I felt very conflicted following a quick nighttime Boston-to-New York City drive in this new Jag. It just did not meet my expectations. The car drove nice on the twisty and hilly Merritt Parkway but it was neither the sports car I desired, nor the grand tourer that the XKR was. Something was clearly wrong. Upon reaching my destination I carefully re-read Derek’s reviews and quickly realized that I am an idiot and that this F-Type has failed me in another way altogether.
Those with enough money their pockets and desire a new Jaguar E-Type could opt for the restomod offerings from Eagle, and would likely be happy with what they receive. However, an exclusive few may manage to snag a new E-Type directly from Jaguar as soon as this summer, when the automaker finishes the final six of 18 Lightweight E-Types after a five-decade pause in production.
A good friend of mine has a bit of wisdom that I try to follow whenever possible: “Say yes to everything.” It’s easy to misconstrue this as encouragement to engage in promiscuous behavior, ingestion of narcotics and other activities that are indicative of poor future-time orientation. Instead, it’s an exhortation to open oneself up to experiences and opportunities, without regard for the kind of details that the more neurotic among us might obsess over.
I kept this in mind when I got a call from a local fleet manager not long ago. His offer was simple: drive a brand new Jaguar XKR for a week. As always, there were conditions attached.
If you live in Brazil and are pining away for a Jaguar or Land Rover, Tata Motors will open a factory for the luxury marques in time for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
A colleague and friend of mine just bought himself a Tesla Model S (the fast P85 edition). I’d been wanting to find a suitable car to compare it against, so I approached a major European car vendor’s media relations people, asking for a loaner so I could do a head-to-head comparison.
The response: “Unfortunately, Mr. Large And In Charge [not his actual name] isn’t interested in a comparison against the Tesla, Dan.” Knowing I’d never have the pull of Top Gear to get the gear I wanted in hand, I resolved that I’d do it some other way.
Recently, I received a card in the mail, inviting me to a Jaguar ALIVE Driving Experience. I’ve been to things like this before. They feed you mini-muffins, they let you tear around a mini-autocross track, you leave with a baseball cap, a mini-grin on your face, and mini-spam in your email box for months to come. I decided to invite my Tesla buddy along and see if I could get an expensive Jag in one side of my brain and compare it to the expensive Tesla in the other side of my brain. Here’s what happened.
Six days a week, Monday through Saturday, I get up at 4:45 am – five o’clock and I’m plonked in front of the keyboard, staring at the blinking cursor of my computer screen, fuelled by caffeine and ready to start shovelling words into its gaping maw. Six days a week, but on the seventh day I sleep in.
Sunday, a day for rest. But this day, I rise at my usual time to drive a hundred and fifty miles through the blackness and the pouring rain.
I, as Rakoff would put it, am not a handsome man, though my mother would disagree. If I were to be cast in a James Bond movie, I would probably play the villain. Past lovers have often commented on my intelligence, my charm and my high earning potential as an automotive journalist, but rarely if ever on my physical appearance. I’m at peace with this, for I have discovered that the one automobile that can “increase sexual arousal, particularly in women” is not the Mercedes-Benz 380SL convertible, as P.J. O’Rourke would contend, but a Jaguar convertible.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which of the Jaguar Land Rover partnership is the breadwinner. People cannot get enough Evoques, LR4s and Range Rovers, even though the competition can do pretty much everything else in a more competent fashion, for less money. But at least Land Rover stands for something.
More than 50 years after the E-Type was launched, Jaguar has brought its successor, the F-Type to the market. You might wonder why such a long gap between both the cars. Well, the British automaker was developing the F-Type way back in the 1980s but the project was delayed time and again, finally being cancelled after Ford bought the company. In 2000, Jaguar showcased the F-Type concept but that too did not make it to production. Now the F-Type is finally on sale and is offered with an option of 3 engines, the base V6, mid level V6 S and top end V8 S. The F-Type is priced right between the Porsche Boxster and Porsche 911 Carrera, thereby sitting in no man’s land.
Auto journalists have a habit of being cornered at parties by interested outsiders – usually, the boyfriend of the cute girl you were just flirting with – and pounced upon with the standard question. After “what’s your favorite car?” and “what’s the fastest you’ve ever gone”, you are likely to get some kind of consumer advice question. “I have $X to spend on a car. What would you recommend?”
