By on November 4, 2013

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Six days a week, Monday through Saturday, I get up at 4:45 am – five o’clock and I’m plonked in front of the keyboard, staring at the blinking cursor of my computer screen, fuelled by caffeine and ready to start shovelling words into its gaping maw. Six days a week, but on the seventh day I sleep in.

Sunday, a day for rest. But this day, I rise at my usual time to drive a hundred and fifty miles through the blackness and the pouring rain.

As I move east, the traffic thins. The gaps between spray-flinging semi-trailers increase. Where the highway splits, in the little town of Hope, I take the route that heads North, and find myself alone on the road in the purring Jaguar. The FM radio begins losing reception and I turn it off. The concentrated showers fade, replaced by heavy, clinging mist.

Buttoned-up, the F-type pads its way through the still-sleeping town of Yale, a light or two on here and there, but no-one stirring. The road snakes up out of town, the speed limit climbs back up – and there it is, first of seven. I pull the car over, stop, put the top down.

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Hell of a car, this thing, all sharp angles and compact muscle. This is the light version too, the supercharged-six rather than the blown-eight, but its 380hp is plenty of punch for the street, and with everything softened-up and battened-down for the bad weather, it’s been a great highway cruiser. I’m not here to cruise though: toggle flicked to dynamic, shifter snapped to the left, a pull on the rubbery paddle shifter to lock the eight-speed in manual mode.

Ready…

Aim…

I’ve always loved tunnels, even as a kid. Driving through them at night, you’d suddenly be transported into a world of flickering sodium-lamp orange, the car dropping into warp-space as you peered out the back seat window. In the daytime, the radio would spit, sputter, and fade to static as you passed from here to there, wherever there might be, ahead, a brightness in the shape of a D lying on its back.

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Fire.

Baffles fully opened, the little Jag skitters forward with a nasty cough of aggression that rises to a yowl of fury. The tiled sides of the tunnel bounce the waves right back in a crescendoing shock-wave – second-to-third with a snap and a snarl and the briefest shift of the F-Type’s hips on the rain-slicked surface.

The strip-lighting blurs, the cacophonous bellowing playing castanets with my inner ear, the plates of my skull starting to approach valve float – and then we’re through, through into the purple-black early morning and the stillness of the surrounding mountains. I come off the throttle immediately into a Sten-gun chorus of backfires – with this engine, the Jag isn’t insanely fast or anything, but abandoned though it may be at this early hour, this is still a public road.

And anyway, what’s the hurry? That was just the first of seven.

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This is the Fraser Canyon’s gem, not quite a secret, but an oddity I’d forgotten about. The road itself is a joy, not the knotted crest-and-dip roller-coaster of a California canyon road, but winding and undulating and – best of all – almost completely deserted. That’s not what got me out of bed though.

There are seven tunnels here, in the short space of just twenty-five miles. The longest, the China Bar Tunnel, is up at the North end of the run, a 2000-foot flourish for my impromptu symphony of fire. This first borehole was a straight-shot, a musket-barrel to fling the car out like a projectile chased by an eruption of violence, but the others are a variety of shapes and sizes like over-boiled macaroni noodles stuck in the bottom of the pot.

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In between them, the Jaguar’s cockpit is wind-whipped and damp, more so than a Boxster’s would be. The copper-coloured shifters feel a bit cheap, and this 8-speed automatic is no eye-blink dual-clutch. Plus it’s a maybe a little bit too expensive, and the wisdom of buying a first-year British car is highly suspect. I had at least one serious issue with it in my week (gearshift locked in park – self-resolved after sitting for an hour or so), and you just know the ownership cycle’s going to be full of major/minor irritations.

But oh, how she howls. Luxury and polish is all very fine, but occasionally I can’t help but fall entirely for a car that utters a barbaric yawp every time you prod the loud pedal. Juvenile, I know, but it’s what makes me love the Boss 302, the 500 Abarth, the GLI, even my own crappy Subaru.

The 8-speed lets you hold a gear right up to and past the red-line – want to charge stupidly into the rev-limiter? Go ahead. The rasp and crackle of lift-off backfire fills the China Bar’s hollow tube, and then it’s stab at the throttle again and cranking it up to 11, innit? What a moron I am. What a happy moron.

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We’ll miss this sort of thing in the electric future. The Model S has its own ffffwwweeeee of happy electrons fizzing away under hard acceleration, but its not quite the same thing sometimes. Sometimes the automobile is a source of pride of ownership. Sometimes it’s sensible and clean transportation. Sometimes it’s even a musical instrument, of sorts.

