I told my mother I moved over there for a job opportunity but it was really a rouse. I moved over there to buy a track car and drive on the famous tracks of Europe. In my travels from manufacturers’ own test tracks to Nurburgring, I met what I came to realize are the real British people – serious gear heads. Nick was one of these gear heads. He is a guy that had just had a baby but was still able to convince Mrs. Nick that the family needed a two-seat 2000-pound track car for the weekends.Stuart was another story entirely. He spoke the Queen’s English but rather than driving, he spent his time kitting out his garage with a wheel and pulley system. This setup enabled him to remove the hard top from his convertible without leaving the driver’s seat.
Then there was Bo. A Danish transplant from London who had come for the technology and finance industries only to terrorize the sea of right hand drive econoboxes with his left hand drive car. With all this car hype, there was one thing missing. Not one person I met owned a Jaguar. Before I moved across the pond, I thought most British people would own a Jaguar. To my dismay, this was not the case and it was only until after I moved back to the states that I was determined to find out why. I started with the obvious. Unreliability. The very day I picked up this snazzy track car, it was raining. However, the real surprise was a very leaky roof on my day old car. Upon pressing the manufacturer, (who shall remain nameless) they claimed the car was sold as ‘watertight’ and not ‘waterproof’ and therefore this malfunction was acceptable (I still have the letter to prove it). Painful then and funny now, this type of explanation just doesn’t apply to Jaguars of late.
From 1999 until last year, Jaguar’s caretaker was Ford and aside from sending blank checks, their mission was to dispel the myth that Jaguars will leave you on the side of the road. I made a visit to the TVR showroom and the salesman’s best pitch for his car was: “As long as you are comfortable with this car leaving you on the side of the road at least once a year, then you are a TVR man”. Considering that TVR is no longer with us and Jaguar is I would say mission accomplished. Could it be the cars? Are they too bland compared to what Nick, Stuart and Bo were driving? To answer that question, I spent a week with the latest XK Coupe. Let’s start with what is very British about the car. There is so much elegant wood and leather in this car. I was grateful and in shock that when the car was dropped off it had a whopping 17 miles on the odometer. I overdosed on so much suede, calfskin and burled walnut that I checked into Betty Ford a day after returning the car.
After the initial high, I began to notice some very un-Jaguar and even un-British things. There was a whole lot of whiz bang technology. The most obvious is the gear shifter pilfered from the XF. There is about as much a gearshift as tofu is comfort food. What you have is a big round knob that pops up upon ignition from a flush yet beautifully finished aluminum console. From what I can figure, this is Jaguar’s way of duplicating the pageantry of the changing of the guards for the subjects in the colonies. From there you just turn your way to a gear and go. For the likes of Nick, Stuart and Bo, there are paddle shifts on the steering wheel that allow real Brits to manually change gears of the new six speed automatic. And that is where our story comes full circle. When you start manipulating paddles up or down you realize something wicked. A new 385 horsepower V8. This engine and transmission combination has transformed the base – if you can really call it that – XK. Yes, there is a 510 hp supercharged model on the market but that is a story for another day. There are really two personalities with the XK Coupe. The first persona of the car will have you rolling down Kings Road on one of the two days of British summer enjoying the relaxed pace of one elegant cat.