Wednesday, March 2, 2011

We drive Jag legend to celebrate 50 years of E-Type

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the E-Type's debut at Geneva, we head to Coventry to drive the original show car - how does it shape up?

Jaguar E-Type cornering
It’s 50 years since the most famous Jaguar of them all made its Geneva Motor Show debut – but the E-Type’s graceful lines are just as jaw-dropping today.
To celebrate, we headed to the big cat’s heritage museum in Coventry to drive one of the early Series 1 cars, built in 1963. Under the elegant bonnet is a 3.8-litre straight-six producing around 261bhp. It gives 0-62mph in around seven seconds. Top speed was a claimed 150mph – although few customer models could reach the magic figure.
Twist the ignition key, push the starter button and the engine bursts into life with a growl from the twin exhausts. On the move, you’re reminded how far things have moved on in the past half century. There’s no synchromesh on first and second gears, so a gentle touch is required to engage them, while the brakes need a much firmer push before anything happens.

Yes, it feels old by today’s standards, but the E-Type was cutting edge in the Sixties, with its monocoque construction, independent rear suspension and all-round disc brakes. In corners, it feels planted and responds adeptly to steering inputs, although there is a fair amount of body roll.
Still, the ride is extremely comfortable: the soft suspension helps the Jag glide over uneven road surfaces, while the thick-walled tyres iron out any small imperfections in the surface. Of course, the E-Type can’t compete with today’s finely honed models – but it’s a measure of the firm’s genius that for sheer driving pleasure, it’s still up there with anything else on the road.
The E-Type draws attention from passers-by like no other car, and you’ll find yourself smiling at the wheel, too. Let’s hope models like the XKR-S have the same effect another 50 years from now!
Jaguar E-Type rear
Jaguar E-Type track
Jaguar E-Type interior
Jaguar E-Type engine
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