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Jag and Rolls Revved -- For Different Reasons

Tuesday, 11 Mar 2008 | 11:00 AM ET
2008 Phantom Rolls-Royce Coupe
2008 Phantom Rolls-Royce Coupe

One is cruising. The other is sputtering. One has lived up to its fabled name. The other is a shell of what it once represented. So why is the one that is struggling getting more attention than the one riding high?

It's because Rolls-Royce and Jaguar are in different places and facing different questions with their new models.

Let's start with Rolls and the new Phantom Coupe it unveiled in Geneva.

This sedan version of the Phantom Drophead Coupe will sell for roughly $400,000 and it looks like another hit for Rolls. The Phantom's styling, refined elegance, and increased "touring" capability -- a fancy way of saying it's more responsive -- will make this car another success for Rolls. There are already well over 100 deposits down.

This is a company that has been "spot on" over the last 5-6 years, and that will continue with the new Phantom.

But don't mistake the new Phantom as a performance car. Instead, that's what you'll find with the new Jaguar XF. The reason I find this Jag more interesting than the Phantom is because of what it may finally symbolize for Jag fans.

With its subtly aggressive styling, performance and handling, the XF is turning heads. I have not yet driven the XF, but those I know who have are impressed. As one person put it to me, "This is finally a Jag that Jag fans will like." No wonder more than 4,000 are already pre-sold at a sticker of just under $50,000.

For years, Jaguar has been a mess with forgettable cars like the X-type and a brand that failed to live up to its reputation. As one auto industry veteran once told me, "Jaguar has one of the most recognized and admired names in the auto business, with a line-up that does little."

Maybe that's finally changing. Maybe the XF will remind people of what Jags can do and be.

Two British brands ready to roll for different reasons this year.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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  • Phil LeBeau is a CNBC auto and airline industry reporter based in the Chicago bureau and editor of the Behind the Wheel section on CNBC.com.

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