By on October 30, 2013


Under Indian ownership, Jaguar has descended into the sort of theme-park Engish-esque-ness that was once the exclusive property of MINI. A Britannia-flag F-Type-RS is surely just days away at the point as Tata sweats to polish the brand before the inevitable start of Asian assembly. Today’s Jags are interesting and characterful vehicles after a fashion, but as with many other brands, they are still relying on the glamor of a previous age to move the metal.

So let’s return to that age, when John Egan ruled the roost and the pennies were pinched properly and “heritage” was a concept honored mostly in the breach, not the observance.


Your humble E-I-C’s quixotic love for the Jaguar XJ-S is relatively well-known, or should be, but it’s worth noting that the XJ-S represented the best of the company as well as the worst. No, it was never fully sorted, and no, none of them ever ran particularly well, but it was a Jaguar in the proper sense: the most grace, space, and pace for the money, and forward-thinking with it. No retro foolishness, no harkening to a past era of glory. Better to have the glory now.

And with the help of Tom Walkinshaw — hell, because of Tom Walkinshaw — glory was had, in 55-gallon-drum quantities. One free car was all that Jaguar provided to begin with, and from that seed a race-winning tree sprouted. No, there’s nothing “classic” or “retro” about the cars you’ll see if you click the above link, but do you care? Of course not. The star-crossed big coupe caused its owners enough grief to last most of them a lifetime, but when it shone, it truly shone. Will those days ever return? Will Jaguar, under Tata ownership, ever shoot the moon for a super-aerodynamic, high-speed, high-drama coupe again? We can only hope.

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57 Comments on “When Jaguar Roared...”

  • avatar
    The Soul of Wit

    Short answer to your questions, Jackie boy, is NO. Jaguar will never again be what it once could have been. The world has moved on.

    • 0 avatar

      But if you want the glory days, you can recapture them right here:

      The Sultan of Brunei’s former Lister Jag. Other than the color choices, it’s the Jag to have.

  • avatar

    “Will Jaguar, under Tata ownership, ever shoot the moon for a super-aerodynamic, high-speed, high-drama coupe again?”

    The XKR-S GT is a pretty decent performance car with its 550 hp and 3.9 second 0 – 60.

    I think you mean will Jaguar, under Tata ownership, ever bring back the flying buttress. That is an important question.

    • 0 avatar

      They also came darned close with the C-X75. They are even building five of them.

      They decided the market wasn’t there for it, and they were probably right.

      • 0 avatar

        You’re correct- they’ll probably be lucky if they can sell those five. I would have been overjoyed if they had done it the way they were planning to in the first place, with the crazy micro-turbines. Would I have bought one? I never could afford it. Would it have worked properly? C’mon, this is Jaguar we’re talking about. Would it have been the coolest thing on four wheels? You know it. Heck, they might have even sold more than five just for the “WTF?!?!” factor.

  • avatar

    I feel that you hit a key point in the first paragraph. I’ve been discussing it at length with many car friends. With so many car manufacturers relying on their ‘glory days’ to define the brand, what manufacturers are in their glory days right now?

    The two that we could come up with are Audi and Mazda. Audi has steady sales, a growing brand image, and dominance in one of the hardest motorsports in the world. Mazda has 2 decades of leading the cheap fun car segment with the Miata and their more pedestrian models (Mazda3 and Mazda6) have been on the rise as well. With a new RX7 and the rumored AWD Mazdaspeed3 they might be in full glory mode.

    Toyota is almost always worth a mention. Continued dominance in the small truck and commuter car markets, #1 world sales leader (again), and now shaking up the performance car segment with the GT86 cars and a few more rumored RWD cars.

    • 0 avatar

      The IS 350 F-Sport isn’t a rumor. Many tests have found it better than the current M. (except for fuel economy?!?)

    • 0 avatar

      “what manufacturers are in their glory days right now?”

      I would say Hyundai / Kia – they have overcome their reputation for cheap throwaway cars and are now viewed as a legitimate mainstream brand.

