The British car scene has come a long way over the past couple of decades, with a serious influx of research and development bringing forth a fresh crop of automotive competitors. The U.K. still does luxury like few other nations, and in addition to plush passenger compartments British brands also throw in a dash of performance prowess and off-road know-how drawn from years of racing history and road testing in some of the world's most difficult conditions. As a result, there are a wide range of British vehicles currently available that can be pressed into service to handle an equally diverse list of driving needs.
Let's take a quick look at eight stand-out automobiles from the U.K. and the tasks for which we whimsically imagine that they are best suited.
There's no question that the 2011 Jaguar XJ - even after the redesign that brought it fully into the modern era - is a regal full-size luxury sedan fit for a queen (or a future king, as the case might be). The Jaguar XJ's list of available luxury accoutrements include four zones of automatic climate control, heated and cooled leather seats (front and back) and the requisite rear-seat entertainment system and wood trim that posh buyers expect. The XJ can also be had in an extended wheelbase edition, and its three available 5.0-liter V-8 engine configurations (offering 385, 470, and 510 horsepower) ensure that no monarch is ever late for an official state appointment.
The 2011 Lotus Exige is the most hardcore vehicle available from the British sports car company that made its name on the Formula One circuits of the world. The Lotus Exige boasts exotic looks that stem from its ultra-functional aerodynamic body work, and it also makes extensive use of lightweight materials and a track-oriented suspension system in order to provide drivers with almost telepathic handling. The Exige features either a 240 horsepower, supercharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine or a 257 horsepower version of the same unit, each of which is matched with a six-speed manual transmission. The two-seat coupe can hit 60 miles per hour in just four seconds.
The 2011 Land Rover LR4 offers fans of the equestrian arts an SUV that is perfect for traveling to and from the stables on the weekend. The Land Rover LR4 can be outfitted with a third row seat to increase its passenger capacity to seven, which means the entire family can come along. Or, if cargo is a priority, then up to 90 cubic feet of tack can be accommodated behind the two front positions. The LR4's 375 horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8 and full-time four-wheel drive system make short work of any muddy roads or unexpected obstacles that might crop up when driving from pasture to pasture and also helps to ensure safety regardless of how rough the weather might get - especially in areas where snowplows are few and far between.
The 2011 Jaguar XK offers drivers who crave a combination of unbridled power and resplendent luxury a beautiful two-door coupe that can eat up the miles with aplomb. The Jaguar XK's suspension has been tuned to walk a fine line between quick and nimble responsiveness and the cushy absorption of rough pavement, a task that it accomplishes with impressive ease. Perfect for winding through mountain roads, blasting down country lanes or simply cruising at a leisurely pace with the sea on one side and open fields on the other, the XK is also capable of providing excessive thrust should the need arise thanks to the availability of a 385 horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8 and a 510 horsepower, supercharged edition of the same motor. A slick six-speed automatic transmission sends the coupe's output to the rear wheels.
The 2011 Lotus Evora is one of those rare sports cars that commands its owners not to simply drive down the highway, but to fly low. Few environments are as conducive to these types of pseudo-aeronautical exploits as the flat desert plains that dot the American landscape, where the uniformity of the terrain dares pilots to push their rides right up to the speed governor. The Lotus Evora features a 3.5-liter, 276 horsepower V-6 engine and the option of a supercharged 3.5-liter V-6 that turns things up a notch to 345 horses and 295 lb-ft of torque. Combined with its range of six-speed transmission choices (manual and automatic), the Evora's power plant selection and 162-mph top speed make it an obvious choice for staying under the radar.
The 2011 Land Rover Range Rover provides a complete toolbox for taking the party off the beaten path and exploring the frontier. The Land Rover Range Rover comes with something called the Terrain Response system, which offers specialized settings for the SUV's brakes, throttle, and traction control system to handle surfaces as diverse as rocks, mud, grass and snow. The system can even help to launch the Range Rover on sand in order to prevent excessive wheel spin. Full-time four-wheel drive is standard, and with two 5.0-liter V-8 engine options producing 385 and 510 horsepower, respectively, the Land Rover has enough muscle to force its way through even the most inhospitable driving conditions.
The sections of the Autobahn where the speed restrictions are lifted and the adrenaline begins to flow are the true test of a sport sedan's mettle. The 2011 Jaguar XF, which represents the British brand's chief competitor to its mid-size Teutonic rivals, features not one but three models capable of pinning the speedometer should its dominance be challenged on the blacktop. The standard XF comes with a 385 horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8 while the XF Supercharged slaps a blower onto that motor to produce 470 horses. The king of the hill is the Jaguar XFR, which turns up the boost to crank out 510 ponies and 461 lb-ft of twist from the 5.0-liter unit. Each engine is shifted via six-speed automatic transmission, and the vehicle's top speed is limited to a heady 155-mph.
The 2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque - the newest member of the Range Rover family - has been specifically designed to offer urban dwellers a practical, luxurious and visually striking SUV option. The Land Rover Range Rover Evoque can be had in four-door and exclusive two-door editions, the latter a rarity amongst crossover vehicles. Its compact, coupe-like shape conceals 51 cubic feet of total cargo space, and its adjustable suspension system, full-time four-wheel drive and 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine (offering 240 horsepower) allow the Evoque to hold its own when the weather turns nasty - or when it's time to venture outside of the city limits for a little mudding.