The Grand Tour

This is a story about enjoying the trip for the sake of it, playing around with a fun car, and making a memorable experience.

Driving up to Whistler

A month ago my buddy decided he would take a trip out to the West Coast for a brief weekend. He had a desire to see the band we both love, HAIM in Vancouver, and I’m open to just getting out of town on occasion. Now, we were friends in college. First interaction with this kid was him bragging about his 944 and more importantly that he owned a Porshce. We would spend dozens of nights driving around Central Florida driving just about anything we could get our hands on.

I’m not going to lie, working for Jaguar Land Rover in Portland can have it’s perks. We just got our hands on a new Jaguar F-Type R, and a minimal amount of begging later we had a car sorted for the weekend.

Day 1:

Saturday afternoon I made a quick romp up to Seattle to meet up with my friend. This was our first few hours hanging out and getting to know the car a little bit more. We were brash, loud, and obnoxiously valeting our car at a nice hotel. A night of Dynamic mode in 1st gear rolling through downtown late into the night is the perfect way to start a trip.

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Eventually we quit jabbing the throttle pedal long enough to take some pictures down a back sidestreet.

Somewhere late at night in downtown Seattle
Somewhere late at night in downtown Seattle

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An interesting occurrence takes place with this car, most people don’t turn their heads when you drive by. They turn their heads when you let of the throttle and it sounds like kids are playing with fireworks in the street. This reaction, we seemingly couldn’t get enough of it that night.

Day 2:

Here’s the thing. This car is nice. Much nicer than anything we’ve ever gotten to borrow before for a weekend. However, at the same time there’s a huge sense of comfort and fun. For a two door car with big Supercharged V8, a long hood, and seats right in the middle. It never feels intimidating, it just feels like it wants to entertain you. So fun is what we had. Just cruising around to check out new parts of the city we’ve never seen before.

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Some Seattle neighborhood
Parked for the night

It was at about this point that we found out in an email that our concert was cancelled. With nothing on the docket we now just had a trip to Canada for the pure pleasure of exploration. We might not see the band, but we were gonna make the most of it.

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Day 3:

This whole time, we’ve been having fun, taking pictures, posting to instagram, and just enjoying a completely unplanned trip. Now we had a purpose, to explore another country, have a fun drive, and do what we’ve seen on all the motoring shows. A Grand Tour.

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With a lightly sketched plan set out before us, we woke up early and set off North.

Cruising up the 5

Earlier this year my cousins and I took a trip up to Whistler to do some snowboarding. On the drive up and down the mountain road just North of Vancouver all I could think about is how great that drive would be in a more poised car that my loud and brash Disco II. The thing with this road, it’s as majestic as the PCH but it’s often 4 lanes, has minimal traffic, and a relatively high speed limit.

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We decided, we were going to add 4 hours of driving to this trip. Not to get to a place, but to just enjoy the road up and back. This was the greatest decision we could have ever made. This made the trip bucket list material.

I get it now. I’ve always enjoyed road trips, driving roads, interesting cars, but this was the first time they were all mixed together. Adding in an international border crossing and we’re setting the stage for fun.

These buttons make it fun

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We could appreciate the convenience of the automatic and the touchscreen controls to firm up the suspension, steering, throttle, and exhaust when we wanted. Keep it simple on the straight highway and dial it in when the roads started curving; this is what makes this car great. It seems like a detriment at first to have an automatic, but for this exact purpose it excels.

Dynamic mode just when you want it

Once we made it to the base of the ski slopes we found an underground garage, parked, went into town to grab some food, then came back out to wake up the neighbors.

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Underground garage in Whistler

Time to head back into Vancouver.

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I threw the keys to my buddy and we were back off down the mountain.

Romping down towards Vancouver

This is the moment that we felt like we were doing something truly special. We were making the most of a Monday off, the roads in another country, and the chance to have fun in a car that wasn’t ours. The feeling that’s captured in countless Top Gear episodes is real my friends. It doesn’t matter if a Porsche is faster around a racecourse, if a Bently is more refined, or if Pagani turns more heads. We were in the absolute perfect means of transportation for the moment.

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We hit the city feeling an immense sense of accomplishment and a desire to remember every minuscule detail of our time spent that day. Also, a need to grab a beer and relax.

Day 4:

Going back

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We had breakfast and I said my goodbyes to head back down south, often while listening to “Back Down South” by Kings of Leon.

At this point I could just enjoy the car and get some well worn seat time for a few hours. This was the calm down run; the time where you use the car like a seemingly normal car while the senses calmed down from an almost overwhelming amount of fun the day before.

Still getting 25+ mpg

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The last refuel

It felt normal. I had a desire to look up used prices on autotrader, sadly not low enough for me yet. Here’s where I could again just appreciate the car for what it was, not what it wasn’t. It’s ability to be normal day to day and transform a drive into something memorable.

Maybe one day I’ll do a trip like this again in a different car. Maybe that will have a diluted experience. Maybe I’ll have an experience that’s better.

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But getting a taste of that Top Gear life for a weekend is totally worth the hype.

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