      I would suggest Audi’s glory days were the late ’90s up until about 10 years ago when they established themselves as a legitimate alternative to Mercedes and BMW.

      I think Mazda’s glory days were from the ’90s up until the point where they stopped building the rotary – which to me is a big part of Mazda’s heritage.

      Toyota’s glory days were about 20 years ago, during the “Fat Toyota” period.

    • 0 avatar
      juicy sushi

      Depending on how good the new Fit is, and if a version of the S660 concept goes on sale globally, Honda may well be back with a vengence…

  • avatar

    Honestly, Jaguar is better off than it was in the past. It is a sort of off-beat rival to Mercedes, BMW and Audi, offering big V8s and a British twist on the segment. The vehicles made now are very high quality compared to their predecessors. They emulate modern Britain, which is not just some cottages in a field as portrayed by the old ones.

    • 0 avatar

      I think you, Mandalorian, are on to something.

      For reputation sake, it pains me that they’re lumped in with Land Rover nowadays, and I wish they could cut the cord. But I like where Jaguar is at, these days, and I’m really excited by the F-Type, the sedans, and the latest XK8 series.

      • 0 avatar

        SUVs are now a huge part of the luxury market. Even Porsche cannot afford not to sell them. They can help to increase the overall sales volume to make the whole company more financially viable. The nice part is that the “SUV branch” of Jaguar, is called Land Rover, so there is no need to “tarnish” the Jaguar brand by creating a Jaguar SUV. They share a lot with each other. This started under Ford. Engines are shared. Probably other components as well under the hood.

    • 0 avatar

      “Modern Britain” hates cars so much that it designs into its new skyscrapers Jaguar-melting solar ray concentrators. It is rumored (I mean rumoured) there is a Honda Civic factory in the British countryside that has been making bad-ass Civic Si hatches for over a decade but then doesn’t bother selling them anywhere. And then at the peak of the world’s motor racing (in Britain’s ‘motorsport valley’), F1 teams are using exploding tires and flip-up/down rear wings to create on-track drama while behind closed doors, they have been wasting the R&D resources of every major automaker, eventually forcing them to quit F1 until they can save up the money to come back for more — ie Honda!

  • avatar

    I thought the honorific was supposed to be “Your humble E-I-C pro tempore” – but I’m sure the omission was just an oversight.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s Jack. His temporary position is now more or less permanent, since the overseers stopped looking for a new guy, but he doesn’t want to crow about it – they might change their minds.

      • 0 avatar

        since the overseers stopped looking for a new guy…

        Why is the world fresh out of Otto Von Bismark impersonators who glorify the Chinese?

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        My thousand-year reign begins now.

        Actually, my successor is already chosen and the date’s been set.


        Just kidding about sentences one and three.

        And five.

        • 0 avatar

          “If you like your insurance you can keep it.”

          • 0 avatar

            Are the TTAC moderators away from their desks this morning, or is there something about the Carzzi comment related directly to the Jaguar subject that I don’t get?

            Folks, TTAC is used by people of all political persuasions, not just a quarter of one right-leaning one. Yes, we still have free speech,but is TTAC the place for politics that don’t involve the subject at hand?

          • 0 avatar
            Jack Baruth


            I believe that Carzzi is comparing my promise to leave the office with Mr. Obama’s promise that “if you like your healthcare, you can keep it.”

            I view this more as a slap against me than a slap against Mr. Obama, and as such, it’s allowed.

            The fact of the matter is that we’ll announce my successor in about three months (nobody will be surprised) and begin the transition process so I can retire to my estate and plow my ladies, I mean fields, like Cincinnatus.

          • 0 avatar

            I’d say that was a playful jab, Mr. Baruth, not a slap!
            And I’d never offend our beloved President.
            A non sequitur to keep this post related to cars: I have neither been in the back seat of a black Volga nor an Argentine Ford Falcon.

  • avatar

    Well, the XJ-S undoubtedly had grace and pace in spades. Like a number of Jags prior to the current batch, space was somewhat lacking. Not that I’m exceptionally bothered by that.

