Text: Bam Santiago Olivares / Photos: Bam Santiago Olivares | posted September 18, 2006 00:00
Founded as the Swallow Sidecar Company in 1922 by two motorcycle enthusiasts, William Lyons and William Walmsley, the Jaguar name first appeared on a 2.5 litre saloon in 1935. This name was given to the entire company in 1935. Jaguar made its name in the 1950s with a series of elegantly-styled sports cars and luxury saloons. The company bought the Daimler car company in 1960 from Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA). From the late 1960s, Daimler was used as a brand name for Jaguar's most luxurious saloons. Jaguar merged with the British Motor Corporation (BMC), the Austin-Morris combine, to form the British Motor Holdings (BMH) in 1966. After merging with Leyland and Rover the resultant company then became British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC) in 1968. Jaguar cars gained something of a reputation for unreliability during the 1970s and 1980s, however this has improved considerably in the last 20 years. In 1989 the Ford Motor Company purchased BLMC and since then, the Jaguar's reliability and build improved dramatically, even surpassing that of Audi and Mercedes Benz in the J.D. Power Customer Satisfaction Survey.
In 1997, Jaguar Cars, Inc. became the exclusive distributor of Jaguar cars in the Philippines. Headed by Mr. Wellington Soong, the company features Jaguar models such as the X-type, S-type, XJ, Daimler, and XK.
What makes these Jaguar cars so special? I got to test the Jaguar XJ8L in particular and got a good idea on why it was hailed number one in the 2003 Top Gear Survey. For one thing, the vehicle ran immensely well, considering the powerful 4.2 liter V8 engine with 300 BHP and 310 DIN Lb ft matched with a 6 speed transmission. According to specs, limited top speed is 250 km/h and 0-100 km/hr acceleration is at 6.6 seconds. When driven at high speeds and when cornering at tight turns, the traction control system worked overtime together with the Anti-lock brake system. To obtain better stopping power I had to depress the brake pedal further down.
Driving on "sports mode" made the engine rev on maximum capacity and made the air suspension stiffen. On normal or "comfort mode", the engine revved less when the Jaguar XJ8L up-shifted, and the air suspension softened. Mark Soong of Jaguar Cars Inc. briefed me on the technical aspects of the Jaguar XJ8L, particularly the unique and distinctly all new advance aluminum monocoque structure which is apparently light and exceptionally strong. The vehicle seemed to accelerate easily due to the lighter weight, though I observed that when running over a hump, the vehicle lurched a little but still retained that sound and stable feeling for the passenger.
I got the full Jaguar XJ8L experience from the moment I sat inside. The first thing I noticed was the enticing smell of genuine leather and wood. The second thing was the intricately designed dashboard with all the switches and buttons within reach. The dual zone air-conditioning available both in the front and the rear instantly cooled the vehicle's interior which was sound-proof. I could enjoy the drive in silence since the sounds from outside were muffled and muted. Interior space was definitely not skimped on—the Jaguar XJ8L has generously allotted space for legroom, headroom, and elbow room. Convenience for the passenger was well thought of since there were ample and easily accessible ashtrays, cup holders, 12-volt plugs for cell phones, laptops and other electronic gadgets. Each electric window could be rolled up or down with just one touch. Entertainment packages which include front headset monitors for the DVD are optional amenities.
Driving the Jaguar XJ8L has given me first hand knowledge on how it is like to drive like royalty. It's actually not very difficult picturing HRH in the Jaguar XJ8L—with me seated at the back, or must it be the other way around?