But sometimes it’s just a place to crank the distortion and hamfist your way through a tunnel playing three raucous chords. Three chords and the truth.

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29 Comments on “The Jaguar F-Type vs. Some Tunnels...”


  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    I would totally ride a hoverboard through that thing.

  • avatar
    jz78817

    we don’t have many tunnels in my area, but plenty of wide overpasses. Yep, when I’m in my Mustang and I go under one of them I nearly always drop down a gear and nail it. The roar of the Flowmasters reverberating around never gets old.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      We have a few tunnels in my AO and its always fun to shift down a gear or two and smack the loud pedal. Same with overpasses.

      The big 5.4 sounds especially good cruising through the tunnel with the tach hovering around 5k or when the tunnel is empty just pulling through a few gears is equally glorious as the sound reverberates off of the tunnel walls.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    File under Machines That Needlessly Make Loud Farting Noises While Going Nowhere Fast Gleaming Oddly-Shaped LED Lights.

  • avatar
    ccd1

    Jaguar is challenging the modern notion of what a sports car should be. It is a little raw and certainly less refined than a Porsche. But it is fun and it never lets you forget what you bought or why you bought it. Maybe uber refinement in a sports car is not such a good thing. Maybe sports car should snarl in “everyday” mode and absolutely howl in “sports” mode. Such a car might be a lot of things, but boring would probably be not one of them

    • 0 avatar
      vtnoah

      I agree. I know everyone says that Jaguar is on it’s way out but if it can continue to bring cars that are as exciting as the F-type to market, they will do well. Let’s hope they knock it out of the park with their 3 Series competitor.

  • avatar
    daiheadjai

    Good God I wish we had roads like that within easy driving distance of the GTA… It seems like virtually all roads in Ontario are boring straight lines…

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I think if I had tunnels to drive through with an F-Type, I wouldn’t mind getting up at 445am so I could drive through them while empty! We have none here though so no luck. I do like this car a lot though.

  • avatar
    deliverator

    Is that the Highway 1? I’ll have to check that out next time. Driving to Vancouver I always take BC-5 south from Jasper.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    A nice reminder of why — and how — driving can be just plain fun. Cool photos to boot.

    Here’s a thought exercise: assume the Tesla or some similar car becomes standard: batteries undergo a massive increase in capacity and charge acceptance rate. Will a car that doesn’t make all (or at least some) of the noises you describer ever provide the same quality of experience?

    And just so we’re absolutely clear, I’m talking about driving as sport or entertainment, not just transportation.

    I kinda think not; but I’m an old fossil. Others, younger than I, may feel differently.

    • 0 avatar
      Joshua Johnson

      27 yo here, I will throw in my 2 cents on the subject. The answer is unfortunately not a clear cut yes or no.

      For the easy no. Sound is incredibly important to any petrol-head. Once I put a Borla exhaust on my car, I was in love with it all over again and find it intoxicating to punch the go pedal. Hill climbing has quickly become my favorite way to burn fuel.

      For the yes. After driving my now louder car for sometime, I’ve come to realize that under certain conditions, I fail to even hear the exhaust (auditory selective attention?). Even without the sound, the car still provided some tactile feedback that I am going fast, such as the all time favorite push backed in the seat feeling.

      Therefore, I say it depends on what other factors a car passes on to the driver that they are indeed going fast relative to some metric (other drivers, gravity pushing back). I would guess that as long as cars indicate some feeling to the driver of relatively great speed, driving for no purpose other than to go for a drive will not fade into the past. I have not driven a Tesla, but I’ve heard that it has that pushed back in the seat feeling that indicates speed.

      I will close with this. I drove a Porsche 911 Carrera S and a Jaguar F-Type V8S back to back on the track at a dealer event. While the Porsche was competent and as fast as the Jag, it just didn’t instill the same sh!t eating grin that the V8 F-Type did at WOT. Due to the relative conditions both cars were driven in, the Porsche felt relatively slower as a result. There was very little drama, and you had no question that it could take the corner at x mph. The Jag had the same level of confidence, but instilled the drama via sound.

      • 0 avatar
        Redshift

        +1 Putting a quality cat back on my “toy” car made me fall in love all over again. The sounds is so crucial to the overall experience.

        (Note, I stress quality cat back. Not annoying noise cannon.)