    I don’t know if Jag can return to their glory days, but at least it seems like they’re on the right track. With the XF and XJ finally having moved on past the designs dating back to the 60s, at least they’re making an attempt to move forward, and Tata seems committed to improving the cars. I’d also love to see a 3-Series sized car, which could give them a base for touring car racing, if they were so inclined.

    Also, with the second picture, I love the idea of an XJ-S up against a 240 and Mustang, 3 cars that’d theoretically never be cross-shopped.

  • avatar

    Supercharged V8, a million and one horsepower yeah yeah….. but what about the V12?

    I think Jaguar will be great once more when they put a V12 back in a great “personal” touring style coupe.

    • 0 avatar

      I think a V12 won’t put them back where they once were. Jack said it well (That’s how he got the job) “the most grace, space, and pace for the money”. They’re a long way from a bang for the buck winner, and don’t seem headed that way anytime soon.

    • 0 avatar

      If I were in the target demographic, I’d be more interested in a big inline 6.

  • avatar

    Is that a 90’s Maserati Ghibli on the left of the Jag in the picture?
    Maserati is a great example of a brand that came back (twice) from the brink of extinction. I am not sure I understand their marketing (a notch under Ferrari and one over BMW/Audi/Mercedes…) or can stomach the dizzying pace of their depreciation (you can get a 2002 Spyder for 20K) but you got to love the sassy character of these cars…

    • 0 avatar

      That’s actually a Fox Mustang; but the similarity is striking from that angle, no?

    • 0 avatar
      juicy sushi

      I think Maserati is safe. They have a valuable role in providing all the italian crossovers all the nouveau-riche idiots can handle without diluting the Ferrari brand. LdM may be a jerk, but he won’t allow blasphemy on a vehicular scale, even if they’ll sell all the cologne and caps the market will bear.

  • avatar

    Not sure if I get this article at all. Jaguar is doing fairly well. Apparently having Indian owners is what this entire tirade is about. Who cares? Tetley is owned by Tata and is still pretty damn British.

  • avatar

    The “thatched roof ” and “cloth cap” cars at Jaguar went away pretty quickly once TATA took over.

    That was the strategy that BMW had for Rover as well. Circa 1955 British Pub.

    There is a very limited market for that crap.

  • avatar

    F Type Coupe is coming and it will have very fast versions, no buttresses, though.

  • avatar

    I’ve always loved the XJS. I’d never own one, but I still want one.

    The weekend before last, my wife and I were in Southern California on our way to a wedding. We lucked into a Camaro convertible at the rental counter and were cruising, top down, on the 405. Suddenly, there was a topless sportscar on my left with the driver giving me a thumbs up. It took me a moment to recognize that it was a new XF. He hit the gas and the most glorious, snorty almost thuggish sound came from the exhaust and, in that moment I got that car.

    Interestingly, the next day we were on the coast road side-by-side with a parade of MacLarens. They sounded nice as well, but the XF had more visceral appeal.

  • avatar

    Are those pictures from Bathurst?

    I remember the year the Cat tamed the Mountain…

  • avatar

    While winnowing stuff in the basement a few days ago, I came across an issue of Car (August 1977) that included a long article about a 2000-mile tour of Hungary with an XJ12 pillarless coupe (XJ5.3C officially), probably my favorite Jag ever in terms of looks, accommodation, and power. This one had the “new GM automatic transmission [presumably THM400] and fuel injection” and comfy-looking cloth seats.

    The extent to which the writer sought to uphold the idea of the big coupe as “the world’s best touring car,” as it’s called in the article subhead – despite the many problems* en route – was quite extraordinary. Perhaps in those days, the car’s competitors (450SLC, 6-series coupe, etc.) were just as unreliable – although if so, this went unsaid.

    *Including headlamp failure (dealt with by improvisation), a mysterious driveline vibration, and eventually an “ominous grinding noise” from the transmission (which was replaced by Jaguar).

