Miami Heat: BMW M6, Jaguar XKR, and Porsche 911 Carrera S Convertibles

Brian Konoske

All three of these cars make music. The Jag, with its active exhaust, builds from a bellow to a sizzling high-rpm crackle, with a healthy dose of supercharger shriek harmonizing with the chorus at wide-open throttle. The M6 sounds the most exotic, simply because you don't hear a wailing V-10 every day. It's particularly fun when the engine burbles with random bass notes as you abruptly lift the throttle. The Porsche makes its signature flat-six grumble, which sounds like a bag of walnuts in a clothes dryer. Somehow, that's really fine, too.

Finally, a police helicopter takes notice of our party, and we mosey along before the ground units show up. Soon this space will become Museum Park, site of two new mu- seums. The public will return, and this waterfront property will probably be considered beautiful. I think it's beautiful the way it is now.

After three days with these cars, I've reached a few conclusions. The XKR, for example, forces you to review your priorities. In this group, it frankly comes off as a bit soft. But consider what buyers actually do with a car like this, and you find that the Jag is built to perform the exact duties to which it will likely find itself consigned. Your golf clubs fit in the trunk, it has cosseting seats, and, in a pinch, Biff and Tiff can fit in the back for the short run down to the club. It's not slow, either. Blasting into traffic at full throttle on the Causeway, the Jag threatens to eat the 911 whole, despite its nominally slower zero-to-sixty time. Out beyond the Jaguar's flight deck-cum-hood, I can hear the Porsche flat-six's plaintive wail to redline, and yet I have to back off the XKR's throttle for fear of ingesting the Carrera S.

One of the Jag's problems is that its predecessor was a major step forward in every respect--power, styling, quality. The new car represents progress in terms of the driving experience, but it's a step sideways, at best, aesthetically. If European pedestrian safety standards are truly to blame for the bluntness of the Jag's front end, then I have a bone to pick with European pedestrians. (I'd hit a few of them just to make that chunky snout worth it, but it's so hard to tell which ones are European.)

The other issue for the XKR is its relationship to Ford. This is underscored one day on Collins Avenue, when a passerby eyes the parked XKR and asks his friend, "Is that a Mustang?" Incredulous on the Jag's behalf, I inform him that he's looking at a Jaguar XKR. He replies, "Well . . . Ford owns Jaguar, though, right?" I'm surprised that someone who can't tell a Mustang from an XK knows that Ford owns Jaguar. That speaks to the problem when volume companies swallow up premium brands--people's perceptions work in only one direction. Nobody buys a Ford because of some trickle-down halo from Jaguar, yet it's possible that people like Miami Mustang Man might avoid a Jag because they associate it with Ford. That's why there should be no Ford cost-cutting evident in the XKR's interior--it only reinforces the stigma. To that end, please, Jaguar, get rid of the cheap column stalks and the plastic shift paddles. Plastic paddles belong in kayaks, not Jaguars.

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