I spent a very unusual day in New York City this week, standing around inside a giant snow globe in the Meatpacking District with figure skating champion Johnny Weir and "30 Rock" stars Tracy Morgan and Jane Krakowski.
The surreal moment - and check www.SummitDaily.com for a photo - was the official launch of a line of products that will, at long last, cause my relentless coverage of rear-wheel-drive Jaguar automobiles in Snow Country make a little more sense.
This December and January will see the debut of AWD versions of the Jaguar XF and XJ models, as well as a new range of powerful but more fuel efficient engines (supercharged 340-horsepower V6 engines for both and a 240-HP turbocharged four-cylinder for the XF model).
Jaguar describes its fast-tracked AWD system as being a crucial development for getting more automobiles into the hands of drivers in parts of the country where it actually snows - quite a bit of territory, they realized - and the new technology, dubbed Instinctive All Wheel Drive, will provide a continuously variable split of engine torque to all four wheels.
But it's also electronically weighted to still provide that sporty and classic rear-wheel Jaguar feel, allowing the cars to go like blazes when summoned to do so.
What's that got to do with Tracy Morgan? Turns out his dad was a big Jaguar enthusiast, and the comic has followed suit with several Jaguars of his own - or at least that's what his fiancee told me, as the New York media horde jostled for pictures of their own. Jane ... came along for the ride. And Johnny just looked fabulous.
Back to reality for a moment: Last week saw me spending considerable time in another reinvented product from Jaguar's former corporate masters, Ford's updated 2013 Taurus.
For everyone who thought they had a simple mental image of the Taurus from the millions sold in the '80s and '90s, think again. The modern-era Taurus is a larger, taller and more imposing design-heavy vehicle that's as different from the older vehicles as physically possible. The trunk, for goodness' sake, comes up to my chest.
This year's Taurus gets a newly redesigned nose with a futuristic grille a bit like the stuff seen on the European-inspired Escape, Focus and Fiesta, as well as style points for LED running lamps and brakelights and even some classy chromed vent ports behind the front wheels.
The inside of the Taurus is the biggest mind-blower, with a wildly design-centric reboot that includes a gigantic, flat black center console full of pop-open cubbies, plus twin, silvery plastic dash plates.
The new twin video-infused instrument cluster has customizable trip computer and audio, climate and navigation readouts at eye level, in addition to a large video display in the middle of the dash. You'd expect with that many screens the car would just come with navigation, but my tester didn't - as is the case with GM's OnStar system, the bet is that you'll only need directions once in a while and if you do, you can call them up on the MyFordTouch system and they'll be displayed there.
Power is pretty impressive from the 3.5-liter V6, churning out 288 horsepower, and with my car's optional all-wheel-drive system, you still get to experience pleasant acceleration, even at altitude. Mileage isn't astounding (I got just under 20 mpg combined), but more frugally minded folks can also order a Taurus with the new 2.0-liter turbocharged EcoBoost engine, generating a respectable 240 horsepower/270 lb.-ft. of torque and getting up to 32 mpg on the highway. The madman SHO model gets the 365-HP EcoBoost V6 and goes like a bat out of hell.
Taurus is a big and solid ride, with a commanding view of the road (even more so in the theater-styled rear seats) and ... definitely a bigger and better experience than the old days.