Marc K. Stengel, Wed, 28 Feb 2007 08:00:00 PDT
With carmakers on the ropes, lifesavers come in different flavors.The names Buick, Cadillac and Jaguar once conjured a certain prestigewithin the automotive hierarchy, in roughly that order. Cars bearing thesebadges were desired for their luxury and engineering and, perhaps moreimportantly, for the dignity they conferred upon owners.
Today, these three flagship brands have leaky hulls, and theirrespective manufacturers are bailing water. In terms of year-to-year sales (as ofJuly 2006), Jaguar is selling 30 percent fewer cars this year, Buick 20percent fewer cars and Cadillac 14 percent fewer cars. It's an ingloriousslide to the bottom that can only partially be blamed on circumstances beyondthe carmakers' control.
After all, not only are certain Asian and European manufacturers positively thriving, many are doing so in precisely the same prestige categories where Buick, Cadillac and Jaguar formerly excelled. The ideal time to caulk, of course, is before setting sail. But if youspring a leak en route, you'd better bung it up with the best plug youcan devise. Buick's Lucerne sedan, Cadillac's STS sedan and Jaguar's XKcoupe and roadster are all being heralded as Renaissance flagships by theirrespective manufacturers. They may well be just that in glossypromotional literature; but only if they stanch the water leaking into their hullswill they truly succeed.
Jaguar's new XK Coupe is "gorgeous" in spite of, not because of, thesilly advertising campaign that's boasting as much in the glossy pages ofVogue and Vanity Fair. Jaguar's pair of XKs a coupe and a roadster arethe beautiful children of beautiful parents. Just look, if it's proof youneed.
Others agree. Even at a base price for the coupe tested here of $74,835 and for the roadster at $80,835, the new XK is boosting sales by some 65percent over the model it replaces. But for a car that will probably sell fewerthan 5,000 models this year, that's hardly enough to lift Jaguar out of thedeep fat fryer.
That's because the new 300-hp Jaguar XK is magnificent when it needsto be revolutionary. Yes, the interior represents that thoroughly Englishexpression of the lap of luxury; but the rear seats are still no largerthan handbags, and rear visibility is positively a threat to bodywork in theurban battlefield. With Jaguar's very future on the line, the new XKis a croquet response to an iPod challenge; and it may just be too late toreboot.
4-pass., 2-door; RWD, 4.2-liter V8 w/ vvt, 6-sp. auto; 300 hp/310ft.-lbs.;18 mpg/city, 27 mpg/hwy., w/ premium; trunk: 10.6 cu. ft.; base price:$74,835; as-tested, incl. 4-wheel ind. susp. & ABS disc brakes, 20-in.wheels, leather & burl, dual-zone auto HVAC, AM/FM/6CD, front/side/headairbags, DVD navigation: $83,175