“Motor Sport’s” Impressions o that Much-Discussed Car—
THE JAGUAR XK 120
AFTER going along to Holly’s showrooms, appropriately situated at the head of Great Portland Street, formerly known as the ” Street of Cars,” to snatelt a pre-view of the new fixed-head eoune on the Jaguar XK 1’20 chassis, I was able to fulfil a long-standing ambition and take away for test an open XE 120. This remarkable Jaguar made its appearance 2i years ago and since then many and varied have been the Pressmen who have tried it.. Perhaps the fact that MOTOR SPORT has not, done so sooner is so that we can have the last. word—at all events, our test eoineiding with the release of a newer model, it rather seems so. First impressions of an unfamiliar fast car are not always the most favourable, and so it, was with this XE. The snag hood and rigid side-curtairts were erect when 1 took over, and as the reassurances of ” Lofty ” England were cut off abruptly as IW stood upright I realised that I was alone in the maelstrom of London’s rush hour traffic in Eligland’s fastest standard car. Naturally
self-respeet big motoring journalist wants to loiter ill sucti a vehicle, hut as pressed strtungly along I was (Inbarrussetf to discover the great distance my throttle foot had to travel to encounter the brake pedal and a bit put out at the way the Jaguar wallowed and howled its !hilltops when dellectol from the straight ahead-you have to be used to sailing suudl boats to master this chap, I thought. But the response to the throttle was magnificently stimulating and that of the brakes likewise, when I could find them. It was almost immediately apparent, too,
that the 31-litre, twin-eam 160-b.h.p. engine, like a bank clerk, is quite devoid of temperament. I left it idling all the while we were in the Bayswater traffic hold-ups and I poodled along at 500 r.p.m. in top gear without upsetting the mixture or lubricating the sparks. Viten a gap appeared-my word, how we made use of it.
So to the A30 Arterial, where people roaring homeward in the extreme right hand groove were perplexed, sometimes peeved, to receive a reminder from the Jaguar’s very polite horn, so that we could get on with our motoring. The way We left everything behind will long live in my Tammy.
Thus to familiar roads. where I discovered nutny new corners -the same as I did on first driving a Morgan ” 4/4 ” after long spells in falai ly SalOOTIS, on ly now these corners were acute ! At. first. I felt, alarmed at the idea of hurrying along the twisty bits in a car so softly sprung, for the NE 120 is that all right. It gives a most creditably comfortable ride over atrocious rOads. You can hear the suspension links, antiroll bars or whatever they lie the wheels to the chassis wit lt these days, chat tering to themselves over tlw rough bits and it’, even at it crawl, voit luck over hard on a loose-ish surface, the outer front wheel scrubs in a Manner I met pre-war in the Mk ‘V Bentley and V12 Lagonda, when really supple springing on really rapid cars was in its infancy. The Jaguar also rolls freely and dips its nose if you anchor at, all sharply. then ” breasts the waves ” as you accelerate. But I realised how well the wheels followed the surface contours and later, when I
negotiated twisty roads at advanced throttle openings, I was ‘surprised how correctly geared the !lam:In-Douglas steering seemed, although in fact it, asks 3+ turns lock-to-lock whereas usually I fret at anything lower than 2. Indeed, the Jaguar ” holds in ” splendidly round fast bends and is exceedingly stable on wet roads. part explanation of this is the exceedingly ge I wrous steering lock, so
handy for turning the 190 round in narrow places. –H’ ever anyone wants to ply for hire in London streets in one of these cars Scotland Yard certainly won’t find any fault with the lock; it’s immense’: The rest. of the explanation seems to be the accuracy of control. In .spite of its rolling tendencies the XK comes to heel decently, so that you know .just how much wheel work will be needed under given circumstances and the steering accurately interprets the driver’s desires. The wheel, rather thiek-rinuned, has its spokes placed properly, the vivid castor-action is hot It useful tor straightening-up handsoff after acute corners and takes all backlash out of the steering, while only the slightest tremors are transinitted through the wheel. Whip an XE through the ” chicane “-type of bend anti you will quickly appreciate that, if ” disconnected ” in the modern manner, the steering is very good. It is also reasonably light, although at racing speeds one is conseious of holding the car against the Powerful castor action. The