With every car I don’t buy I get smarter on this whole process. Or maybe dumber. Eventually I’m going to score a Porsche for the price of a Pinto, or I’ll give up and buy a minivan. Writing from a hotel room north of Raleigh, where I went to see this 2011 Jaguar XK. Not an XKR, but at $26,998 and only 34,000 miles I thought it might be the bucket list Jaguar for me without spending too much. I had set aside my pursuit of the Mercedes S600 (for now), thinking I can always buy a big sedan, but my knees and back are suggesting time is short for a sports car.
I thought the Jaguar looked vaguely familiar, a lot like the one I saw briefly in Baltimore last summer and was aghast at the pock-marked front fascia and more than a few touch up paint blemishes on the driver side. It was an XK that looked like it was half-way through puberty. But I never made an appointment to see it in Baltimore, just stopped by and eye-balled it, and couldn’t find the original ad. So I asked the young sales rep in Raleigh if this could be the same car. He sent me photos, and sure enough, the front end was clean and I hatched a plan to go see it.
I had a free Amtrak ticket to get from Northern Virginia to Raleigh, and a credit for a free rental car to get back, and a boatload of Marriott points to lay up for the night, and my wife had an evening engagement, so I launched. Six hours working in the cafe car and 250 miles later I was in Raleigh just after dark. Got a rental car (2017 Chevy Camaro SS….hmmmm) and made by way to CarMax Raleigh by 7:15pm or so. Then it went bad.
Tried to sit in the Jaguar but the seat wouldn’t slide. Dead battery. No big deal. I’ve been to many CarMax lots with hundreds of cars and it happens. The sales reps are great at fetching a battery pack and jumping the dead ones. But first, the hood wouldn’t open. I showed the young man who the hood opened from the windshield back. But the battery is in the back and the jump post was nowhere to be found. The young man watched a video on his phone but gave up, and unearthed the battery in the trunk. Hooked up the battery pack and zilch. A few more tries and he tagged out – radioed for a backup sales rep to help. That guy brought another battery back – maybe the first one was dead? No luck. We’re 30-45 minutes into my stay.
I had this nagging feeling this was the Baltimore car. Even in the dark parking lot I could see touch up paint on the rear quarter panel and the hatch. Then I thought I saw a scratch on the front hood but that turned out to be a plastic film bra thing. Hmmm. Using my phone for a flash light I inspected the front fascia but not a single scratch or chip I could see. I remembered the Baltimore car had a several inch vertical gash in the bumper but I wasn’t seeing it. I still had a hunch it was the same car although I couldn’t find the Baltimore car photos on my phone. And perhaps if it was repaired….do I care?
A manager is summoned. They decide to pull a live car up behind the Jaguar and use real cables and feed power from a live car. I say I think this is an omen and I’m about done. It doesn’t work. We are an hour into my loitering in the cold lot. I thank the young, embarrassed sales rep for the try, and head to the Camaro. With deep satisfaction I fire up the V8 and smoke the tires out of the lot. I can be juvenile too.
So here in my hotel I power up my laptop and buried in the Jaguar pages that did not make my July blog is this one, the original ad for the Baltimore Jaguar XK. The stock numbers match. It was $3,000 more expensive in July, and the front end issues are hard to see from this shot. Clearly, the car was repaired and a film bra was glued on, and the price dropped significantly. Perhaps it’s still a good car and a bargain if the chips can’t be seen, and I’m sure the CarMax mechanics will sort out the failure to start.
A couple of lessons. It was the sales rep’s day off. My experience, even with my rep at Dulles, is that they will come in on their day off to help and make a sale. I live 15 minutes from my CarMax. If something goes wrong no big deal. The Raleigh rep knew I was coming on a six-hour train ride. He should have had the car ready. I should have asked. This isn’t the first time a car wouldn’t start. Second, I track these cars. I had a hunch it was the same car and had the information that could have confirmed it. Shame on me. Third, my impatience over spending a year looking for a car is making me do dumb things. Vanilla Jaguars aren’t hard to come by, and one will surface near me if I wait.
Perhaps this car is for you, but it was not for me. Like the Mercedes E63 that I bought, that failed within 48 hours, I just don’t want to start off with bad ju-ju. The S600 will be back on the lot when I get back to Virginia, and this Camaro SS purred at triple digits on I-85. Life’s too short.