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 7 best Jaguars of the last 50 years.
1. Jaguar XJ6 and 12
For most people, the E Type automatically tops the list of bst Jaguars. And it is stunningly beautiful. But it doesn’t, in my view, have quite he depth of brilliance that the original XJ has. Whether Series 1, 2 or 3 Jaguar’s big saloon not only looks great but delivers for drivers and passengers too. The original XJ in SWB form is perhaps the purest version and, arguably, the most beautiful production saloon ever made. In 1968 Jaguar gave the world a car that was low and lithe, very quick and yet rode better than a Rolls Royce. The XJ’s party trick is that it also handles well, although the light steering does a good job of disguising this. The XJ12 surely has a good claim to the best saloon car ever made – whether you choose an early ’60s car or one of the last ’90s models.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Jaguar X300 XJR
Back in the 60s Jaguar defined itself around the ideas of grace, pace and space. For most of the following 25 years it ignored that mantra at the expense of heritage and exclusivity. The arrival, under Ford’s stewardship, of the supercharged Jags reset the clock. Although Jaguars had always been fairly quick since the 60s, the company had lacked a seriously rapid model to carry the Mk2 and E Type crowns. The X300 XJR changed all that. Beneath a body that was essentially just a 1960s XJ with new front and back, Jaguar shoehorned a supercharger onto its straight six 4 litre motor. Initially effectively handbuilt by TWR, the supercharged XJR was a proper M5 rival, at least in a straight line. Corners posed more of a problem, and the ride threatened to jangle the typical owner’s false teeth, but finally here was a fast Jag we could be proud of. Today XJRs can be bought for buttons. I suggest you get one.
5. Jaguar XJS