Editor at Large Jay Traugott explains why Mazda and Jaguar are his two favorite automakers and why he doesn't drive like a maniac.
Whenever I'm asked what I do for a living, the initial reactions are always entertaining. After completing my "auto journalist" reply, the conversation quickly turns to consumer advice and whether I drive like a maniac (answer: never, but enjoying high speeds doesn't make you a maniac). I like sharing my automotive opinions with others, but I'm often inevitably asked what my favorite car is. That's always difficult to answer as there are several cars that immediately come to mind.
After the person receives this vague response, their next question is often: "So what are your favorite car companies?" Now this is something I can respond to. Many claim that Bugatti, Ferrari, and Lamborghini are their favorites, but it's important to be something of a realist when it comes to giving this kind of advice because most people, shockingly, can't afford supercars. So with that, my two favorite automakers are Mazda and Jaguar. Now, a few ground rules that I made when deciding: First off, I wanted to pick at least two because there are too many brands and it's damn near impossible to pick just one.
And secondly, one had to be affordable and the other had to be luxury in order to cover my bases. So why Mazda and Jaguar? Simple, they have been for years and still are two of the most sincere and driver-focused mainstream automakers. Mazda always had the unfortunate task of going up against fellow Japanese competitors such as Honda and Toyota. And just like them, reliability and build quality has always been a priority. But Mazda wanted to be something more than a simple Asian econobox. Examples of this include their development of the rotary engine, affordable sport sedans, and the rebirth of the classic roadster.
Another example of Mazda's ingenuity and guts is the rotary-powered 787B, which won Le Mans in 1991 - the only time an Asian automaker won an overall victory. But the fact is that throughout its entire history, Mazda has put a lot of focus into building a better driver's road car at an affordable price. Whether it's a roadster, sedan, hatchback, or even a minivan, they have consistently shown it's entirely possible to satisfy budget-minded people who love to drive. Their new SkyActiv technology, which is all about achieving as much performance possible from gasoline and diesel engines without using lots of fuel, could be an industry game changer.
In addition, Mazda has always put a sincere focus on styling, both inside and out. Which brings me to Jaguar. Where to begin? Some cars are just too perfect from the onset. Whether it's the classic E-Type or the current XF or XJ sedan, Jaguars have often been described as sex on wheels. Many try and few have succeeded in building cars that are as beautiful. Going back to 1949, examples include the XK series, the aforementioned E-Type, and today's XK. And thanks to current design director Ian Callum (whose younger brother designed the first generation Mazda3), Jaguar is still building some of the most gorgeous cars on the road.
Expensive? Yes, but compare in person, for example, the XJ's exterior and interior design with competitors such as the BMW 7-Series, Audi A8, and the Lexus LS. All seem bland in comparison. And like Mazda, Jaguar has always been focused on performance. Back in 1992, the XJ220 was the fastest production car in the world and just last year they shocked the world yet again with the gas turbine-powered C-X75 concept. Jaguar has also participated in some of the most exclusive and competitive motorsport events such as Le Mans and Formula One.
Both automakers have had their ups and downs, but for decades each has held on to the driver's car ethos when so many others have abandoned it for the sake of being more economical and less unique. Neither has sold themselves out and both have kept automotive emotion and passion alive. And you don't even have to drive like a maniac to enjoy them.