I’d say that writing car reviews can be difficult at times but then it’s not really seemly to complain when nice folks drop off free cars to drive. Still, the gig does have its challenges. The last time that I reviewed the Jaguar XF Supercharged, a day after the fleet management company picked it up, their competitor, which works for Kia, dropped off a nicely equipped Sportage. At the time I joked with Ed Niedermeyer about reviewing both cars simultaneously. After all, with the democratization of luxury the cars were similarly equipped, sort of. Ed and I decided that silly or not a comparo wouldn’t be fair to either manufacturer. Still, it’s hard not to ruminate about comparisons when you’re working on a review.
At 7 years old, the XK isn’t a kitten anymore – but with a rumored 3 years until the next redesign, what’s a luxury marque to do? Make special editions, of course. On the surface, the XKR-S looks like a baby-boomer dressed like a teenager, or as the Brits put it: mutton dressed as lamb.
Location: John Dodge mansion, Detroit
Editor’s note: The car pictured is not a long-wheelbase model, which is the only “Portfolio” model sold in the US. We are looking into the discrepancy.
When Jaguar of North America informed me that I’d be getting a 2012 XJL Portfolio for review, my first reaction was to engage in some mental bench racing. How would the new XJ compare to the smaller but more powerful XF Supercharged that I tested just about a year ago, and how would it compare to my dearly departed Series III XJ, considered by many Jaguar enthusiasts to be the finest of the traditional XJs. On both counts the 2012 XJ comes out favorably in the comparison.
Americans are a funny bunch; our views of the larger world are crafted by our prejudices which then tend to be peddled back to us out of sheer convenience. For example, we tend to view British luxury as being some stuffy old stone mansion with dark wood panelling and and swirling cigar smoke, a perception that “Cool Britannia” left behind years (if not decades) ago. Ironically though, nothing perpetuated this dated view of Old Blighty like the previous Jaguar XJ. Jag’s flagship had been trapped in a decades-long styling time-warp, with every generation trying to be more and more connected with the past. Not because the British people actually like wallowing in dated stereotypes about themselves, but because they don’t mind making a buck off of the Americans who do. Free from the need to indulge the country-squire delusions of the colonials, however, the Brits are a people that are more likely to turn a 500 year old stone mansion into an ultra-modern chic lounge. Which is why the new XJ may finally be not only a truly modern luxury sedan, but a truly British one as well.
The first issue that any reviewer must face is perspective. Whether it’s a $70,000 Jaguar or a $15,000 Chevy you have to maintain an appropriate perspective. You have to be fair to the product you’re reviewing while putting it into proper context for your readers. When Jaguar told me that a 2011 XF Supercharged was available for me to test, my first thought was the same as yours would be, “Goody, goody. What’s not to like?” My second thought was to email the other writers and ask if Michael Karesh or Jack Baruth could do a better job on the review. Michael test drives a variety of luxury cars, and Jack’s pretty familiar with high-end sporting machinery, but I have absolutely no experience with 470 HP, loaded-to-the-gunnels luxury sports sedans. I can’t tell you if it’s better or worse than competing cars because I haven’t driven those competing cars. The time with the Jaguar was bookended by a Mazda3 and a Kia Sportage. Not exactly ideal perspectives from which to view a luxury performance car. Notwithstanding my personal reservations, Ed and the other editors told me to go for it, so…
In 2007 Jaguar started the most intensive make-over in the brand’s history with the redesigned XK. While the look was drop-dead gorgeous, the interior was more evolution than revolution when you consider the direction the XF and new XJ have taken. Now that the world has managed to catch its breath after the shock of the XF and XJ’s ultra-chic modern styling, Jaguar decided to give the XK a thorough refresh in 2010.
Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi are all parts of huge organizations with vast resources. When developing a new flagship sedan, they can finesse every last detail. (Whether they actually do so is another matter.) Though previously owned by Ford and now owned by Indian conglomerate Tata, Jaguar has had to make do with so much less that it’s almost a miracle it can field a contemporary large luxury sedan at all. And yet we have the new XJ.
