Relive our 2011 search for the Lysebotnveien – Norway’s best mountain road – in Jag’s ultimate XKR
I just recognize one word in Norwegian, and that word is stengt. It means ‘closed’. The factor I know this is due to the fact that stengt, the monosyllabic, guttural little b * gger, has just massacred a Big Top Gear Road Trip in a solitary strike.
10 minutes earlier, all was sweetness and light as we cheerfully surrounded the Lysebotnveien, a physics-defying mountain road that has, in recent months, become something of a TG fixation. Somewhere outside Tonstad, as the snow by the roadside was piling deeper, photographer Wycherley politely asked whether I would certainly examined if the Lysebotn road was in fact open, and I claimed don’t be daft, obviously I checked, and also anyhow, why in the world would a hirsute hill pass be closed in spring and also … and afterwards there was a long time out complied with by some agitated fiddling with phones as well as a lot of swearing. A number of minutes later, here it is in indisputable resources. Lysebotnveien: STENGT. Thanks to Norway’s odd fixation with getting snowed on, the scheduled end point of our journey has actually been shut considering that October and also isn’t because of open up for another fortnight. Stengt!
This attribute was originally released in Problem 219 of Leading Equipment magazine (2011 )
Pictures: John Wycherley
So you join us at a small, expensive petrol station, panic-eating our means via 3 kilos of Firkløver, Japp as well as Kvikk Lunsj – Norway’s finest set of three of chocolate bars – with a 542bhp super-coupe grunting impatiently on the forecourt and also no place to go.
This is what occurs when you try to satisfy your heroes. The Lysebotn fascination began last year, with a YouTube clip of BASE jumpers throwing themselves wantonly from a kilometre-high, perfectly upright Norwegian cliff. Just visible behind-the-scenes was a sliver of roadway cut deep right into the rock face, snaking backward and forward to the high cliff top. After actually some secs of intensive research study, we located the roadway on Google Maps, as well as it was much more amazing than we ‘d really hoped: 30 hairpins laced up the sheer side of an arm, a clear challenger for Greatest Roadway worldwide. In among those minutes of association of ideas for which we are renowned, we generated a strategy: wouldn’t it be a great suggestion to drive a quick automobile, quick, on the Lysebotn roadway?
However, like the opulent bottle of merlot that rests gathering dust on the shelf since you can never ever locate precisely the right event to consume it, I determined simply any kind of old rapid car would not do for this road. It needed to be the right vehicle, the ideal car: a vehicle capable of absorbing the cross-country schlep to the westernmost edge of Norway, yet equally with the ability of showing those barrettes some good manners at the other end. Lots of, lots of recommendations were made; all were rejected – no automobile was good enough for my super-road.
And then Jaguar released the XKR-S – a turn-all-the-knobs-up-to-11 model of the already-lovely XKR – and also the perfect roadway had its perfect vehicle. It’s important not to dive into these points with overblown assumptions. And so, with methods of begging as well as deceptiveness, I did obtain Jag’s extremely first XKR-S and set out towards Norway, which is a very long means away from Fortress TopGear.
The XKR-S likes long ways. What a vehicle this is. Regardless of packaging 542bhp and a full throttle of 186mph, it isn’t, as the advertising kinds claim, the fastest and also most powerful Jaguar ever before: 1991’s XJ220 flaunted the exact same power output and can handle 217mph flat out. Neither is it, in spite of the name, a pared-down, roll-caged rival to Porsche’s 911 GT3 RS: there’s more leather in the XKR-S’s cabin than at a Hells Angel’s funeral service, along with a pair of occasional back seats as well as a decent-sized boot under the back hatch.
However, the XKR-S is a razor-edged thing. Outside, one of the most obvious mods are the dealt with carbon-fibre rear wing as well as the vertical vents on either side of the XKR-S’s gaping mouth. These don’t do much for the sports car’s svelte lines, yet combine to lower high-speed lift by 26 percent. Bumping the 5.0-litre supercharged V8 from 510bhp – its result in the basic XKR – was a straightforward task, needing absolutely nothing greater than an engine remap and also exhaust fine-tune, yet the chassis went through heftier alterations. The double-wishbone front suspension has actually been conditioned, raising camber as well as castor tightness, the springs are 26 per cent sharper all round, and also lightweight 20in alloys reduce unsprung weight by 5 kilograms over the XKR. All of it adds up to a 4.2-second 0-62mph time as well as, states Jaguar, a sub-eight-minute Nordschleife lap.
Never ever the kinds to sniff at additional power as well as focus as well as wings, we had a temporary concern that the XKR-S could be treading a slightly challenging path. The XKR has actually always avoided the track-focused, performance-car fist battle, rather taking a particular niche as a super-fast grand tourer. With this talk of ‘Ring laps, might the streamlined Jag have forgotten its USP?
Not to stress. Also in its brand-new gym-honed semblance, the XKR-S retains Jaguar’s trademark delicacy of ride. On Norway’s broad, sweeping roadways, flashing previous shining yearn forests and also large lakes with sunlight splintering off the water’s surface area, the XKR-S was firm yet never ever severe, planted however flexible. Yes, it’s visibly stiffer than the XKR, however never grinding or brittle. No company does damping much better than Jaguar … as well as no firm makes a better supercharged engine.
