Scotty and the Snarling Kitties

Over the last few weeks I've gotten to drive a number of Jaguar's latest offerings, and I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some my personal encounters with Jaguars, some of their best current models including their most futuristic model the I Pace. Over the years Jaguars have been both coveted and parodied. This classic from Jeremy Clarkson will be forever associated with the brand for better or worse.

via Gfycat

Jaguar was originally founded as the Swallow Side Car Company in 1922 to manufacture side cars for motorcycles. This lead to the manufacture of bodies for motorcars, and eventually morphing into SS Cars Limited. Some of the cars were named "Jaguar," eventually leading to the company being rebranded Jaguar or various similar iterations. By my count Jaguar has been bought or merged ten times since it's founding, on average about every ten years.

The early Jaguars were attractive and interesting sporting cars, but not coveted like some of their early-years contemporaries from Alfa, or Bugatti. Personally there have been a handful of Jag's that resonated in my life for various reasons, the XK120-60, #E-Type, XJ6 and XJS have all played parts in my automotive life. There have no doubt been other significant Jaguar's during the same period, but I had personal experience with these models.

The motoring world really took notice of the brand in 1948 with the launch of the sexy and incredibly fast and agile for it's day XK120. One of my first classic car deals was brokering the sale of a scabrous early XK120. At that time many years ago I netted myself about $2,000 and thought I'd hit the classic car jackpot.

Throughout the 1950's the XK120 became the XK140, and eventually the XK160. Each numerical designation indicated the models top speed. All were powered by a version of Jaguar's legendary Double overhead cam 12-valve Inline Six which would continue in various iterations from 1949 to 1992. Not only was the engine powerful in it's day, but it also happened to be beautiful to a mechanical fashionista such as me. Part of the secret of it's power was carefully designed intake and exhaust ports, and very large intake and exhaust valves. Later model Jaguars had an updated I6 with 24 valve heads.

As sexy and fast as the XK120 in it's time was, it was nothing to the sensation created in 1961 by the E-Type. These were initially powered by the same inline six as the XK series, and a V12 became available in the Series III in 1971. As a child I say many of these cars running around SE Texas, but my first time behind the wheel was an unloved and very corroded XKE V12 coupe moldering for months in 1980 at the back of a disreputable used car lot in Beaumont, Texas. Hard to believe these cars were ever unloved, but a desperate used-car salesman turned a car-crazy eighteen year old kid with a good haircut loose in it hoping to palm it off. I used the same ploy to score a ride in a Hemi-Cuda, LS6 Chevelle, and many other interesting cars back in the day, but those are stories for another time.

That used-up XKE was cramped and the V12 missed and sputtered, and it smelled of oil leaks but I thought it was one of the coolest cars I'd ever encountered.

And who can forget that iconic song by Jan and Dean Dead Man's Curve, or Mad Men's Don Draper and his E-Type?

"I was cruisin' in my Stingray late one night, When an XKE pulled up on the right, He rolled down the window of his shiny new Jag, And challenged me then and there to a drag."

To my knowledge no one has yet written an iconic song about a sexy new Hyundai.

Not only were classic Jaguar's sexy on the outside, they also came fitted with some of the most beautiful interiors ever fitted to a "reasonably" priced sports car. I've always been a big guy, and I've never fit well in any of the vintage Jag's I've driven. Still, once behind the wheel the appeal was undeniable. The smell of leather and wood, and the sound of that silky six  are intoxicating.

My mom tolerated all my automotive insanity from an early age, but she was never a car person herself. The only car I ever knew here to covet was Jaguar XJ6 in the late 1970's. A friend from my car club bought such a car new in 1977 and kept it until his passing a few years ago. He once told me he had a love-hate relationship with that car, particularly the electrics. There have been an almost limitless number of jokes made about Lucas electrics, including my favorite, "The fan switch has two positions, high and blow." My friend told me on the occasions it as Au-pointe, it was a pleasure to drive.

Although very much a competitive car of it's day the Jaguar XJS of 1975-1996 are completely unloved by collectors today and can be purchased almost for pennies relative to their original cost. It's really a shame as they do check boxes you would think appealing to collectors; unique styling,V12 Power, four-wheel independent suspension, roomy interior (for a Jag) and disc brakes all the way around. Sadly many of these cars are just abandoned to rot, or horror of horrors converted to Chevy V8 power. A few years ago I had the opportunity to buy one of these neutered kitties poorly converted to small-block Chevy power, for only $1,500.  It was an otherwise nice car, and I think it may have eventually been scrapped. Such is the life of the unloved XJS.

