I Prefer Mr Hyde
Photography by: Jonathan WC Mills
The Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was written in 1886 by Mr. Robert Louis Stevenson. Soon after, the short novella’s main character entered the English lexicon and has remained a shorthand for ‘split personality’, a term that has more recently become known in the modern psychiatric diagnostic and statistical manual as: dissociative identity disorder.
I’m getting ahead of myself.
Recently, Jaguar Cars of North America was kind enough to offer me the use of its newest sports car, the F-Type R, a triumphant return to form after a long and illustrious heritage full of fast cars with two seats and lovely shapes. How lovely and important are its ancestors? The 1961 E-Type, a long hooded phallic emblem of speed and masculinity has a permanent spot in the collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
Living up to that kind of pressure is no small achievement, but when the F-Type sportscar bowed last year it did so with almost universal acclaim. I will happily add my voice to the chorus: it’s a striking car.
With keys in hand, I drove it home to get packed for a 700 mile round trip to Las Vegas, NV. I figured this range-topping drop top would be the perfect high speed companion on a jaunt to Sin City to meet up with…my in-laws.
So, this was not going to be a Rat Pack weekend of sin, but perhaps the slinky Jag would be a great way to connect with my…teenage nephews? Maybe my wife would enjoy the…premium, leather clad interior and…uh, impressive sound system? (I also hoped my mother-in-law might be momentarily overwhelmed with the perception of success such a car conveyed on me.)
First, we had to get there.
We quickly ran into the F-Type’s first compromise: a lack of space. While I’m an efficient packer, my wife approaches travel along the lines of the familiar scout motto of “Be Prepared”. The resulting packing job combined Tetris-style space management and Donkey Kong-like barrel compaction…and I just managed to get the trunk closed.
Total baggage? Two weekend pieces, a camera bag, two large beach towels, and three extra pairs of women’s shoes. The philosophy on available space seemed to extend to the handsome cockpit as well: if it’s bigger than an iPhone or a tube of Hawaiian Tropic it is going to live at your passenger’s feet. Fair enough.
We were off. Slowly and painfully, but moving. For those that don’t live in Southern California and have built the idea of the L.A. to Las Vegas run as a sort of Cannonball Run thanks to movies like The Hangover and Swingers, let me tell you: the reality is not glamorous. It’s a five hour traffic jam in the middle of a 100-degree desert.
It must be hell on earth…for those not blessed with a $120,000 sports car. We were perfectly happy to burble along, with the Jaguar’s interior hovering at a chilly 69 degrees. Outside? 107. We reached Vegas without putting down the top.
After the valet’s “Good afternoon, Mr. Mills” treatment (something I solely attribute to the car) we settled into the MGM Grand for the evening. But as we stretched and limbered up for dinner, both myself and the Mrs. felt unpleasant kinks in our ribs and flanks. It seems that the seats are great for hugging during lateral acceleration, but not so ideal on a 280 mile traffic-filled desert commute. I was particularly aggrieved by a stylistic choice to run heavy stitching down down the middle of the seat.
The seats are compromise number two.
The next day we were up early to meet the family. My wife’s nephew was playing in a basketball tournament from back east and after arriving and settling in, the rest of the family trickled into the stands. All of them had noticed the Jaguar in the parking lot. “Nice car.” “Fancy!” “That’s a hot car.” Does it stand out? Of course it does.
After the game, I suggested my nephew, the 17-year-old game-winner, ride back to the hotel in the car with me. From the grin on his face, he was happy to oblige the request. Which leads me back to my original paragraph regarding Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. My wife had been perfectly happy with the good doctor, never even aware of the half of a thousand horsepower—Mr. Hyde’s heart—lurking under the hood of the Jaguar. With a small press of the performance exhaust button and a shift to “dynamic” mode, I motored slowly out of the parking lot with a last wave to the family.
Once out of sight, I turned to my nephew: “Want to see what she’ll do?” I asked. A quick look in the rear views, a glance down the road, and a strong right foot to the firewall and BOOM! A grenade goes off. The four Pirelli tires and standard all-wheel-drive dig into the hot pavement. The mighty supercharged motor cranks like a NASCAR stocker at full clip, and the scenery goes blurry. And the normally serious teenager in the passenger seat? He cracked a huge grin.
Mr. Hyde is a hell of a lot of fun.
We did a few more pops of acceleration, savoring the cracking, burbling noise of the V8 coming off throttle and then found a tunnel under the I-15. “You might want to Snapchat this,” I said to my nephew and hit the gas again.
The sound in the tunnel was both socially and aurally irresponsible, the auditory equivalent of offering my teenage family member some drugs. It was a gunship roar and a harbinger of the Apocalypse rolled into one. I half-expected to exit the tunnel alongside three of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It was awesome.
Over the course of the long weekend, this experience and exposure to the Jaguar’s engine opened many eyes: everyone liked Dr. Jekyll but loved Mr. Hyde.
The rest of the trip was a bit of a blur, thanks both to the 24/7 nature of Las Vegas and my 4:45 AM wake up call to capture these photos you’re enjoying. That early morning trip north of town into the mountains was also my only opportunity to test out the car’s performance on a road that wasn’t straight as a ruler, and I am happy to report that it goes as advertised. Which is to say that the envelope of grip is so far out of bounds for an ordinary road and ordinary driver as to be laughable.
I will note that the 8 speed transmission has been given a great many kudos by almost every writer before me, and with good reason: it’s one of the best I’ve used. Fast, crisp, immediate shifts. The new (and standard) AWD gives the steering a bit less feel but provides a welcome sense of security against the 550 horsepower under foot.
It is a gorgeous sports car that your grandmother could drive, and a vehicle that symbolizes the new Jaguar in a way that the XJ or XF can’t match. It’s both a spiritual successor to the single letter cars of the past and a strong nod to the future of the brand. My in-laws were impressed, my significant other didn’t hate it, and now I dream of sneaking away to spend more alone time with Mr. Hyde.