words: Stu Fowle

How many times have you heard someone poke fun at the current-generation Jaguar XK for having a Ford Taurus grille? If I had a nickel for each time, well, I could probably afford one. And I'd be happy with my purchase; the XK is a wonderful grand tourer, equally capable of both interstate dominance and winding-two-lane composure. Just as enjoyable is driving the XK through crowded downtowns, where the car's impressive chassis is overshadowed by its muscle-car growl and head-turning bodywork. I don't care what anyone says about the grille (it pays homage to the original E-type, you chuckleheads, not the Taurus) because this car gets as many adoring comments as I've ever heard.

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The problem — for Jaguar at least — is that no one knows what the XK is. The outstretched hood; slitted, fastback greenhouse; and wide shoulders are all traditional sports car, only with modern touches like big wheels and slabbed sides rather than panels that curve in like the last XK. They know it's both powerful and fast, they just don't know who builds it. In just the first day of driving, it was called an Aston Martin, a Maserati, and even a Mercedes. No one said "Hey, cool Jag." What's the deal? Are people just clueless or does it point to why Jaguar is in its current state?

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Britain's big cat faced a situation similar to Cadillac, having built memorable cars on into the Seventies before slipping into a depression of unreliability and dated designs. People forgot about Jaguar. The 2003 XJ fixed the engineering issues, but the slick aluminum spaceframe was disguised under the same old design details. The XK trumpets in a new era, but the world hasn't gotten the message — this car doesn't look twenty years old, so it obviously can't be a Jag.

Jaguar's making good, attractive cars again (just look at the XF), but the marketing department needs to catch up if the XK is going to have any hope of luring in Mercedes SL, Porsche 911, or BMW 6-series buyers. The emotion is back, but the sales aren't. And please, stop calling it a Taurus.

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