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Amici americani della Mille Miglia
ARTICLES BY MARTIN SWIG
NN
Martin Swig has his own column in the San Francisco
NOB HILL GAZETTE called WHEELS

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The Golden Age of Automobiles is NOW

If you drive the 2008 Jaguar XKR coupe, and then think back over all the great Jaguars of the past, you must conclude that this is the greatest one of all time.

For under $100,000, it’s sensational looking, offers supercar performance from its 420 hp supercharged V8, is silky smooth, and proven reliable.  This Jaguar offers a rare combination of often non-compatible qualities.  Typically, a really hot car is noisy and so-so reliable.  Or the emphasis on performance leaves creature comforts overlooked.  The Jaguar people didn’t let that happen.

A refreshing red, rather than the all-too-common silver, gray or black that so many cars use today, the Jaguar had a beautifully tailored caramel leather interior.  They’ve eliminated an ignition key, which you may or may not like, but once you push-button start the engine, there’s no doubt what this car’s designers intended.  It’s not super silent; rather there’s a very satisfying clean mechanical sound that’s just audible.  When you mash the throttle, be aware of how fast the speed builds, because it’s all so rapid and smooth that 80-90-100 mph comes up as easily as 50-60-70 in many cars.

This car sits on huge, wide tires intended to enhance traction and road holding, which they do.  What they avoid is creating excessive noise or harshness in the ride.  There’s also virtually no tram-lining.  Another example of reconciling conflicting demands in classical Jaguar style.

This car can be a man’s car, or a ladies, unlike many of today’s models that only appeal to one-half the population.  Example:  when’s the last time you saw a male driving a VW Cabriolet?

Another car that came our way recently was a 2008 Infiniti G37S coupe, a car that shares many of the Jaguar’s qualities, if not its feline grace.

While the Lexus seems to split the difference between a Cadillac and a Mercedes, an Infiniti is a different animal.  It’s a BMW-style car in driving, but the best of contemporary Japanese in appearance.  And, as with most Japanese cars, the Infiniti offers unequalled reliability and longevity.

Our test car was a handsome red, with black leather.  While the Jaguar has 420 horsepower, this Infiniti offers 306, in a lighter car, with a six-speed manual transmission.  As a result, it’s also in the almost supercar league from a performance standpoint.  At around $40,000, it was one of those cars with a broad range of capability, along with a price that might cause you to buy one.

The Next Big Thing

How about a small, luxurious, and fairly expensive little car?  The Mini has taken the world by storm.  It’s the smallest car sold in the US, but it’s spacious enough, fast enough, and cute enough to find 3,000 buyers every month.  Additional models are coming, and you might find yourself lusting after one.

Or maybe you’ll want a SMART.  You’ve probably seen them in Europe.  Really cute, and you can park “nose-in” to the curb.  It’s that short.  And it’s coming to the US in 2008.

Toyota just exhibited their cleverly named IQ, another mini city car that likely will be produced, so there will be at least three competitors in this new class of cars.

If they all become popular, we’ll need “in-between” meter spaces – bigger than those for motorcycles and smaller than normal car spaces.  I hope they offer more than six minutes for a quarter!

 

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