Costly Jaguar is a silky smooth performer, but a little fussy at times

The very name Jaguar sparks immediate recognition, whether a motorist has ever driven one r not. In short, it bespeaks a charisma which few automobiles hint at, much less achieve. Yet the "Jag" is mechanically fussy, even perverse sometimes. Still, for the motorist who keeps the engine "in tune," it may be a treasure indeed -- but it takes a treasure to buy it.

The Jaguar Series III XJ6, with a base price of around $25,000, is an exciting car to drive. It is silky-smooth performer under way, the lines are sleek, and, as British fine-car custom dictates, the results understated.

Indeed, some car designers would have come up with an opulent extravaganza in a car of this caliber. Not so the people at Jag. Everything seems to be soft-pedaled, even though inside leather abounds as well as the walnut veneer. No plastic here, indeed. The headliner is wool.

The adequate-sized trunk includes its own set of tools, all wrapped in a vinyl carrying case.

Besides its luxury appointments all around, the Jaguar XJ6 is super fast as well -- far faster than US law allowS, Yet US motorists have to remember that this car, like other imports, is built to sell all over the world -- and what is right for the US is not necessarily right for some of the other markets in which the Jaguar is sold.

The engine is a 6-cylinder, twin-cam, 4.2-liter package that loafs along on the road with little noise and very positive response to the driver's input.

Most visible about the car is its new roof line and larger rear window. Too, the roof has been raised an inch and a half. The windshield has a faster slant and the front-door windows are one piece.

The first XJ Jaguar was introduced in 1968 while the Series II four-door hit the road in 1974. Now comes the Series III.

But what of the future? Beyond the sleek design and smooth performance of the Jaguar XJ6, the long-range success of the car depends significantly on the ability of the manufacturer, BL, Ltd., to achieve the overall quality control about which it speaks, as well as to provide the top-flight kind of after-scale service for which the company has not been noted.

BL is having a tough time these days, not only in the US, but in its British home market and elsewhere in the world.

Even the recently introduced Mini metro, replacing a decade-old design and only sold in Europe, may not keep the company going. It probably never would be sent to the US because of its price.

In order to be a viable manufacturer or motorcars to the world, BL, Ltd., has got to inspire the kind of worker commitment to the job that will keep the customers returning again and again.

Up to now the company has not learned the way.

Nonetheless, the Jaguar has a long pedigree in motor racing and has caught the eyes of throngs wherever it appears. The future success of the car is up to BL.

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