seats anti steering column adjust to give a good position, although the seat squab leans back a trifle too far for a truly alert posture. RevuP the engine and pleasing sounds come front the exhaust., but the outstanding impression left by t his wonderful car is its combination of extravagant performance and silent, effortless functioning. exhaust sound vanishing at about 9,500 r.p.m. So easily does the XE 120 go about its task that at first a newcomer behind its long alligator bonnet is a trifle disams-iinted. As he glances at. the speedometer needle showing 05 or so he wonders, where is this great speed they speak of ? Theft he relleets that the speeulonteter is mostly only vonsulted as the car is cased through corners and that afterwards the immense acceleration, still with no display of effort, thrusts the car forward into the eighties and nineties in a refreshingly brief space of time. Even driving the Jaguar as essentially a top-gear car, 90 m.p.h.. becomes commonplace in between (lodging the lorries along an?,, main or seeondary road, so great is the accelerative ability. No partieular speed can be cited as the cruising speed—rather do you make a series of hawk-like swoops past slower trallie, punctuated by firm applications of the brakes to tuck you safely behind prevailing obstructions. It is all tremendously exhilarating—that is
the word accomplished so easily that after hundreds of miles you never even begin to feel blase. The ” quick ” steering and this smooth, unending surge of acceleration brings familiar towns and villages quite astonishingly Owe together.
The 12-in. Loekheed brakes normally do their stuff admirably, too. With only slight pressure and small travel on the pedal (I soon found it. wasn’t really inaecessible) truly powerful, progressive, snag-free retardation is available, without which the XI’ 120 wouldn’t be half the car it is. I write ” normally,” because I did come op against rather disconcerting fade. I had braked hard from about. 80 m.p.h.—one is so seldom under 70 or 80 in this car—for a minor cross-roads and entered some narrow lanes, which I took at. about 50, braking for the ineessant, corners. All of a sudden I found almost all anchorage had evaporated, just as if I’d wetted the shoes in a water-splash, only I hadn’t. The harder I pressed the more negative was the effort, until negotiation of a congested high-street. al 20 m.p.h. conStituted quite an adventure. fly this time YOU eould smell how hot the drums and linings were from the eockpit. After I !tad had lunch temperatures (and tempers) were normal again and the brakes as good as ever. Now this fading did not wear in really fast main road driving_L luckily. but I can now sympathise with XI: 120 drivers who have slapped the straw during a sports car race or come down an Alp a thought too quickly. This suave Jaguar was so enormously quick front one place to another that, to plot its true performance seemed somewhat pointless. In any ease, it was in absolutely standard trim, with the 7 to 1 compression ratio instead of 8 to 1 and the low 3.04 1.4) 1 axle ratio, and, of course, no undershield. Tile engine
” pinked ” almost. inaudibly on ” Pool.” started front stone cold instantaneously and ran straight up into ” the red “- well over 5,000 r.p.ra.–witImut the slightest anxiety. IL was silk-smooth to 4,000 r.p.m., a bit rootglt loeyond that, ribrat on travelling up the gear-lever at 4,500 r.p.m. omit above. Speedometer readings of 40, 70 and 100 m.p.h. were realised in the indirect ratios of 12.21o, 7.22 and 4.98 to I. I suspeet. the speedometer was optimistic and too m.p.h.. the true maximum in third gear. Normally, of course, I started in second, went almost at once into third, stayed there up to 70, then got going in top. How easily speed builds-up in the 3.04 to 1 top ratio is illustrated by a casual run down past Frensharit Ponds from Farnham, when, baulked on the ” run-in,” I nevertheless got. up to 4,3(X) r.p.m. along the undulating straight beside the lake. This represents about 97 m.p.h., although the speedometer said 110. Later I saw 120 m.p.h. recorded along a mile or so Of straight road and colleagues using the Southend Arterial ” clocked ” 130. This represents a true 120 m.p.h. and I would put the genuine two-way maximum at approximately 110 m.p.h. The surge of acceleration from 80 m.p.h.. onwards is, perhaps, more exhilarating than those impressive triaximitin speeds. The real punch (mines in at about 5)) in tlik gear, but this is no hardship, for the gear change is delightful to use–reminiseent
of that of a Tr) ” from a crawl things happen very: satisfactorily indeed when you open up in third.
