JAGUAR CARS WORKS in a slow and deliberate fashion its improvements to introduce. The V-I2 engine was rumored for years before it was shown to the public. After some time the first E-Types with V-12 engines were shipped to the U.S., but for display, not testing. Fifteen months later the U.S. Jaguar distributors had a car for test. A long wait, but the circumstances made it worthwhile, as the car was on the east coast and we were allowed to drive it from there to our home office in California. a long trip but one we expected to provide a useful surplus of information and a test ofa Grand Touring car under Grand Touring conditions.
So it proved to be but first-after the lapse of time since the V-I2's introduction some basic facts about the car. The E- Type Jaguar is II years old, updated and changed in many ways since it was new but still an older model into which the new engine has been fitted to keep the E on the market for a few more years.
The insertion of the V-I2 engine required another set of what has become a series of stretches and bulges since that first E Jaguar. The 2-place V-12 has the longer (by 6.7 in.) wheelbase first used for the 2+2 version of 6-cyl E-Type, the tracks have been widened and thc fenders flared to accommodate larger tires needed in turn for the added weight. There has been some gain in terms of passenger space and access but the overall design lacks the sleek appeal of the original E.
The interior presents the same theme of basic usefulness slightly marred by changes and lack of change. The principal instruments-large readable black-an-white tachometer and speedometer with smaller gauges for monitoring engine conditions-are excellent. But the controls for lights, wipers, fan, etc, are arranged in a row of identical rocker switches. Even though these are dearly labeled, one has to look long and hard so as not to pick the wrong one.
The ventilation system is antiquated and the controls laughable.It takes the paticnce of Job, the sensitivity of Michelangelo and an engineering degree before one can decipher and operate them. And once you've beaten the system it's dismaying to discover all the air that does enter the car is directed at the shoe tops. It's also a mystery why the English find it so difficult to design an effective defrosting system. The Series 3 V-12 keeps this tradition alive.
Fortunately the optional air conditioning works very well and the unit is nicely integrated into thc dash. Operation is a modcl of simplicity and a welcome relief from the previously mentioned vent and defroster controls. While air conditioning may seem like an expensive extravagance in a convertible, anyone who likes to motor long distances quickly in maximum comfort during hot weather will find driving the E-Type with the top raised and the air conditioning turned on the only way to fly.
The cockpit, too, lacks the spaciousness and comfort of more modern designs. Moving the wheels outboard has done nothing for foot room. The pedals are closcly spaced and ideally located for heel and toe driving but there's no place for the driver to rest his left foot. And the clutch effort is quite high (42 Ib to be exact) so driving the E-Type in any sort of traffic where constant shifting is required is more a chore than a pleasure.
Seating is another area in which the Jaguar falls behind the times. The seat cushion isn't sloped back enough to suit us and this leaves the driver with the feeling he is sliding under the steering wheel. This wouldn't be quite so noticeable except for the loose fitting continuous loop seat/shoulder belts. The seat backs adjust almost to a horizontal angle so finding a comfortable position shouldn't be a problem. With the top down, however, the head restraints interfere with some of the convertible top frame members preventing full adjustment of the backrests.
Trunk space in the E-Type is obviously not a strong point. The tapered rear body leaves room for little more than a couple of small thin suitcases, preferably of the soft variety (and a spare battery, but more about that later). But the total cargo area approaches 10 cubic feet a fairly respectable figure. The extra 4 cubic feet is found in the covered bins behind the seats and the area on top of these bins.
Overall the E- Type is an easy car to drive and is most at home when driven hard and fast. The covered steering wheel is not only easy to hold but adjustable 3 inches fore and aft. Power assisted steering has been added and scores high marks in some areas and low in others: It's quick and precise but transmits less road feel than we consider ideal. In addition, it's prone to groaning at low speeds and the power assist can be beaten during fast Iow speed maneuvers.
The brakes are very good. Stops are quick and straight not withstanding a bit of wheel locking. Pedal effort is moderate and allows the brakes to be modulated easily and precisely. Fade isn't a problem as the E- Type will stop in a hurry from high speeds time and time again.
The all-synchro gearbox adds to the ease of fast motoring with a lever that is perfectly positioned and a synchromesh that can't be beaten. Gear ratios are well spaced and the final drive ratio of 3.54: 1 gives a top speed of 135 mph at 6000 rpm. The V-12 will cruise all day-at an unlabored 100-115 mph. This is a treat we had the pleasure of savoring while driving across Nevada.