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      I’m with you DC, I don’t how antiquated the ICE engine will ever be but I hope in my lifetime it never disappears. It doesn’t matter how damn good an electric will ever be, all the best numbers in the world cannot mask what I see as a soulless contraption.

  • avatar

    >>>The Model S has its own ffffwwweeeee of happy electrons fizzing away under hard acceleration, but its not quite the same thing sometimes.

    It’s never the same, ever.

    Electric drive may have some advantages, but the sound of electrons is a one-note whine next to, say, a Boxster’s Mozart. Even a Honda is at least Salieri.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    Back where I grew up we had a few tunnels running underneath the water to connect the various cities together. Two in particular were quite long.

    I use to run my 79′ Chevy through them. Hot cam small block, full length headers, true dual exhaust, but even with the quite 3-chamber flowmasters most people assumed I didn’t run a muffler at all. It was loud, nearly deafening, and it didn’t roar, or snarl; it just screamed like a stock-car at a local Saturday night race. But it didn’t reverberate through the car, and with the windows up you could easily hold conversation at 70mph. Large obnoxious sound systems, straight-piped Harley’s; all other noise gets lost when that car open ups. The phrase “can be heard a mile away” is not a over exaggeration.

    I would slow down a bit at the entrance of those tunnels and just hit it. It was blissful, and a sound that nothing new can come close to duplicating. Even the new generation of American V8’s, with all of their glorious efficient smooth power just cannot make that sound. They might burble about, they might roar a bit, but they certainly don’t scream their presence out to the world like the hot-rods of yesteryear.

    Even the rawest of new cars, the most brash, the least refined; nothing compares to those old cars. For those of my generation who have never kwown this feeling I pitty them. It’s really all you behind the wheel. To go fast, to push those old cars, it’s a fight, it’s a battle, and it’s amazing!

  • avatar
    blowfish

    just realize that u live near vancouver bc.
    I spent 4 yrs living near pigs gorge aka prince george.
    Driving thru the canyon can be fun during the daylight, quite often i have to traverse the canyon after dark.
    Have driven thru with my 73 Eldorado, 80 300sd w116 and honda civic.
    The first two are really nice, one time a gendarme aka RCMP approaching opposite direction flashed his gum machine, I looked at my speedo and realize i was a bit fast, soon as i tapped on the brakes he turned off the gum machine. These big cars can carry u 10-20 km faster than u legally should.
    The 300sd I came down once from quesnel to hope in 6 hrs solo driving.
    I thought i was keeping very good timing, only to find out later that
    my speedo was reporting 10 mph slower!

    Anyways it would be fun to drive thru the canyon with 380hp. One can pass just about anything at point blank.

  • avatar
    jose carlos

    Back in 08, on a visit to California, I rented a Corvette for one week. It was and still is my dream car. Driving through the San Gabriel mountain range I still have the LS3 sound as I drove through the tunnels. I just went back and forth many times.

  • avatar
    Redshift

    Great article and great pictures. Well done.
    I wish there were tunnels out on the East Coast like on the West Coast, but the best I have is the odd bridge or overpass to drive under. Makes me sad I’ve started putting my cars into winter storage. I’ll miss the sounds.

  • avatar
    denvertsxer

    Awesome article. Fantastic photos. And, oh, what a beautiful machine.

  • avatar
    roadscholar

    Beautifully written.

  • avatar
    drvanwyk

    Brendan, thank you for writing this article. It was just the inspiration I needed to take a break from homework and go for a drive to relieve some stress. Well written and great photos.

  • avatar

    Its nice to see jaguar coming out with exciting cars again. I still like my EType, but this is a great looking and acting piece of machinery.

    How does this compare to a Corvette? Hey, we are discussing real cars, not kid’s toys… they will never get beyond that in my mind. But that is why they make different flavors of ice cream. I’ll always take vanilla and add toppings, but you have your choice.

  • avatar
    Brener

    It’s a stunner!!! The build quality is excellent. From the body panels to the well thought-out interior, Jaguar did their homework and produced a car that it is more than worthy of its asking price. I saw on http://www.warrenhenryjaguar.com
    and now I must buy it! :D

  • avatar
    Spartan

    Allow me to play the song of my people! *Third gear downshift, blip throttle, GO*

  • avatar

    Nice tune Spartan… Now hold that line and turn in a bit more on the next sweeper.

    And to think, some people just consider this as transportation!


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