Its pedal rather far to the right, the clutch functions as a Borg lood Beek should ; there is ample room for your left foot. For a car good for 100 m.p.h. almost anywhere the XIC 120 is notably docile in conception and demeanour. It nuts very cool, the water temperature mostly below 60 degrees C. Oil pressure builds to 19 Ito.isq. in. as the revs. rise. The facia is devoid of masses Of switches and dials ; it even incorporates a eigar lighter (fancy smoking a cigar ill ail Xh•I). ‘flame Is one of those warukrfai petrol gauges that becomes an oil-level indicator when you press a button. The oil part
always read ” full ” while I had the car ; alas, not so the ” petrol ” indicator, for speed costs money and we only seemed to be doing about 13-14 m.p.g. This is a snug car, too, when hood and side bits are unfurled, absolutely suited to taking the popsie to—well, to the pictures. Open, the big screen gives excellent protection even at 100 m.p.h., at the expense of a bit of a blind spot created by its centre support. Even torrential rain blows clear of the oceu pants over 40 m.p.h.. Both wings are easily visible and 1.he rear-view mirror is excellent for those built-tip areas where they do not. disguise their police cars. Aetually. Jaguar drivers are the least likely to exceed speed limits ; for example, I took a great pride in doing a genuine 10 m.p.h. for the (Mike length Of the police diversion
so limited in Farnham, to the amusement of the policeman on point duty ; after all, only moments before I had seen the speedotheter at 110, and could get it. there again many times before reaching Imudoti.
Laek of cabby holes is compensated for by excellent. Ilap-covered door pockets, the door ” pulls ” anal internal locks are nicely done, the doors shut ” expensively ” and getting in and out couldn’t be easier. The lines of the car are superb, and the hood stows away neatly. Minor grumbles –a draught about my feet., the irritation of speedometer and rev.-counter needles moving in opposite directions and a craving, unsatisfied, for an oil thermometer, direction indicators when the car was enclosed, a fuel range greater than 200 miles (15 gallons—only about: five hours running Bum in an X1C), and some means of knowing whether ” side larates on ” had been selected correetly with 1 he single rotary lamps switch, –in which connection, isn’t it rather droll that they tell you when the headlamps are full on but nothing :timid.. your TIM’. lamps ?
A few rattles intruded bat the gear:: are welt beluived. flaying to unlock a flap before you van refuel has mixed blessiags. I Was spared it radio and heater, liked very notch the fly-off handbrake, and Aminl the hemllamps (foot-dipper) penetrating, if a thought ” uppish.” The big luggage locker is useful, too-and in ease anyone asks what this and similar ” amenities ” have to do with real sports ears, let toe say that the very rapidity and driving pleasure afforded by such ears makes them appropriate for long-distance touring.
Before parting with the car it, was subjected to some very hard laps of Brands Hatch, after which it completed some very enjoyable miles in Kent with only slightly more free-movement. of the brake pedal atal a trace of art oil-leak from the gearbox to indicate how hard it had been driven. It never boiled arid on the circuit only slight brake-fade intruded.
Ity the high quality of its finish and appointments alone the XI: 120 represents very good value for money. Its very liberal speed and acceleration, aceomplished with such willing ease, are unrivalleol and to drive this Jaguar is to enjoy an experience at once totique and embracing caw of the highest. pinnaeles of modern motoring.—W.B.