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THE LONG heritage of one of Britain’s most successful motoring companies, Jaguar Land Rover, was celebrated last week.

From the brand new Jaguar XKR-S convertible and Range Rover Evoque to the SS100, one of the first cars to bear the Jaguar name, JLR’s gleaming automotive history was proudly displayed and waiting to be test driven at Heritage Motor Museum in Gaydon.

From the brand new Jaguar XKR-S convertible and Range Rover Evoque to the SS100, one of the first cars to bear the Jaguar name, JLR’s gleaming automotive history was proudly displayed and waiting to be test driven at Heritage Motor Museum in Gaydon.

After a fierce scramble for keys, I was the first to test drive the Range Rover Evoque around the country roads of Gaydon.

Having always been dismissive of little four-wheelers, being neither small enough for town runarounds or having the same ground clearance as its big brothers for off-roading, I came to the Evoque with low expectations.

But rolling it off the courtyard, after finally figuring out the keyless start, I was instantly impressed with the nippiness of the fun little car.

Its manoeuvrability, high driving position, luxury interior and parking sensors made it clear why it was rivalling city cars.

After the mini version, it was into a classic Defender for a bit of off-roading at the centre’s off-road track.

Fighting years of driving instinct to prise my foot off the gas pedal and trust the Defender’s anti-stall system was the hardest challenge but soon enough, I had the car ploughing through mud and puddles, under tunnels and over steep climbs where all that can be seen through the window was the cloudless sky.

In the afternoon, I was onto the Jaguars with heritage rides in the 1938 SS100 and the iconic E-type, the epitome of Jaguar’s ethos of speed and desirability.

Finally, after waiting all day, I managed to get my hands on the keys to the XKR-S.

The most powerful production car Jaguar has built, the feeling of speed as you put your foot to the floor is phenomenal and enough to plaster a silly grin to my face for the whole test drive.

It’s not surprising it was crowned 2011 Sports Car of the Year and that the new convertible version was the day favourite.

 

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