What a system this big V8 is, with the ability of buttery leisure or wild-eyed redline-chasing. In tandem with the six-speed ZF transmission, it’s a welcome riposte to anybody who believes the traditional vehicle ‘box is dead: slick-shifting and also confidential when left to do its very own point, rapid and also direct when you override with the steering-wheel paddles.
So we understand the XKR-S feasts on miles like a Scandinavian trucker feeds on pickled fish, however – due to the fact that some moron failed to remember to inspect whether a roadway was open – we have no suggestion what it’s like on wiggly things. I take a rueful nibble of Japp and also question how much time it ‘d require to style a snow plough for the front of an XKR-S. A clang from my phone. An e-mail from a good woman somewhere in the Norwegian tourist office that has spoken to a great man in the Norwegian roadways division. They function promptly, these Vikings. The good male in the Norwegian roads department says sorry for the trouble, as well as if we wouldn’t mind terribly spending time till tomorrow early morning, he’ll clear all the snow away for us and also we can have the road to ourselves. The very first auto on the Lysebotn road in eight months. Couldn’t have actually prepared it better. In party, we get rid of a Firkløver between us.
It is tomorrow early morning, and the XKR-S will play vicar in the Lysebotn road’s yearly baptism. The obstacle is up, the tarmac is clear, and also there is not a human for miles about. As we switch off the highway onto the single-lane Lysebotnveien, a fat, brown snake slimes slackly from the edge. I’m no expert on omens, yet that can’t be a good one.
Twisting between granite moraines as well as icy lakes, we climb up as well as climb up, the damp-green plants fading to snow. The skies is heavy, the views wonderful as well as other-worldly, ruthless and stunning. You can see just how Norse mythology ended up being so abundant as well as weird: it’s simpler to visualize this landscape being formed by unstable divine beings than by the activities of plain wind and also water. The XKR-S picks its way light-footedly along the skinny course.
Greater still. More snow. Snowstorms move at pace throughout the ridge, pummelling the vehicle as well as drifting snow onto the road. Decrease of tens, hundreds of feet impend inches from the roadside, plunging away right into half-frozen swimming pools as well as craggy precipices. Rear-wheel drive as well as 542bhp doesn’t feel like one of the most reasonable option now. Debt to the Jag: it soldiers on without hassle. It’s tremendously effective at getting its power down, this automobile, hardly ever troubling the traction-control system unless you provide the accelerator a correct battery. We squeeze between snowbanks 12ft high, the void barely bigger than the XKR-S, and also I question if, rather than exposing itself to be the best roadway in the world, the Lysebotnveien could turn out to be an absolutely dumb suggestion rather.
And then we dive down listed below the snowline and the clouds lift as well as unexpectedly we are at the edge of a cliff as well as hanging over a view that sends out the blood hurrying to the fingertips and leaves a half-formed curse hanging in the throat. We go to the edge of the Lysefjord, a savage, kilometre-deep cut through the landscape, fringed by looming towers of rock as well as the frothing North Sea. The road plunges over the cliff-edge as well as the XKR-S launches into the abyss.
Does it obtain any much better than this? Skimming from hairpin to hairpin on this amazing roadway, V8 snapping off the cliffs, against a background that can only be referred to as Sigur-Rós-soundtrack-made-real. Each barrette is subtly different, some tightening, some widening, some off-camber, however each is as impeccably emerged as a just-laid race circuit. The XKR-S is enjoying it. For a big front-engined automobile, it’s surprisingly wieldy, putting nicely into the edges and, even on this cold, wet tarmac, sticking on with the perseverance of a psychologically dependent limpet. Jump on the power early, and also the rear tires offer a quick shiver prior to attaching all that power, the Jag merely hurling itself down the straight and into the following corner.
Perfect? It’s stone’s throw off. The only vibrant question mark is over the guiding. Slowed somewhat for included security at the severe speeds the XKR-S is capable of, the wheel is a touch short of feeling. It’s still accurate, however there’s simply an absence of responses which, when you’re trying to guess just how much grasp you have actually got left at the front, is a mite disconcerting. A small problem, but there’s an extra major one. A ₤ 97,000 problem, to be accurate, a cost that puts the XKR-S a tremendous ₤ 20,000 above the XKR as well as right into direct competitors with some very full-grown metal: the Audi R8 V10, a kitted-out 911 GT3 and also the Aston Martin Vantage S. Serious business however, with its superordinary breadth of capacities and also monstrous power gets, the XKR-S warrants its soaring cost.
And also below comes its party trick. Down right into 2nd gear, and also right into the tunnel. Did I not point out the tunnel? Well, you understand exactly how all biggest roadways must have, by legislation, both barrettes and tunnels? The Lysebotn roadway incorporates the two, flaunting an about hewn borehole that tunnels half a mile right under the mountain before transforming 180 degrees and bolting for daylight. Deep under the hill now, braking difficult for the hairpin. Really odd experience. Back on the power. No margin for error right here: the steel pens, warning of the rugged passage walls, flit within inches of the XKR’s wing mirrors. The tarmac is irregular and moist, and the rate is increasing. Past 4,500 rpm, and something dark and also enchanting occurs deep within the Buzz’s exhaust. The bassy bellow rises to an unholy supercharged scream, the whole tunnel resounding as we are spat out back into the light. What a sound. What a cars and truck. As well as– when it’s open– what a road.