is money, other than a theoretical construct meant to facilitate trade? Money is a concept that, like all concepts, becomes increasingly abstract the more time you spend behind the flat-bottomed wheel of this magnificent mischief-making machine. Spend a few hours driving the F-Type and it begins to seem increasingly less like an extravagant and irresponsible waste of money, and more like the very thing money was created to obtain.

There is nothing in all of creation that can justify the existence of a 495 horsepower supercharged V-8 engine, especially one tucked under the bonnet of what is, let's be honest, a toy for the merger-makers and the money hoarders. But as any billionaire will tell you, it's not getting the thing that matters, it's what having the thing gets you—which in this case is pure skin-shedding, higher-plane reaching, physical and spiritual ecstasy on demand.

Mesmerized by the warp and weft of everyday living, we sometimes forget that we live in a magical age. We live in the future. Electrical impulses, microwaves, radio waves, and millions of wi-fi signals crowd the air. Power lines shuttle electricity hundreds of miles to light our way, to heat our homes, to cool our shopping malls, and to actuate the various boxes of light into which we spend the majority of our days staring. Man-made orbs circle our planet in a geosynchronous ballet, beaming their signals down to Earth as we beam our own back up to them. Airplanes whizz through the atmosphere as if they'd been there since the dawn of time.

None of this would have even been conceivable to the young Messrs. Lyons and Walmsley, who in the 1920s saw a bright future in building motorcycle sidecars. Little did they know that their modest Swallow Sidecars concern would go on to become one of the premier automotive brands in the world (Swallow became SS Cars Ltd., which, after WWII was changed, for obvious reasons, to Jaguar) before being purchased (and nearly ruined) by Ford before being purchased again and brought back from the brink by Tata Motors.

That's all ancient history of course, because the capital N Now is all that matters, thanks to this seductively supple brain-state-alteration device called the F-Type. The two Williams may not have conceived of this car specifically, but they definitely knew a thing or two about the power of transportation. These were, after all, the men who build the XK engine, which powered every Jaguar made between 1948 and 1971.

You see, transportation is a stealthy word. It conjures up images of crowded bus stations and smog-choked interstates, but to be transported -- now that's something magical. Even if we're only talking buses and trains and Toyota Camrys, think about it: you start out in one place and you end up in another, with very little—if any—effort exerted. That's what I mean about the future. That's what I mean about now.

But this, this sinuous, prowling, mechanical singularity called F-Type—sure, it transports you physically, but the thing it does best, the thing it was designed, engineered, and built to do, is to transport you psychically. This is transportation as experienced by epileptics, mystics, and takers of psychedelic substances. This isn't transportation in the sense of "getting to" but "moving beyond."

In this car, now, there are so many sensory events occurring at once—the shockingly violent yawp of the exhaust, sounding as if it's from the engines that power the very fires of hell; the pulsating vibrations of the tires skimming over the surface of the road; the vapor trails from streetlights that streak past too quickly for their light to reach my eyes—that the mind can barely register them each individually.

Rather, all optical, aural, neural, hormonal, circulatory, lymphatic, and muscular stimuli eddy and swirl together in a miasmic fury to create one singular overarching metasensation—one that is more than the mere adrenal thrill of speed, more than the Grandinian hug of the seat bolsters, more than the lizard-brain-tapping ego gratification of being seen in such an envy-evincing motor car—it's the feeling of being wired in to what Henri Bergson called the elan vital, the life essence.

This is not driving. This is surfing atop the throb and thrum of creation itself. This is a spinal infusion of Fuck Yes. Call it prana, call it qi, or call it consciousness itself. Names don't matter. Nothing matters. Only here, now, in this car.

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