2012 Jaguar XF Supercharged Alaska Road Trip: The Plan
September 17, 2012
It all started innocently enough over coffee. There may have been bagels, too. My boss takes a swig, gets the same look as when he bought our Long Term Buick Grand National and says, "Porsche is having an event in Anchorage, Alaska. I think we should drive there. Do you have a few minutes today to look into this?"
"Awesome" isn't always the right response to your boss' query, but right then, it was all I had. It was better than "PICKMEPICKMEPICKME!"
But what was there to look into? Drive West and then North until people stop drinking milk out of bags and I can see Russia, right? Not quite.
The first stumbling block was one that, as Californias, we often take for granted: Pavement. "Is it even paved yet?" someone asked. They'd done the drive a couple of decades back and the Alaska Highway was mostly gravel. An unpaved road would severely limit our choice of vehicles.
This is when I discovered The Milepost. The Milepost is a one-stop resource for driving the Alaska Highway and the first question of their FAQ is "Is the Alaska Highway Paved." As it turns out, yes, they finished paving the Alaska Highway in 1992(!) and the worst you'll have to worry about are "gravel breaks" during road repair -- more on those beauties later.
So our 49th state is, in fact, connected to the rest of the U.S. by a paved road. Good news, there. But what of the actual route?
Until that day, my default map program was Google Maps. Unfortunately, if you try and connect Anchorage and Santa Monica, the Googles want you to take an annoyingly long (and unfortunately expensive) ferry up the coast. Ferries defeat the purpose of a road trip. This lead me to two startling realizations: 1) I had unintentionally become reliant on the internet for directions and 2) I was exclusively using Google. In turn, this brought about a stunning find: Mapquest still exists and is very, very good!
Thanks to Mapquest, I found two routes that would do the trick: One longer but quicker (61 hours, 30 minutes over 3,714 miles) route that would take us through Nevada, Utah, Montana, a bit of Idaho, Alberta, British Columbia and the Yukon. The other route, shorter but slower (64 hours, 30 minutes over 3,488 miles), is more inland and makes use of Interstate 5 and a non-divided two-lane through most of British Columbia.
The solution was, of course, to do both in one epic 7,202 mile loop. If you have to drive both ways, why take the same route?
Finally, there was the issue of services. According to Mapquest and the Milepost, there were services, usually, every 100 miles (or so) unless the station was closed, out of fuel or shut down for the season. With careful planning and a couple of gallons of gas in a jug, getting stranded shouldn't be a problem. We'd figure out food and lodging en route.
We have a number of cars in our fleet that would be good for this trip. Our A8L is a luxury missile with AWD, all-season rubber with fat sidewalls and an estimated cruising range of of 666.4 miles. Our nav-equipped Camry offers luxury trappings, a 595 mile range, 35 mpg highway rating and Toyota reliability. We've also got an Explorer XLT EcoBoost, an Infiniti JX and a BMW X3 in our fleet. Those would all make very good, very safe options.
But we chose our 2012 Jaguar XF Supercharged.
With a big, supercharged V8. With a 21-mpg EPA estimate that we've never come close to. With staggered-width 20-inch summer performance tires with no sidewall and a temporary spare. With very little ground clearance and sport suspension. With a relatively small interior and 17.7 cubic-feet of trunk space. With the perception of Jaguar reliability and, at our furthest, being 2,000 miles from a Jaguar dealer.
Why? Because if our Jag can make it, so can pretty much anything else.
To follow this road trip, either obsessively monitor the Long Term Road Test Blog home page, or check this handy link to the 2012 Jaguar XF.
Mike Magrath, Features Editor