And to put it bluntly Jaguar's build quality has frequently bordered on "barely assembled" and the company has teetered on insolvency over the years more times than the teeter-totter at your local park. So with all the owners, missteps, indifferent build quality, and smoldering electrics why are Jaguar's still coveted? In my opinion it comes down to emotion. Many models have had a certain joie de vivre, not duplicated by some more exotic Italian and German marques. And there is also the driving experience and the look from behind those beautiful dashboards and down the long voluptuous bonnets.

Several weeks back I drove a Jaguar F-Pace SVR. A snarling 5.0 litre Supercharged V8 beast of an SUV with 550 horsepower, and 502 lb ft or torque coupled to a slick-as-snot paddle shifted 8-speed automatic.

As much fun as this snarling tire-shredding beast was to drive, I was left with the impression of "not-a-Jag" at least not in the classic sense of some of Jaguar's greatest hits. The interior was especially disappointing. If the Jaguar badging were removed from the interior and one looked around it could be the interior of any number of brand-x vehicles. Nothing of the interior screamed Jaguar to me in the classic sense.

Unlike classic kitties of old everything functioned properly with not a single electrical Gremlin in sight. Purists may cringe, but I found the performance reminiscent of a Jeep Grand Cherokee Track Hawk I drove not long ago. Unlike the Jeep, the F-Pace has very exclusive styling with valet's happy to park it front and center at your private club or watering hole. One of my neighbors commented it was the most stylish SUV he had ever seen.

Next up was the 2020 Jaguar P300 R-Dynamic. And while we are on the subject what's up with some of these crazy model designations on many new cars? What happened to simple names like XK120, XKE, or even XJS?I found this the most all-round likeable of all the Jags I recently drove. The 2.0 liter 4-cylinder gas engine seemed rather milquetoast...until I selected the performance mode, and put the go-pedal to the wood. Then it went from a cuddly kitten to a snarling feline,  with 296hp and 295 lb ft or torque. However, like most inline 4's it sometimes seemed a bit rough at idle and lower speeds. Once you let this kitten off the leash she really smoothed out and leaped in Jaguar tradition. To put things in perspective, when the vaunted XK120 was released it only had 160 kittens on tap. This thing would run circles around most classic Jaguars.After comparing all this plastic engine cladding to the classic Jaguars above, and I was pining for some polished aluminum at at least something under-hood painted racer-red. It may make more kitties, but those classic Jag power plants look like a million snarling cats by comparison.

Somehow I found this interior less disappointing than the one in the F-Pace. It seems better integrated into the package as a whole, but it still doesn't scream Jag to me. It was superbly comfortable, although I did conk my noggin a couple of times entering and exiting. Still better than folding myself into a pretzel with the steering wheel impaled into my ample gut like that classic E-Type V12 coupe of many years ago.

Next up was Jaguar's latest technological marvel the I-Pace EV400 AWD. This car literally screams Jaguar at you in every way...with some caveats which I'll discuss in a separate article.

The I-Pace definitely has the Sexiest haunches since the XK120 and E-Type.

Now this is how I envisioned a modern Jaguar interior should look like; sleek, contemporary, but also evoking classic Jag interiors. I had no problems getting in our out, and I found the ride....well supple. With the battery pack mounted low in the chassis making for a very low center of gravity, and utilizing the regenerative braking to it's best advantage the handling is other worldly. I would have gladly spent weeks throwing it around the twisties near the GarageDlx HQ. Infotainment was easy to use and the sound system concert quality, and the dash is sexy as hell.

The panoramic moon roof is fixed, but look at the view!

The interior is surprisingly roomy vs the exterior dimensions. My 6'-4" "kid" only complained minimally from the back seat 🙂The only way I can describe the acceleration, is blistering. A drag-racer friend dropped by and I showed him how the I-Pace accelerates, a claimed 0-60 time of 4.5  seconds. With it's instant all-in torque, the I-Pace literally makes your face feel as if it's made of rubber. He said it would out launch most drag car's he's driven.

I do have some other concerns and commentary on the I Pace, but I'll cover that in a separate report. Tata Motors of India is Jaguar's current owner, and in my opinion they are making the best cars in the history of the marque. If they would add some beautiful wood to the interiors, and polished aluminum under the hood they would be almost perfect.

 

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