My Grandad had a Jaguar. A big bastard S-Type that sat in his garage, always immaculate and only ever used on 'long' journeys. I remember being taken for a ride in it. A classic November's day- cold, grey, drizzly and an expanse of flat, featureless Norfolk roads ahead of us. We were on our way to buy a Rover 414 off his mate whose dad had just had a stroke- rendering him partially useless and unable to drive. Funny thing was the Rover turned out to be a dud. All the electronics failed on the driver’s side. No central locking, no electric windows- who knew Rovers could have strokes too?
Anyway, the deal was done and I was the proud owner of a new car. On the way home I was sat smugly in the passenger seat while the old man guffed on about a slow lorry in front of him. Now my Grandad never sped, he never really went above 70, he wore mustard coloured corduroy trousers and driving gloves. Your typical Jag driver you could say. But that day a gap opened up in the traffic and he booted it. The car jolted and the vocal 3 Litre engine made a noise I won't forget. Somewhere between a growl and a wail. It was truly excellent and from that day I looked at the car in a different way, it was no longer a big luxury cruiser but an angry, snarling beast.
You can’t blame anyone for thinking Jags have had their day. The big, bulky and often unattractive saloon releases of the 60s, 70s and 80s were all wood panelling, doilies and brass fixtures- more like mobile old people’s homes than the stripped down racers of the 40s and 50s (the original XK models were pure sex on wheels). Somewhere along the line Jaguar lost their way. Part of the problem could have been linked to the merge with British Leyland in 1966, a firm who produced shit like the Rover and Austin models and a firm who made everything beige and bland.
"Somewhere between a growl and a wail. It was truly excellent and from that day I looked at the car in a different way, it was no longer a big luxury cruiser but an angry, snarling beast."
This was possibly the turning point where the ‘oldies’ jumped onboard, requiring comfort and functionality rather than head turning looks and blistering performance. Things didn’t get much better more recently when the Americans stepped in. Taking all the history, allure and desirability of a Jaguar and cheapening the brand by welding a Ford Mondeo chassis to a Jag badge. The S-Type and X-Type were arguably… erm, crap. They sold well and they can still be seen cruising up and down the motorways due to their reasonable price tag but there’s nothing special about them. They look boring, drive boring and are boring to sit in. Thanks Ford.
So it comes as a pleasant surprise that an Indian firm has decided to go back to the roots of under-the-bonnet grunt and jaw-dropping design. Tata motors took over the Jaguar brand (and Land Rover) in 2008 and since then have been producing award-winning motors that reflect everything good, young and virile about Jaguar. The current XF looks sexy, encompasses practicality but offers sheer motoring thrills (especially if you opt for the raucous R versions). The revitalised XJ range ditches the shitty wood-panelling and instead injects some futuristic lines to the range and the XK and XK-R models are some of the best looking, grin-inducing motors money can buy right now.
But the model we all need to get very excited about is the new F-type. Starting out as an industry rumour with a few tantalising artist renders, the F-Type with its compact roadster looks that hark back to the golden era of the E-type is now is set to be reality. The small, potent and highly desirable machine is also rumoured to feature the aggressive V8 engine unit found in the larger XK models, if this becomes reality the F-Type will be one highly-desirable speed machine. This is great news for a motoring industry that’s currently bogged down in a recession, facing fire from eco-critics and basically not producing much of any excitement right now. The Jag is back and I personally can’t wait to drive one.
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