  • avatar
    Robert Gordon

    Worth noting perhaps that the XJS in the centre of the grid shot actually has Tom Walkinshaw at the wheel. He took Pole in that race, which the XJS in the far distance eventually won.

    Walkinshaw however was a shifty shonk who basically torpedoed MG Rover.

  • avatar

    Pining for an XJ-S? What a horrible excuse for a luxury automobile. Jaguar finally has cars that can actually be used on the road without crapping out. XJ-S required lots of patience, cash, resilience and a very stiff upper lip.

  • avatar

    Didn’t they come 1st and 3rd?

    I seem to remember them running 1,2 and 3 until a mechanical issue caused the 2nd placed car to drop out…

    I also believe that the XJS’s had been given an extension or waiver to allow them to run under Group A rules?

    • 0 avatar

      i remember watching this on TV and it seemed like the 5.3 v12 that does 180mph was like rocket science compared to the rubbish cars the world had to endure in the 1980s (dark times)

      the xjs is an iconic car sometimes for the wrong reasons… you’d only want one if it has an LS1 in it these days

  • avatar

    IMO, Jag is enjoying a renaissance not seen since the late 90’s. But this time it’s even better with more models, true sports cars and original sheet metal. The new designs don’t rely on retro, but are certainly sexy and powerful. Jaguar has always been my favorite Euro Luxury brand and it’s great to see them pumping out some exciting cars again.

    The only model I don’t particularly care for is the XJ. It looks too much like a 6000 SUX to me. Not that I wouldn’t drive a 6000 SUX, I just don’t want my Jaguar to look like one.

    • 0 avatar

      The XJ is a big disappoint to me, after the 04-11 model, which I thoroughly like (but wouldn’t buy, because A) cabin materials on all but the Portfolio model aren’t up to snuff for the class, and B) cabins on all models look very outdated already.)

  • avatar

    Unfortunately, never available with a manual transmission in the US. Can be retrofitted with a manual box from Europe though.

    Is this the cheapest V12 car available today?

    • 0 avatar

      The cheapest V12 available today would probably be in this or an XJ12, or an old S600.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks. My quest is to own, at some point in my life, every available cylinder configuration.

        • 0 avatar

          Where are you with that? Your post made me think:


          For cars. If we count motorcycles, add

          Flat twin

          Are we worrying about orientation (longitudinal or transverse) or fuel type? Regardless, a V12 is on my list, too.

          • 0 avatar

            Add to the list:

            flat 4 (Subaru, Porsche, VW, others)
            flat 6 (Subaru, Porsche, others)

            Added degree of difficulty:

            inline 8 (must go back to early 1950s American iron for this)
            inline 3 (new Ford engine, Triumph motorcycles, others)

            Extreme added degree of difficulty:
            V16 (Cadillac, others)
            W16 (Bugatti, no chance of this one, perhaps lucky to drive one some day!)

            For motorcycles:
            inline 2 (i.e., a parallel twin like older Japanese bikes)

            For cars (Mazda) and motorcycles (Norton):
            rotary engine (i.e. Wankel)

            Some may count narrow-angle V engines separately:
            V4 (Lancia)
            V6 (VW)

  • avatar

    Don’t forget Bob Tullius and Group 44. Didn’t they have some reasonable success with the marque? And the last of the Trans-Am that ran PIR in Portland with CART were won by Jaguar. My poor aged brain cannot recall the team, but the principal was also their driver.

  • avatar

    I don’t get this article. Under Tata Jaguar is getting stronger making cars like the f type that are a long way from that British pastiche invented by Ford called the S type. Jack is out of touch. Jaguars doing well. Making great cars. And best if all they are expanding all of the factories in Britain. Indeed building a new one and in addition expanding globally too. Yet Jack out if touch Baruth gives a totally different impression and not for the first time! Do your research man!

  • avatar

    Mr Baruth appears to be referring to the Jaguar of 10 years ago, under Ford ownership, rather than the very different entity that is forging ahead under Tata ownership. No retro to be found at Browns Lane today.

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