Top down at -16 in a Jag XKR-S Convertible and a meeting with Land Rover's very own Bigfoot...
Despite the best efforts of Finnair (two hours on the ground at Heathrow, on top of a four-hour delay...) I write to you from Finland where it most definitely has snowed. No will-it-won't-it, do I need winter tyres or not nonsense here. Minus centigrades in the 20s and stunning winter wonderland vistas ahoy. Yes, tired cliche but it was that or a Narnia reference.
That'll be a yes then...
This being Jaguar/Land Rover's winter wonderland it involves lots of tooling about in JLR products and answering crucial questions like a) will an Evoque go sideways? And b) can you drive a convertible Jag with the roof down in -16 temperatures and not freeze to death?
Hopefully the pictures will answer both of these questions for you. The Evoque proves itself to be something of a giggle on the handling track Land Rover has laid out here in Finland for us and while the Land Rover guys advise caution and sticking to the snow and ice setting and whatnot I felt PH honour demanded I instead find out which setting was best for skids. There was an interesting theory from one quarter suggesting the sand setting was actually best but I settled on a combination of Dynamic road, DSC off and gearbox in S. Plus some very hamfisted attempts at Scandinavian flicks, some of which worked, some of which resulted in dramatic exits from the track and into snow banks.
What kind of idiot puts the roof down ... oh
So to the Jag. Having already ascertained that it sounds great in tunnels and is very good at stoplight getaways in LA it was time for another crucial test ahead of our full first drive coming up in a couple of weeks: how good is it at drifting on an ice circle? Clearly this is a very relevant test for any potential owner and, conscientious road testers that we are, the pressure was on to deliver.
Now I'm no Harris, but driving a Eunos on crap tyres does mean I'm familiar with the sensation of going sideways on roundabouts. On occasion. And with five times more power and a slippery surface the XKR-S doesn't need god-like driving skills to get sideways. Just as well really.
Bigfoot DOES exist - proven
In complete contrast we also got a go with Bigfoot. Two of them in fact. Bigfeet? Anyway, these are the only two such cars Land Rover has ever made and were originally built as recovery vehicles for off-road events and have seen action on sand, rock and - here in Finland - metre deep snow. Compared with the 'civilian' Evoques, Sports and Range Rovers driving these things is like going back several decades but, boy, what a hoot. "See that field full of really deep snow?" says our instructor. "Just drive through it..." I paraphrase but you get the, um, drift.