Why did we have an eleven-year-old, scratch-and-dent, no-maintenance-records, twelve-cylinder Jaguar on our lot? Blame our naive sales manager, who always paid top dollar for trades. In his haste to revolutionize the way people bought and sold luxury cars in Dublin, Ohio, “Steve” tended to ignore the established car-sales playbook. At the time, I thought he was bold; I now realize he was stupid.
It’s famously said that the SCCA road-racing rulebook is “written in blood”. Every rule in the book is a lesson learned from a tragic occurrence. By the same token, every rule in the car-sales biz is written, not in blood, but in red ink. There’s one rule in particular that is written in so much ink that it’s bled through the page, and that is: Don’t take used cars to customer homes for test drives. If you look closely, you will see an asterisk to that rule, added by me, and at the bottom of the metaphorical page, I’ve written: * this goes double for Jags.
A wise old man once told me: “you can’t just own a Jaguar, you have to have a love affair with one.” The reasons for this were several, the sexy rooflines hampered head room and visibility, trunk space was non-existent, and then there are those reliability woes. Although my 2000 XJ8 has (no kidding) been the definition of a reliable car for the past 120,000 miles, the mantra applied. When Jaguar came out with a new S-Type, the restrained classic styling screamed “this is your father’s Jaguar.” When Jaguar created performance models like the XJR and S-Type R, they were just fast fat cats, not really holding their own against the Germans. But that wasn’t their goal at the time, the goal was to propel an English gentleman’s club on wheels with “swift progress” to quote the XFR’s owners guide. Jaguar styling was the definition of restrained classic elegance. Everyone who saw a Jaguar would gush about how gorgeous they looked in the parking lot. Consumers loved the look in someone else’s parking lot, but put a BMW in their driveway. Like the box of abandoned kittens at the PetCo front door, nobody really wanted to take the kitty home, and that’s a pity.
I could bore you all with the long story of how I ended up in the check-cashing business — it involved an attack with a broomstick and a coffee mug — but instead we will simply join the action in medias res some time in 1996. I am standing on the used-car lot outside Welsh Enterprises choosing my XJ6. Bill Welsh, the owner, had just treated me to lunch at “Jaggin’ Around”, the restaurant he owned in Steubenville, Ohio. A millionaire several times over from his intelligent decision to purchase some sixty-odd E-Types for pennies on the dollar in the Seventies and resell them at top whack in the Eighties, he was cheerfully burning his afternoon as I drifted among no fewer than six solid-condition Series III Jags, none priced above $4995. Clearly, this was more about amusement than money.
If there’s a counterpoint in this test to the GS350’s robotic rationality, it’s the Jaguar XF. If the Lexus makes perfect sense to the kind of people who see car buying as an equation to be solved, the XFR is the only choice for right-brained aesthetes. It screams sex appeal like nothing has since Sofia Loren could steal your virginity with once glance from the silver screen. And yet, as with most beautiful things, a hard look past the exterior reveals things you might wish you didn’t know. Love at first sight can be a blessing and a curse.
You're a braver man than I, Jeremy Clarkson. There I was, sitting behind the wheel of your 'Car of the Century', shitting myself. Henry Pearman, the man responsible for the Eagle E-Type Sport, was urging me on. 'I've seen this car beat a Porsche 'round a race track,' he hinted. Yes Henry, but I know how to drive a Porsche. I challenge an average driver to cane this E-Type. Even below the legal limit, the car was all over the place. I felt like a novice skier barrelling down a black run. Towards a tree. Without airbags. Or a crumple zone. Sorry, Henry. Sorry, Jeremy. I guess I'm not man enough for your machine.
It's a shame. The E-Type is the most visually stunning car ever made. Allegedly. Forty-one years after its Geneva debut, the nose-heavy styling still stirs debate. Some consider the Series One E-Type Roadster a timeless classic, blending feminine curves with sporting intent. Others see it as the original 'sports car as phallic symbol', embodying the embarrassing hyper-sexuality of a severe mid-life crisis. Love it or mock it, you can't ignore it. Jaguar's first E-Type still has enormous presence, and perfectly judged detailing. From wire wheels to aircraft style toggle switches to the clearly labelled 'cigar' lighter, you wouldn't want to change a thing.
