Emotion is Jaguar’s heritage
By Lou Ann Hammond, Tue, 1 Jun 2004 08:00:00 PDT
As the rocket blasts into outer space there is a person on earth, becoming a speck in an astronauts eye. A person that is driving a Jaguar XKR convertible 390-horsepower 4.2 liter V-8 that feels more secure in their drivers seat than the strapped in astronaut on his way to the moon.
What could Jaguar have done to the coupe that I am driving that makes it worth $94,495? The funny part about this car, is that the owners don't want you to do too much. Jaguar is built on heritage. That heritage is so emotional to Jaguar owners that if the car is changed too much the Queen gets nasty letters. Ford may own Jaguar, but they're smart enough not to piss off the one arm that actually rose in sales last month, from the previous year.
I've had the pleasure of having an ale or two with Ian Callum, Director of Design, Jaguar cars and he is passionate about design. Callum understands the Jaguar mystique. " The XK8 is a very pure design. For this new version I wanted to add a little more character...to revive its essential presence."
Callum has designed a more aggressive feline stance. A barracuda like grille, deeper front and rear bumpers. A quick glance at the two tailpipes will tell you it is an XK8, four and you've got yourself a supercharged XKR.
There is a new trick device that has no place in a Jaguar. It's called an Automatic Speed limiter. I suppose cruise control in a Jaguar is not a bad thing, though I don't know a single Jag owner that uses them. The bad part is the obnoxious noise this thing makes when you come up on another car. First, let me say, if you're driving a car and you aren't paying enough atttention to know that there is a car in front of you I don't want you on the road. Secondly, this is not a feature that enhances Jaguars heritage. Understated, discreet sounds. This sound is so foreign in a Jag it sounds like rap music at an opera.
I'd get the wheels, though. The wheels make the car. There are three options, 18-inch Aris, 19-inch Atlas, 20-inch BBS Sepang wheels. The 20-inchers were my favorite.
I do love their new wind shield wipers. Like I said, discreet. No blast of water on your windshield right in front of your eyes. Jaguar has created a waterfall wiper that cascades through the wiper onto the windshield.
My driving buddy, Marc Stengel, notes the original sound of the blinker. It's not a whiny high-toned sound, but an earthy, woody, natural sound. The sound one remembers in the movie Pinocchio, where Geppeto is lovingly creating Pinocchio with his wooden mallet.
Marc and I are driving through Dell country, Austin Texas that is. People who work for Dell are referred to as Dellionares. On this particular day, the cops must have thought there was a two-for-one split on Dell stock. The hills were alive with the dulcit tones of a lovely supercharged V-8 rolling through the hills and backroads of Austin Texas. We were one of the lucky ones that didn't get a "talking to." Now really, does a cop have to pull over three different Jaguars and give them all a warning? If he had wanted to make an impression on us he would have given at least one of us a ticket. I find it highly suspect that he pulled over a Jaguar XKR convertible, a Jaguar XKR coupe and a Jaguar S-Type R. Sadly, like most the journalists driving the cars, he realizes that this is as close as he is going to get to owning a $94K car.
If you've seen the movie "Space Cowboys" you've met Alain De Cadenet, the lead commentator on Speedvision. Alain would be the Donald Sutherland character. Did I say character? Indeed, character. Alain, and probably Donald, got into their careers for the love of women. It's not politically correct anymore to admit that you love women and would risk life and limb to impress them, but that is part of the charm of Alain. He doesn't pretend to be politically correct, which is rare and appreciated, in front of a group of journalists starving for a story that hasn't been touched up for the screen. Every story told was woven with tales of broken bones, crashed cars and ill-gotten romances.
Before you write Alain off as a womanizer, you have to remember that he was incredibly good at what he did. Racing cars, I mean. Alain raced in fifteen Lemans races, in succession. He knows a great car when he drives one. According to Alain, "I have two test for every car I drive. The first is the sharp corner. I rev it up to about 120 miles per hour, turn it into a sharp curve, back off the gas giving it a neutral trailing throttle. Then I put the gas back on. If the back wants to come out, that's not good." That is a standard test of mine as well, so I was feeling a kindred race car driver spirit till he told me the second test. "The second test is done on a long straight road. I'm still going about 120 MPH, I take my hands off the steering wheel, step on the brakes. If it doesn't swerve, that is a good car."
I may not be able to drive like Alain De Cadenet and I won't be trying his second test anytime soon, but we both agree. The XKR is a beautiful machine.