Daimler Vanden Plas 4.2
Jaguar’s extraordinary postwar success has been due, in no small part, to the legendary XK engine revealed in October 1948 and now, therefore, approaching its 35th birthday. It is no particular secret that a totally new six-cylinder engine is not far away, but we gather that it is not intended for XJ saloons, and that means that the XK will be around for a while yet.
Tremendous strides have been made at Browns Lane, not only in improved quality control but in sheer output. In 1980 a workforce of 10,500 made 14,105 cars, while last year a workforce of 7,400 made 22,046 cars, more than doubling the output per man. Fighting their way out of the recession, Jaguar/Daimler’s sales last year improved by 40% worldwide, topping 10,000 units in the States. In May, the company’s US sales broke previous records for the 30th consecutive month.
It’s good to report a real British success, and we jumped at the chance to drive an XK-powered saloon again. Not the 12-cylinder, not even a Jaguar, but by way of a change the Daimler Vanden Plan 4.2.
At £22,945 this offers exceptional value for money when compared with the products of Crewe, Stuttgart or Munich. A revised fascia groups the instruments more ergonomically without losing the walnut burr quality nor the impressiveness of Jaguar’s instrument styling. The steering wheel is the same diameter as before, but with thicker padding and leather trim. We would only comment here that the new horn arrangement, in the padded crossbar, needs a very firm push with the palm of the hand and isn’t suited for an emergency “toot”.
New seat padding, courtesy of Pirelli, makes the Connolly leather seats more supportive, and we didn’t slide around under cornering in the way we remembered. Come to that, the steering felt more weighty than hitherto. Has the steering effort been increased just a little, or have we become accustomed to lightweight power steering systems?
The Vanden Plas is a very highly equipped car with air conditioning, all electric window lifts, electric sunshine roof, stereo radio/cassette, and much more besides, eventually tipping the scales at 35 cwt. This is much more than was ever intended for the XK engine 35 years ago and, coupled to the excellent GM400 three-speed automatic transmission, it does not give the Daimler a very high level of performance. With 205 bhp available, the luxury car will reach 60 mph in around 11 sec, and a maximum speed of 125 mph.
That turn of performance is very adequate for ferrying the company chairman to his office each day, and he could have a 12-cylinder version with much higher performance for an extra £4,000. The famous double overhead camshaft engine is still marvellously quiet and free of vibration, though it clearly has a lot of work to do and reflects this in the fuel consumption.
The Vanden Plas has, as standard, a remarkably accurate, and easy to operate, trip computer which reads out the distance covered, fuel used, journey fuel consumption, and instant fuel consumption as well as the time of day.
Commuting in central London, we didn’t care to be reminded that the Daimler was averaging 9.5 miles to the gallon. On a long motorway journey, with the speed control set at 80 mph, the average consumption reading was 19.6 mpg, though somehow we never reached 20 mpg in normal use. In this respect the XK engine is below the class average, despite the adoption of the Lucas) Bosch L-Jetronic injection system which ought to be the last word in economy.
With ample head and leg-room, superb comfort and distinguished styling, the Daimler Vanden Plas makes it easier to understand where Rolls-Royce’s customers went during the recession. In particular, the ride quality and exceptionally low noise levels inside the car set standards that few rivals can even approach, and none surpass. ML