Which is a bit funny really, as Henry and his eaglets have modified, upgraded or replaced every single component. And I do mean everything: engine, brakes, suspension, chassis, body shell, wiring, starter, seats, steering wheel, leather, hood, wheels, fascia, windshield wipers, headlights, window locks, the lot. The entire car has been brought up to zero mileage. Wait a second. Does that mean that's JC's 'Car of the Century' is actually a car from this century? Yes and no…
The Eagle begins life as a genuine 4.2 litre E-Type roadster. Everything save the engine, gearbox, axle and suspension is binned. The bits left behind are stripped down, repaired and rebuilt. The improved internals are mated to an all-new monocoque shell, constructed with more precision than anything the car's Brown's Lane birthplace could muster. Equally important, the rustproofed body is attached to the car's original bulkhead. That makes the Eagle E-Type a 'restoration', exempt from modern safety legislation and US luxury car taxes. The donor car's chassis plate confirms the slight of hand- and qualifies the Eagle for both historic racing and 'Clarkson's Top 100'.
Sixteen hundred man-hours and £115,737 later, and you've got a flawless top-down E-Type. Everything works. Nothing rusts. No leaks. No rattles. You're ready to kick some Porsche butt. Well, almost. To give Stuttgart's finest a run for its money, and earn JC's Seal of Approval, you have to fork over another £45k to Eagle. They'll use the money to upgrade your car to 'Sport' specification. You get sport cams, a big bore exhaust, new suspension and steering geometry, vented front brake discs and a 5-speed gearbox. Then and only then is your 'shaguar' ready to taste a bit of porker. Yeah baby!
Better you than me Austin. Like I said, I've got 'issues' with the Sport set-up. The steering is heavier than deuterium and more direct than Federal Express (take that Clarkson!). Give the Nardi steering wheel the tiniest of nudges and 'things' start to happen. While the Eagle is planted like an oak tree (and that!), the front end fidgets constantly. That epic nose follows every rut, camber and painted line like a bloodhound after an escaped convict (and that!). The car's suspension bucks and kicks. If you're not paying attention, 'things' could easily turn into 'moments'. I know: some people like that kind of thing. They call it 'driving'. By the same token, some people like root canal surgery. They call it 'dentistry'. (There. I'm done.)
With its hard suspension, broad tyres (225/60) and high-ratio steering rack, the 285bhp Eagle Sport may be the perfect track day Q-car. I'm willing to take Henry's word that the faster you drive the beast, the easier and more intuitive it becomes. In the right hands, the Eagle E-Type in Sport specification could humiliate many a Sunday racer. But for mere mortals on a public road, it's too scary. JC may beg to differ, but I reckon this Eagle has made a great landing at the wrong airport. The E-Type's distinctive style suggests effortless, stylish cruising- not sadomasochistic thrashing. 'Ahhh,' says Henry, 'You want an Eagle GT.'
We return to Henry's ever-increasing number of Sussex barns and jump into George Best's old (and ugly) fixed-head coupe. This is an 'Engineered By Eagle' E-Type. It's an upgraded original car, rather than a ground-up re-manufacture. Just to add to the confusion, Mr. Best's old E-Type has been almost but not quite raised to Henry's GT spec.
Anyway, the footballer's cast-off is a good £75,000 cheaper than an Eagle-E-Type Sport. It's also proof positive that the GT Specification is the right choice for anyone who wants an E-Type they can use, not abuse. The damn thing is so smooth it practically glides. The steering is light but precise. The 4.2 litre engine has so much effortless, low-down grunt that you can stick it in third and call it good. Town, country, motorway- just kick back, relax and enjoy the view. Driving a meticulously made Eagle GT roadster with the top down along a winding country road in the late evening summer sun must surely rate as one of the world's finest driving experiences. Whether I'd pay £135,000 for the privilege of owning a brand new old car is another story.
Actually, if I could, I would. I'm a sucker for any machine with a high LB-FGF (Laid Back Feel Good Factor). So I'm saving up. Meanwhile, JC's veneration of the Eagle E-Type Sport has given me insight into the man's character. If the curly-haired curmudgeon should happen to pull up behind me in some exotic hot rod, I think I'll simply move over and let him pass. And if you believe that, I've got a Jaguar XK120 I'd like to show you.