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Gordon Mott

My Dream Car

Posted: Apr 9, 2007 10:05am ET
“Beautiful is more difficult than different.” If you think about that for a second, it’s a pretty profound statement. And it came from an automobile designer. Not just any designer, but a man named Ian Callum, who is the chief design engineer at Jaguar. I was at dinner with him last week, partly because I still remember my first teenage car fantasies that focused on the original XKE series from the early 1960s. I thought it was the most beautiful car in the world. And I wanted to meet the man responsible for its resurrection.

Over the years, I had watched as the XK series morphed into an automobile that I knew I wouldn’t like. For the record, I’ve owned cars such as a 3 Series BMW, when I lived in France with my wife, to a long series of Audi A6s in recent years. The Audis have been great family cars, reliable and safe for those long, weekend trips to my daughter’s soccer tournaments all over the East Coast. And, as executive editor of this magazine, I get to test-drive all kinds of different cars. I usually focus on the various sports cars that make it into the press fleets. (Yes, auto manufacturers have cars designated for the media.) It’s been fun: a Lamborghini here, a Bentley there, and my favorite on the unaffordable list, the Aston Martin Vantage. All in all, they’ve kept my sports car addiction at bay.

But then there was a moment about a year ago when I saw the new Jaguar XK. At first, I thought, “Wow, that’s the closest they’ve come to matching the beauty of the old XKE.” I remembered quickly, however, that the previous XK model looked pretty good, but it was more a luxury coupe than a sports car. I couldn’t wait to try the new car out. Last summer and fall, I drove both the regular XK and the new XKR, a high-powered version of the XK.

Not only did both cars live up to my sports car desires, but they didn’t disappoint my teenage fantasies about the XK. They were fast. They were comfortable. And they had the requisite head-turning “wow” factor that any boy loves.

Sitting next to Mr. Callum, hearing him talk about his design philosophies and his desire to keep reshaping Jaguar into a twenty-first-century icon, reaffirmed that sometimes a car can be more than just a shaped piece of metal with an engine in it. For a man who claims the Aston DB7 as his design—remember the Dunhill DB7 with a built-in humidor—Mr. Callum has done as much as any current car designer to put beauty back into the automotive world equation. He likes his cars to be striking, too, but he doesn’t just want them to be noticed for being different… they have to be beautiful too.

Wait until you see the new XF series!!!

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