Once, my Grandfather let me drive his 70's-era Jaguar XJ6; the windows were gun-slits, the throttle was stiff and the steering heavy, but it was every bit a Jag. Like this one. It's my newly-purchased 1999 Jaguar XJR.
Want and need are powerful motivators when it comes to buying cars. Need is practical, frugal, calculating and logical. It's what makes people buy cars like the Toyota Camry and Chevy Malibu. It's why comparison charts and crash test ratings and Consumer Reports exists. When people need something, they want it to be the best possible choice for them. Want on the other hand is Need's dumb but passionate brother.
Want makes you read the latest automotive buff book cover-to-cover when you're not even old enough to drive. It makes you go to car shows and take pictures in parking lots and endlessly lust over dream machines in the classifieds. It makes you comment for hours on forums and here. It makes you rationalize the irrational. When the 2010 Jaguar XJ debuted, it reminded me of my powerful want. Want finally overcame Need for me, and I bought my dream machine, a 1999 Jaguar XJR. Black. Oatmeal interior. Asteroid wheels.
It's a funny thing about a car you've festishized for the better part of a decade. Once you actually buy it, it almost feels wrong. You keep peeking out the window to make sure it's still there and you didn't just dream the whole thing up. It makes my other car, a rather nice though recently naughty Audi A4 look positively pedestrian. It's low, it's long, it's wide and it's sinister, and I couldn't be happier.
The wonderful thing about Jaguar is its history, for two reasons. First, Jag's got a reputation for building beautiful, fast, comfortable and expensive cars loaded to the gills with all that is British. It's also known as the heart of darkness when it comes to reliability, suffering at the hands of Joe Lucas and shoddy quality at times. The latter is arguably the more important of the two, as it's the one which makes buying a new Jag a terrible investment proposition. There are few things more horrifying than the depreciation on a new Jaguar. The quality of Jaguars skyrocketed under Ford ownership throughout the last 20 years, while the lingering stink of poor reliability means depreciation makes them plummet in value. Good for me.
At 96,000 miles this car is no spring chicken, though it spent most of its life doing executive company car service and getting regular maintenance, and it shows, the car is in nearly flawless condition. Its original five spoke wheels where replaced with the much more desirable 7-spoke "Asteroid" wheels but aside from that, it's completely original. A multi-point Jaguar dealer inspection found nothing wrong with the car and the only thing preventing showroom quality is a popped seam on the lower cushion of the drivers' seat (which will be tended to shortly).
When you roll along with traffic, nobody knows you've got a supercharged 4.0 liter V8 packing a walloping 370 HP and 387 lb-ft of torque, nobody needs to. At 5.3 seconds 0-60 MPH, it'll match a BMW M5 of the same vintage, even up to the 155 MPH speed limiter, it can keep up through the twisties, though the softer springing and heftier weight requires more involvement. Its rear headroom is terrible and its trunk space is scant, on the road the car betrays its long heritage as it's more flexible over jarring bumps than some of the more recently designed contemporaries. What the Jag has and no BMW ever will is the fact that it's a Jag. At speed, it is smooth and stealthy, it draws a taut line between menace and pussycat, naturally. To me, it is the ultimate blend of beauty, power, performance, refinement, and almost as important as all the others combined, character. I look forward to enjoying it.