Friday, March 28, 2008
Yet another post about cars.
Regular readers of this blog (and you know who you are, all two of you) will know that I often rattle on about sports cars, usually of the expensive, red and Italian variety. And with spring apparently just around the corner, despite the dire warnings of Canada's leading weather guru, the watch is on for all those prancing horses to leave their stables and start prowling around the highways and byways of the Greater Toronto Area.* So far, the best I can report is a silver convertible BMW 650i, seen today not a hundred yards from my home, its top resolutely up against the cold. And the usual selection of Porsche 911 variants, which people seem to insist on driving year-round in these parts.
But this post is about something much more important in the world of high-performance, luxury cars, or at least in the world of companies that used to make them. I'm talking about Jaguar. Dear old Jag, which has apparently been bought by the Indian car maker Tata Motors. The same company that will happily sell you, your neighbour, and several million other people in your immediate vicinity a car for $2,500 US, if their press hype is to be believed.
Now, I'm not sure that the sale of such a storied franchise as Jaguar to Tata is necessarily a bad thing, despite the dubious ethics around the idea of replacing as many rickshaws, bicycles, and ox-carts as possible worldwide with low-cost automobiles. Imagine Beijing, or Bombay, or Manila, with twenty or thirty thousand additional vehicles on the street. Or Toronto, for that matter. But maybe this purchase will be good for dear old Jag. After all, the once-proud marque has been languishing in the arms of the Ford Motor Company since 1989, and while I initially thought the introduction of the low-cost X-type was a brilliant ploy catering to the entry-level luxury car market, most buyers seem to have pretty quickly decided that competing offerings from Acura, Lexus and BMW were more attractive. Ford's styling of the S-type, which looks like a smoothed-out Lincoln, and the tediously boring Camaro knock-off that is the XK, probably didn't help. And Ford's penchant for bolting superchargers onto just about everything, from the Mustang to the mighty GT, just seems silly when applied to the Jaguar XJ Super V8. Why they can't get back to basics and build a nice, high-performance, normally aspirated Jaguar supercar, I don't know. Although, truth be told, they had the chance much, much earlier with the V12 XJ220 concept, and backed away then too, replacing it with a silly, silly six-cylinder twin-turbocharged powerplant instead, housed in a chassis roughly the size of Gibraltar.
So where does this leave Jaguar, once the envy of the sports car world with their tremendous, sexy, E-type? Even though Ford did get back to classic styling cues with the XJ series, will Tata once again make a glorious, luxury saloon car that British aristocracy would love to own? Will there ever again be a wonderful GT sports car like the lovely, classy XJS? Let's hope so. I'd love to see a few driving around these parts, next time spring rolls around.
*I apologize for the atrociously mixed metaphor - prowling horses and all that. Ah well.