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Big Cat regains its confidence; Winning the Scottish Car of the Year award could prove to be the purr-fect tonic for troubled Jaguar, says BILL CAVEN.

Byline: BILL CAVEN

BY all accounts the Big Cat hasn't been feline very good of late. But last Friday the luxury British premium brand got a welcome shot in the arm.

Jaguar achieved a memorable victory in this year's Scottish Car of the Year awards. And although they are no strangers to success north of the Border - having taken top honours in the competition twice before - this time it was all so different.

With a degree of uncertainty hanging over the marque's future, victory was sweeter than ever.

They secured top honours thanks to their sensational XK CoupA, which was launched earlier this year.

And their achievement was in no small part due to the role of Scottish car designer Ian Callum, for whom this award capped a momentous year.

The Dumfries-born style guru, who won the Jim Clark Award along with his brother Moray a few months ago, admitted to Road Record that this was the pinnacle of his career so far.

He said: "I am absolutely moved that the XK has triumphed in such an important event.

"This means so much to me and also to the people who have shown so much faith in the brand.

"Yes, times have been difficult for Jaguar but I believe this is the launch board for good times ahead.

"We have a lot of exciting projects ahead of us and this really gives us enormous confidence to move forward."

The world's leading car designer also paid tribute to his roots and expressed the hope that other Scots will follow in his footsteps.

Ian said: "Scotland has always enjoyed a reputation for being innovative in design.

"It is something that I am enormously proud of and hope will continue for a long time to come.

"As a nation we have a lot to be thankful for and I believe there are enormous talents just waiting to be given the opportunity to shine.

"I am very fortunate that I have been given that chance and I hope this encourages others to follow suit in the years to come."

Ian also couldn't hide how proud he is of the XK.

He said: "We have worked enormously hard in creating a car that excites like no other.

"I believe we have achieved this with the XK.

"I have been fortunate in working with some of the finest designers and engineers around and this car creates new boundaries in its class.

"Every time I look at the XK it gives me an enormous sense of pride and I hope this is reflected by the people who buy it."

Stephen Park, president of the Association of Scottish Motoring Writers, who picked the winners, believes Jaguar fully deserved the top honours.

He said: "The past 12 months have seen some exceptional new cars come onto the market but none could match the Jag.

"Beautifully built, beautiful to look at and sensational to drive, Jaguar's XK CoupA is something very special indeed. Despite some fantastic category winners, the XK CoupA emerged as a clear overall champion.

"Perfectly proportioned from every angle, the XK is also thoroughly accomplished on the road.

"Furthermore, the imminent addition of a supercharged derivative to compliment the normally aspirated 4.2-litre engine adds further strength to the Jaguar's cause."

While Jaguar took top honours, the St Andrews event was also a night of celebration for many other marques.

Fiat took top plaudits in the small car sector with their Grande Punto, while Skoda's inspirational Roomster was named Family Car of the Year.

Lexus continued their fine run of form by picking up the luxury award with their IS, and the evergreen Mazda MX-5 triumphed in the drop-top segment.

Seat put the verve into derv by winning the Diesel Car of the Year title with the Leon TDIFR, while the Ford S-Max was a clear winner in the MPV segment.

The Audi Q7 was the runaway winner of the sports utility vehicle sector.

CAPTION(S):

PERFECTION FROM EVERY ANGLE: When Scots designer Ian Cullum penned the XK CoupA, he set out to create a car that excites like no other. The Scottish Car of the Year judges believe he succeeded
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 3, 2006
Words:694
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