Grace, Pace and just enough Space (For Two) by Matt Nichols
Sir William Lyons had a simple vision for his beloved Jaguar cars during the time he presided; grace, pace and space, and so the question is how do the beautiful 60’s E-Type, rectangular shaped 70’s XJS and retro styled 90’s XKR square up. Well one thing they do share in common is space, or more precisely a distinct lack of it, because all three offer a snug fit for two, with any notion of there being room for plus two more best translated as meaning plus two more bags, perfect then for that weekend getaway.
First impressions
E-Types are stunning cars that draw you in the minute you first clap eyes on them, and so unfortunately for the other two here, win your heart in an instant. Their long slender bonnets that hand over to curving rooflines, for the coupes at least, to then meet with the distinctive and equally curvy rear haunches. It doesn’t get any better and therefore any surprise that the newest Jaguar here, the XKR, takes many of its good looks from its granddaddy, albeit on a physically much larger scale. So what of the XJS a car that spanned the 21 year gap between E-Type and XK8 on which the XKR is based? Well back in the day straighter lines were in, and working on the basis that Ferrari were at it with the Daytona, Aston the same with the V8 Coupe and Jensen likewise with the Interceptor, I don’t think anyone can really criticise Jaguar for doing something similar. Of course looking back now it is all a bit academic with the E-Types being the clear winners of the beauty pageant, XKR second and XJS a distant third.Sat insideWithin the cabin is where everything starts to become a matter of taste and just how snug you want to be. Squeeze yourself into an E-Type and you face two stunningly large dials for engine and road speed with a surprisingly modern looking long row of rocker switches mounted dead centre on the dash between you and your passenger. There is no getting away with one thing though, as comfortable as they are once installed, E-Types are tricky cars to enter and exit from with tiny doors and extremely wide sills. If mobility is at all an issue, the cruel truth is looking at one from the outside may be as close as you get.This is where the later XJS and XKR derivatives come into their own, as both offer far easier accessibility from their more conventional interior design. The XJS is still low slung, but with plenty of room up front for both driver and passenger with pleasantries like powerful heating and ventilation systems and in the convertible, an electric folding roof. The XKR coupe offers similar, this time being more modern again, marred just slightly by the Ford sourced console and switchgear which thankfully falls below your eye-line whilst on the move. Surprisingly all three do share one thing in common; perfectly placed elbow rests either side of the driver, and so time now to hit the road.
Engine and exhaust note
When you do turn the key it’s the E-Types and XKR that truly deliver. Depending on which model you plump for depends on just how aural your experience is, as the Great Escape Classic Car Hire E-Types come with 5.3 V12 and smaller 6 cylinder engines with and without sports exhausts fitted. Volume levels therefore range from 1 to 10. The XKR has its own glorious sound in the form of a Jaguar V8 power-plant that rewards at tick-over with a distinctive throb giving way to the shrill of its supercharger as the loud pedal is fully depressed. Both are truly inspiring and completely different. The XJS on the other hand is much more ‘grace’ and the sleeper of the three as its V12 is almost completely silent until pushed really hard, with the only noise generated being that of wind passing quickly overhead when the roof is down.
Out and about
If you are after a relaxing and classy jolt around the countryside with something extra on tap if required then the XJS might just be for you. This car by its very nature is grace personified, combined with easy entry and exit as well as a heater so powerful you could probably drive to the north-pole roof down. The XKR takes away some of that grace and replaces it with much more pace, courtesy of its 4.0litre blown V8 that at 370bhp and 387 lbs/ft of torque is enough to see off any hot hatch and most other things up to Porsche, Ferrari and TVR standards. This car is extremely quick on fast flowing roads only needing to slow on tighter sections, largely due to its bulky 1700kg mass.E-Types on the other hand are lithe machines, particularly in 4.2 litre guise, and can be hustled along any road at any speed in relative comfort. The absence of body roll combined with comfort over virtually any road surface is a revelation with the only constraints being the car’s systems, such as the heater and fit of the roof around the windscreen, if a convertible. There is also the mild inconvenience of exhaust fumes being sucked into the cabin in the coupes, meaning a stop every 60 minutes or so is essential to preventing brain fade.
Ownership prospects
This is really a question about available funds, or maybe a gap that needs filling if you have a collection. The good news is that space aside, all three cars fulfil the ethos of grace and pace and so allow you to enjoy Jaguar ownership as its owner intended. E-Types provide the ultimate in classic car ownership in everything that means. Whilst XJS’s are now gaining recognition in their role in providing a basic platform for the later XK8, XKR and Aston Martin DB7 models and respected all the more for that with prices holding firm. XKR’s are now looking remarkable value for money for a car that is quite simply bonkers fast with an uncanny ability to cruise all day long at high speed. Each has something to offer, and so all three are cars Sir William should be, and I’m sure would be, extremely proud of.
Overall
An E-Type offers the ultimate in classic car ownership; the squarer XJS is for those on a tighter budget or for anyone who doesn’t quite bend and flex as well as they used to and the XKR serves as a useful halfway house both in terms of its looks and the investment required whilst providing serious pace to boot.
Driving
E Type - Incredible balance of cross country pace and grace, truly amazing for a 50 year old car
XJS - More grace than pace and so the XJS is by far the most refined of the three here
XKR - A supercharged V8 ensures this car wins the pace race, once the auto-box has done its thing
Engine
E Type -4.2 litre 6 Cylinder DOHC or 5.3 litre SOHC V12
XJS - 5.3 litre SOHC V12 with Lucas fuel injection
XKR - Supercharged 4.0 litre Quad Cam V8BrakesDisc brakes front and rear work well
Handling
E Type - Flat with hardly any roll, can be driven anywhere and rewards at any pace
XJS - Soft and cosy, best driven at a gentle pace
XKR - Comes close to E-Type but cannot hide its 1700kg mass in tighter corners
Desirability
All E-Types are sought after cars, Series 1 convertibles commanding the highest values, with later 2+2 coupes being the most affordable
XJS -Has suffered in the past but prices have now settled with interest on the increase
XKR - Just starting to be of interest now especially when compared to its higher valued cousin, the DB7.
Pro’s
E Type - Instantly recognisable fame
XJS - Accessible to more people and can be used all year round
XKR - Rocketship with some nice E-Type styling cues
Con’s
E Type
Buying: Tricky and potentially very costly to maintain
Renting: None
XJS
Buying: Not so tricky maybe, but still potentially costly to run and maintain
Renting: None
XKR
Buying: Same.
Renting: None
Overall
E Type - 5/5
XJS - 3/5
XKR - 4/5

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