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New Vehicle Review

Road Impressions: Jaguar On A Roll
Andrew Frankl - European Bureau Chief

SEE ALSO: Jaguar Buyer's Guide

Question: What do you do when you have major news just a few months ahead but still want to keep in touch with the motoring press?

Well, take Jaguar for instance. They had their new secret weapon, the 4x4 X type in the wings but felt that showing it too soon before full production would be ill-advised. So, in the case of the North American Press they organized a test day at Willows Spring near Edwards Air Force base in California for all their cars that are currently on sale.

 As they did not have new product, it was more an exercise in reassurance, an exercise to tell us about the on-going quality improvements and about minor but important changes such Brembo break systems with aluminum four pot callipers front and rear with huge cross-drilled discs. I tried these on the new XKR Silverstone edition. As the allocation for the United States is precisely 250 cars all told I don't want you to get too excited unless you've already paid your deposit. Still, having driven the "basic" XK8 let me assure you that it has plenty of go as my speeding ticket will you save 25 or so thousand dollars.

We had a fascinating lecture the day before we drove to the track by a gentleman whom I somewhat unkindly christened Mr. Airbag. He was offended at first but after I've explained that it was indeed meant as a compliment he accepted it with good grace. What he and his team invented was and is truly fascinating. Called Adaptive Restraint Technology System or ARTS for short it uses a sophisticated network of sensors. Without going into all the technical details the bottom-if you pardon the expression- line is that if your Mother in Law weighs 250 pounds the sensors will adjust to the appropriate level of airbag employment. I would be a hypocrite if I were to pretend that all the conversation was about airbag employment.

 The impending arrival of the small car was the main topic. Whilst we could all appreciate that the new baby Jag had to be launched with due pomp and ceremony I did think that the British Auto Show held just a few miles from Jaguar's H.Q. in Coventry would have been the suitable venue bearing in mind that official photos were distributed a couple of days after the Show closed. I just felt that for something as quintessentially British as a Jaguar-regardless of its parentage- England, Britain would have been THE place for it to be seen first even if only as a display on a rostrum. I appreciate that at Hailwood-a former very troubled Ford plant- where the new car will be built there is a "Green Blood" campaign going on to absorb the workers in the Jaguar culture I still think that a day trip to the Show with "their" car as a star exhibit would have been worth a hundred lectures.

Still, at the end of the day what matters is the car. I hope to drive it in the Spring , in the meantime this is what I can tell you. It will compete against some of the best cars in the World, namely the new C class Mercedes, BMW's 3 series and the new Audi A4. Jaguar could not have picked tougher opposition if they'd tried. To improve their chances Jaguar's X type will enter the battle in permanent 4 wheel drive configuration. There will be 2 engines, both V6s, a 2.5 litre and a 3 litre, derivatives of the AJ-V6 from the highly successful S-type. Production of the new car will double Jaguar sales, the company are hoping to shift 200 thousand cars per annum versus 85 thousand that they are selling currently.

If Dr. Wolfgang Reitzle, boss of Ford Motor Company's Premier Group is right then the baby Jag will have a bright future. According to him spending power is increasing worldwide for more expensive, more sophisticated cars. As he recently pointed out-the new Mercedes C class is a huge success and yet it is not taking customers away from BMW's award winning 3 series. One thing is for certain. When the new X type enters the fray it will be a battle royal!

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