With carmakers on the ropes, lifesavers come in different flavors.
The names Buick, Cadillac and Jaguar once conjured a certain prestige
within the automotive hierarchy, in roughly that order. Cars bearing these
badges were desired for their luxury and engineering and, perhaps more
importantly, for the dignity they conferred upon owners.
Today, these three flagship brands have leaky hulls, and their
respective manufacturers are bailing water. In terms of year-to-year sales (as of
July 2006), Jaguar is selling 30 percent fewer cars this year, Buick 20
percent fewer cars and Cadillac 14 percent fewer cars. It's an inglorious
slide to the bottom that can only partially be blamed on circumstances beyond
the 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 you
spring a leak en route, you'd better bung it up with the best plug you
can devise. Buick's Lucerne sedan, Cadillac's STS sedan and Jaguar's XK
coupe and roadster are all being heralded as Renaissance flagships by their
respective manufacturers. They may well be just that in glossy
promotional literature; but only if they stanch the water leaking into their hulls
will they truly succeed.
Jaguar's new XK Coupe is "gorgeous" in spite of, not because of, the
silly advertising campaign that's boasting as much in the glossy pages of
Vogue and Vanity Fair. Jaguar's pair of XKs a coupe and a roadster are
the beautiful children of beautiful parents. Just look, if it's proof you
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 65
percent over the model it replaces. But for a car that will probably sell fewer
than 5,000 models this year, that's hardly enough to lift Jaguar out of the
deep fat fryer.
That's because the new 300-hp Jaguar XK is magnificent when it needs
to be revolutionary. Yes, the interior represents that thoroughly English
expression of the lap of luxury; but the rear seats are still no larger
than handbags, and rear visibility is positively a threat to bodywork in the
urban battlefield. With Jaguar's very future on the line, the new XK
is a croquet response to an iPod challenge; and it may just be too late to
4-pass., 2-door; RWD, 4.2-liter V8 w/ vvt, 6-sp. auto; 300 hp/310
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/head
airbags, DVD navigation: $83,175