It was 2007. To be honest, at 24 years old, I wasn't really interested in the Jaguar C-XF concept car when it first appeared. I was still in that early twenties dreamworld where I would be driving the Lexus LF-A when it finally made production. The bigger the engine, the more spoilers, the better. Anything was possible.
With that in mind, a Jag saloon really failed to register. The cliché of "that's an old man's car" was still prevalent in my post-graduate, world-is-my-oyster existance. It just didn't seem like something that would fit in my vision of a money-no-object, WAGs and supercar world that fills the heads of ambitious young people.
Once I got a decent job as an IT trainer, I was required to go on a training course in Coventry. The journey up was uneventful, the M1 roadworks had delayed me a bit but I was in no hurry to get to my hotel. My Ford Puma 1.4 buzzed along idly and my mind wandered to that daydream world of 10-car garages and pool parties.
Time passed and the Puma continued on as always, without missing a beat. Then, something caught my eye.
I first spotted the lights in my rear-view mirror when looking for the M6 Toll on a roadsign. The blue-haze of xenon lights was fairly common but I always appreciated the spectacle of a new-ish car overtaking me. It always made me wonder what the driver's life must be like. What choices they had made in life to lead them to the point where they can justify spending so many thousands on a new car? Not much has changed since then.
I fixed my eyes forward to heighten the anticipation. I would then get the full sensation of this driver nonchalantly wafting past. I first heard the V8 woofle over the plastic pop on the radio, and decided to mute it in order to listen to some real music.
The woofle became a roar as the car bore down upon me. The driver was clearly leaning on it a bit. It frustrated me as I had visions of the new M3 with yet another abrasive orange wideboy shows off Daddy's money. But it wasn't an M3.
The XF shot past quickly. The roar of the V8 put me in mind of the Mustang GT500 from Gone in 60 Seconds, but sadly this XF was gone far quicker than that.
Glorious green paintwork reflected in the orange glow of the overhead lights, the reflections seeming to flow off the curves in the C-pillar like a silk sheet slides off a bed. The curves continuing into an unfussed tail, the rear lights perfectly accenting the car's hips. Finally, the chromed Jaguar logo seemed to wink at me under the streetlights. It was as if to let me know, "I am a Jaguar, and I know you want me".
I tried to keep up, but with my trusty Ford's 89bhp it was just not possible.
On arriving at the hotel, the laptop was opened and hours were spent reading about this special new car. I could scarcely believe the machine I had fallen for was a Jaguar. Of course there was the heritage, but what good was that to me? At my age, it was all about being contemporary, not looking back to a period before I was born. You got the sense that Jaguar took the retro thing very seriously, as opposed to in the tongue-in-cheek, kitsch way that now sees younger people wearing vintage clothes.
Just as Mrs Robinson was a mature lady for a younger man, so it was the XF that stole my heart. The over-mature, olde-worlde image of Jaguar died that day in my eyes, and if I'm reflective of the S-line Audi generation, that's a very good thing for Jaguar indeed.
My new Jaguar arrives shortly. I can't wait but after five years of ownership, I will be sorry to see my trusty Puma go. It has served me well and the shape has remained quite contemporary, but it's time to move on.
Economic boom to economic bust, younger man to older man, Puma to Jaguar.
One big cat to another.