What's the best Jaguar of all time?
Jaguar. For many the marque is sort of The Rolling Stones of car companies - lots of great hits in the 60s, rested on its laurels through the 70s, 80s and 90s, rebooted and sort of cool again today. But dig a little deeper and during its lengthy fallow period Jaguar did offer up some gems.
For someone who professed never to like Jags when he set up Great Escape Cars 8 years ago, I've owned a surprising number of Coventry Cats. Perhaps the fact that Jaguar, like the Stones, have churned out more classics than any other car company makes owning a few unavoidable. Now, I'll admit, I rather like them.
Jaguar's rise, fall and rise is well documented. In the 60s, with a strong leader powering the business forward, every new Jaguar was brilliant. Then came BL who saw Jaguar as a cash cow to fund its ailing volume marques. Lack of investment, aging models and shoddy build quality saw Jaguar increasingly looking to the past to sell cars. The heritage vibe continued when new money finally arrived in the 90s, with Jaguar essentially rehashing 1960s designs as new cars. This was a far cry from the pioneering style of the 60s cars.
Things began to change in the '00s of course and today Jaguar is producing genuinely modern cars, albeit ones that are clearly linked to its history. But instead of recycling the past they are designs that use the past as a springboard. Critics argue that they 'don't look like Jaguars' but, really, look at the 60s cars compared to their forebears and tell me, do they look like Jaguars?
With Jaguar finally going from strength to strength here they are, my humble proposals for a list of the 5 best Jaguars of the last 50 years.
1. Jaguar E Type
Little introduction is required. Forgetting the awful 2+2 Series 1 and 2, any E Type is gorgeous. Some may prefer the early cars, other the more brutal later cars, whatever your preference it is difficult to argue that any are less than eye-catching. The E Type looks exactly like a sports car should. It may be difficult to get into, noisy, prone to dowse your feet when it rains and even, whisper it, not the last word in sports car handling, but when a car looks this good, you can forgive it pretty much anything.
2. Jaguar Mk2
Oh to be a doctor or gangster in the 60s. The Jaguar Mk2 turned a dumpy, sedate saloon - the Mk1 - into a proper road burner. This was a car that turned Tooting High Street into the seafront at Cannes, a car to cruise and be seen in. In 60s Britain it oozed an evocative blend of chic and danger, and it's shadow still casts across modern culture. Simply putting a Mk2 in any advert, film or TV programme immediately telegraphs a particular mood and time to any viewer of any age. The 3.4 and 3.8 Mk2s were four door sports cars, super quick and yet classy at the same time. The Mk2 is perhaps the only car that seriously competes with the XJ for the title of most beautiful saloon car.
3. Jaguar XJS
Oh dear, the poor old XJS. It's like one of Mick Jagger's solo projects - has all the right ingredients but the end result is disappointing. Well, that's the prevailing view of the XJS. I beg to differ. The looks may be divisive but it isn't, in my view ugly. It is certainly an interesting car to look at. It is also a very, very good car to drive. The XJS' fraught development and launch tend to overshadow the fact that it does what it as intended to do - convey rich people smoothly and quickly - extremely well. Since it is pretty much a short wheelbase XJ saloon the ride is superlative, making it a great GT car. It is also one of the few mass produced V12 cars, possessing an engine that is perhaps one of the greatest ever made. It stayed in production longer and sold better than the E Type. There has to be a reason for that.
4. Jaguar XKR
The XK8 coupe and convertible did much to relaunch Jaguar on the world stage, even if they were - in familiar style - warmed over XJS' under the skin. The story goes that the car that became the DB7 should have been a Jaguar. When Ford and TWR turned it into an Aston Jaguar had to work quickly to produce a XJS successor. The result was a slightly compromised car that looked a bit like a big E Type but with a too-large boot (allegedly to accommodate a set of golf clubs). Nevertheless, the XK was well built, reliable and good looking. When Jaguar pulled the same trick on the XK as they'd executed with the XJ - dropping in a supercharger - they created a proper road rocket. The XKR is a brilliant machine - it handles, it engages and it is luxurious. Proper grace, pace and space (for golf clubs).
5. Jaguar XK
Before Jaguar invested in mass production in the 1960s it specialised in cars like the XK150 - exclusive, beautiful big cars that offered scintillating performance without the boutique car prices. Without the XK we wouldn't have the E Type, and for that alone it makes this list. But it is so much more than a precursor - it looks amazing and it drives superby.
We hire all of these classic Jaguars from our site in the Midlands. Our unique E Type Evolution experience lets you drive several of them. Or book onto our Jaguar Driving Day and sample all of them. To find out more call 01527 893733 or chat to us online.