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Jaguar X-Type

David Cicconi

Photo: David Cicconi

Shirley Bassey belted out her classic 007 song as we sped through the countryside. The sun was high. We were in France. Going fast. In a Jaguar.

"Bond drove a Jag in Goldfinger, you know," David said as Shirley continued to wail. Actually, Bond drove an Aston Martin DB5 in that movie, selecting it over a Jaguar 3.4 from the Secret Service motor pool—mainly because he liked the Aston's switcheroo license plates and hidden gun compartments. But I decided not to shatter David's illusions. He looked too comfortable in the passenger seat, spying on the vineyards of Champagne.

Navigator and photographer on this trip from Paris to Monte Carlo, David had Jaguars on his mind because of the car we were driving: the new X-Type, a smaller version of the manufacturer's popular S-Type sedan. The car sells for $29,950, making it the most affordable Jaguar ever built. Introduced to the U.S. market in August, it has beaucoup de comfort and loads of options: motorized seats that conform to your body; rain-sensing windshield wipers; an auto-dimming rearview mirror; a muscular 3.0-liter engine that can race from zero to 60 in 7.1 seconds; a 10-speaker sound system with six-disc CD changer . . . this car could just about drive itself.

Our favorite accessory of all, though, was the DVD-based satellite navigation system with seven-inch touch-screen display and a cooing female voice that spoke to us in French. We called her Josephine, but disagreed about the woman behind the dulcet tones. I said she was a Gallic earth mother—kind, comforting, endlessly patient; David insisted on saddling the voice with Sapphic properties, and wondered if she had a "hot girlfriend."

Our goal—which ironically cramped our natural inclinations to simply drive as far and as fast as we could—had to do with racing. Over the course of three days we'd head to Mulhouse, in Alsace, to see the world's largest automobile museum. We'd follow the route of the Coupe des Alpes road rally, in spirit if not mile for mile, from Évian-les-Bains to the south of France. Ending up in Monaco, we'd test the Jag on the 2.1-mile Monaco Formula One Grand Prix course through the heart of Monte Carlo.

And at some point during the trip, I promised myself, I would drive faster than I'd ever driven in my life. After all, what's the use of driving a Jag if you can't make good time?

"This doesn't even seem that fast," David said the first time the speedometer hit 100 mph. True, the ride was smooth, without a shimmy or shudder. But the French families blithely whizzing past in bulky Citroëns and the grandmères tailgating us in puny Renaults took some of the thrill out of our first triple-digit speed.

That first day was a blur of signs—pointing to World War I battlefields (Château-Thierry, Verdun), famous cathedrals (Reims), and Champagne caves (Épernay)—but we kept to the highway, hurtling onward. By the time we found our hotel in Mulhouse, it was past 10 o'clock.

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