Jaguar Attempts an Insane High-Wire Crossing of the River Thames

Precarious stunt with lightweight XF sedan

Did Jaguar's high-wire stunt above the River Thames in London make a big splash? You'll have to watch and find out.

Suspended about 60 feet above the murky depths at Canary Wharf, Jim Dowdall, a veteran Hollywood stunt coordinator, attempted to drive the new Jag XF sedan roughly 787 feet across a pair of tiny carbon-fiber cables, each about the width of a human thumb.

The car was fitted with specially grooved wheels and a safety "keel" on its undercarriage for Tuesday's crossing, which was, naturally, broadcast live online. According to Jaguar, the stunt was designed to promote the car's lighter, mainly aluminum frame. It aimed to set a record for the world's longest high-wire drive.

So, did the Volvo Trucks-style stunt make a big splash in terms of generating excitement for the British automaker?

The answer there is a resounding … sort of. I guess. The escapade certainly generated more media attention than your typical new-car launch. Still, the 15-minute YouTube chronicle has tallied just over 70,000 views on Jaguar's main YouTube page—and 16,000 more on Jaguar USA. Those stats aren't exactly meager, but still underwhelming.

The enterprise is intriguing in a WTF? sort of way, but there's an odd, unappealing coldness here, and the dreary urban backdrop and lack of spectators are a big part of the problem. It's as if Dowdall performed his high-wire act for the silent steel towers of London's financial district. Images of the white Jag suspended above the gray water are almost poetic in a bleak, Ballardian way. They convey a sad sense of loneliness and modernity, testimonies to the triumph of the car, skyscraper and all-seeing media eye.

Speaking of the media, video host Gabby Logan works hard to generate a sense of excitement, but her rah-rah "reporting" comes off sounding insincere. Everything feels a tad forced, unfocused and under-explained. Beyond publicity, what's the point, exactly? Even Dowdall seems nonplussed and almost dismissive of the event.

"I've been very lucky to be able to drive cars in some very silly situations," says the veteran driver, who has performed stunts in Bond, Bourne and Indiana Jones films. "That's probably one of the silliest."

@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.