"This is a beautiful car!" said the hulk of a man, as he leaned down into my window to better survey the interior - with his right hand on the gun on his hip. Not again. Another speeding ticket in a Jaguar XK. "How's your record?" he asked.
You know, I learned a long time ago to never, never lie to The Man. For one thing, this particular Jag - a stunning frost blue 2007 XK coupe from our Four Seasons test fleet - was graced with manufacturer plates from New Jersey and registration in the name of the Ford Motor Company. The inevitable truth about my sordid career would out, so I might as well fess up. For the double whammy, he had computer access to my crimes.
I dove right in. "Oh, I have an incredibly robust lifetime achievement in speed," I told him cheerfully. "But I've been pretty clean this year." It was a tiny white lie based on the hope that either he wouldn't check the Bad Deeds Register or that the zero-point ticket I'd received earlier this year wouldn't reveal the fact that I had been going faster than cited.
Then I launched into the two-sentence version of my life story and its 100,000 miles a year of driving. He liked it. "Let's see if I can help you," he said. That's all you can hope for in Michigan. Even the state police keep running out of gas money and have fine-tuned their methods of extracting maximum dollars for minimum effort. There would be a ticket.
"I wrote you for five over," he said. "Find the cruise control and try to keep it under eighty."
I knew I loved this car.
So why doesn't everyone else?
Of course we know why. The reality of past mortal sins (many and varied) has come that close to killing a brand that was once a shining star in the firmament of great marques. As former magazine contributor Michael Jordan wrote, "It is impossible to overstate the enormous impact [Jaguar] had on American car culture. In the context of the tall, thick-waisted American cars of the time, a Jaguar looked dramatically different. It was light, lithe, and elegant. While American cars embraced chrome and plastic, Jaguar used traditional natural materials such as wood and leather. A Jaguar's graceful proportions and warm, humane interior expressed the finest traditions of English design."
Then it went down the crapper. I say Jaguar is on the ascendancy, even over the hump. The gifted Ian Callum, Jaguar's design chief, penned the Aston Martin DB7, a seminal design that lives on in every Aston since. With the XK, Callum has stirred the emotions of an amazing cross-section of American drivers, beginning right here at Automobile Magazine. Our XK's logbook is jammed with contradictory notes: The interior is claustrophobic; it's not claustrophobic. There's no trunk space; there's a ton of room in the trunk. The interior is crappy; the interior is luxurious and well-crafted. The XK is dumpy-looking; the XK is gorgeous. The XK is not special to drive; the XK has an exceptional ride/handling balance and one of the best automatic transmissions ever built.
The upshot: Don't want to like this car; really, really like this car.
There is no such ambiguity on the street. Lovely Rita, queen of our parking garage, is jaded by our exotic fleet but always moved to admire the XK. A man walks zombielike into traffic to get to us so that he can ask what we're driving. An old woman sends her son our way at the gas pump to ask the same question. "Jag," we say. "Jag," she repeats, nodding approval. Valet parkers everywhere want it. "Oh, my God, that's the new Jag!" says a twenty-year old walking by. "Seriously hot!"
Beauty alone won't save Jaguar, so let's add the fact that it ranked first in the 2007 J. D. Power and Associates Customer Service Index with the highest score ever recorded and also ranked first for the third year in a row in the Sales Satisfaction Index.
Ford's sale of Jaguar looms, and we pray. We pray for a savior that shares the same passion for Jaguar that its boss, Mike O'Driscoll, and its devoted chief designer, Callum, hold dear. We have seen glimpses of Jags to come, enough to believe that Jaguar is worthy of our fidelity.