The Series 3 V-12, though somewhat a disappointment in ultimate cornering (the XJ6 corners faster on a skidpad), is a very predictable car with excellent balance between. ride and handling. The ride is soft but very well controlled and even at high speeds there is no tendency toward front end lift or wander. On rough roads most of the squeaks and rattles we've noted on previous E- Types have been eliminated, all the more remarkable when one remembers this is a convertible and not a more rigid coupe.
Handling is neutral under all conditions except for extremely heavy applications of power. On such occasions the tail comes out gently and predictably. Such characteristics are forgiving to the inexperienced driver but useful to the more skillful during fast motoring.
There does seem to have been some compromise when the suspension was tuned for the larger, more powerful engine and it reveals itself in an extreme display of torque steer, that is, under full power the car points to the left, the driver corrects for the swerve and ends the car pointing to the right when power stops for, say, a shift into a higher gear.
We can find more fault with the tires. The fat Dunlop radials aren't very sticky and howl at very low speeds when set at the factory recommended pressures (24 psi front/28 psi rear). 'And as the limit of adhesion is approached they squeal unmercifully. Adding a few pounds of air reduces the noise level but harshens the ride considerably.
Traction in the wet wasn't a strong point either. In southern California we don't have much opportunity to drive in the rain but the east and midwest are a different story. Driving through Indiana we encountered several heavy downpours and on more than one occasion the tires hydroplaned at speeds around 55-60 mph. And the rains brought out another failing of the convertible, at least this particular one. Rain leaked into the car at the top of the windshield and at the sides.
The engine is a sheer delight, by itself almost worth the price of admission. and to some extent it atones for the sins of theoutdated car. The V-12 is a lovely piece of machinery, lovely, to listen to and lovely to behold. The exhaust has that hurried sound characteristic of a multiple-cylinder engine where the many explosions per revolution make it sound as if it's running faster than an engine with fewer cylinders. The idle is smooth and quiet with none of the mechanical busyness one normally experiences from the likes of a Ferrari or Lamborghini V-12.
And the smoothness lingers throughout the rpm range. The V-12 is fitted with four Stromberg carburetors. One somehow expects fuel injection on an engine of such sophistication but the Strombergs perform their function in fine fashion. The engine starts easily from cold with the manual choke and runs with none of the leanness associated with some other carburetor-engined cars we've driven recently. The V-12 produces gobs of heat which billow out of the hood vents (also through the transmission tunnel and into the car) when the car is at idle. And when run for any length of time in hot weather it was sometimes a bit reluctant to restart without a lot of cranking. The engine is tractable throughout the rev range and produces ample torque even at extremely low rpm. The power peaks at around 6000 rpm and, unlike the old 6-cyl, the 12 never seems distressed when turning such high numbers.
With the top down one becomes more aware of the nature of the beast lurking beneath that long bulging hood. Mechanical noise slips over and around the windshield and combines with the exhaust note to surround the occupants with sweet and sensuous, sounds.
Reliability has never been a strong point of any Jaguar we have tested and this E- Type was no, exception. The electrical system had a disturbing tendency to run the battery down (the reason we carried a spare). This happened four times between New York. and Salt Lake City where the problem was finally diagnosed as a defective and worn alternator drive belt and remedied. (Our thanks to the service personnel at Schettler Williams Jaguar in Salt Lake for solving the problem.) The Series 3 is fitttd with a Lucas transistorized ignition system combined with a breakerless distributor and though much maligned as the cause of our trouble, it actually performed flawlessly the entire time we had the car.
Cooling problems have plagued untold numbers of owners of 6-cyl Jaguars. But we had heard nothing but good things about the V-12 in this respect. Thus it came as something of a surprise when we encountered overheating while driving through Las Vegas city traffic during the heat of the day with the ambient temperature hovering around 98°F. After cooling down, for about an hour the engine ran fine the rest of the way through the desert to Newport Beach. Whether this is characteristic of all V-12 s or a quirk of our particular engine, we can't say, but time and reader surveys will tell.
Nevertheless, the V-12 is an exciting car to drive. The quarter mile comes up in a little over I5 seconds and there is handling and braking to match. We've been harsh on the car but we believe justifiably so. When the same manufacturer can produce such an outstanding car as the XJ6. it not only spoils us for anything he produces thereafter, but makes it exceedingly difficult for us to justify the existence of a car that is not as excellent.