Recap on the 3.8-litre Jaguar S-Type

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TEST impressions of the 3.8-litre Jaguar in improved i.r.s. form were published in Motor Sport for July 1964; this is a brief recap. The body style of this well-liked Coventry production dates back ten years and the famous 6-cylinder 7-bearing twin-cam XK engine with which it is powered to 1948. Yet it remains a highly significant and desirable motor car.

A contemporary has said getting into the S-type is rather like entering one of London’s older-established clubs. Jaguar themselves claim a special kind of motoring which no other car in the World can offer. I dispute neither of these statements.

The interior appointments of any Jaguar rival the comfort and dignity of far more costly luxury cars. The facia, deep screen rail, door, shell, console and roof cappings, and the cubby-hole lid, are of highly polished figured-walnut, the upholstery is of the finest hide leather, over foam rubber. The floor is covered with thick pile carpets. The facia layout is equally satisfying, and characteristically Jaguar. The 5-in. electric tachometer and speedometer dials are set before the driver and supplemented by smaller ammeter, fuel gauge, oil gauge (40 lb/sq. in.) and water thermometer (80 C.) dials on the central panel, all these having black faces and clear white figures. A line of no fewer than six matching lift-up switches control interior/map light, panel lighting, heater fan, selection of o/s or n/s fuel tank. 2-speed screen wipers, and washer. There is a separate starter button and, centrally above the cigar igniter, the plated rotary lights-switch, which fully rotated, brings in the effective in-built fog-lamps. (It does not lock in position as on a Rolls-Royce or Bentley.) All this is essentially “Jaguar” and the makers are sufficiently conscious of its effectiveness to illustrate it, with an explanatory key, in their catalogue. . . .

Already the “special kind of motoring” only Jaguar prorides is becoming justified. Other cars are as luxurious, some perhaps even more lush, some may handle somewhat better, one or two may be that much quieter. But how many can offer this leather-cum-walnut dignity, this satisfying practicability of facia and control layout, and a top speed in excess of 121 m.p.h. allied to acceleration that disposes of a s.s. 1/4-mile in 17 1/2 sec.? At a price of less than £2,000 ? That is what Jaguar of Coventry contrive to do, this competitive figure buying the overdrive -5-type with all but £100 still to spare, or the automatic transmission version (117 m.p.h.; s.s.-1/4 in 18.3 sec.) with nearly £22 still in hand. . . .

The S-type has been in production for over three years. It was introduced in October 1963 as a clever adaptation of the coil-spring and wishbone i.r.s. of the Mk. X Jaguar to the old Mk. 2 body shell slightly elongated and improved in detail.

Although dated in time, the S-type continues to hold its own in almost any company. It is really a very compact car for one housing a 220 b.h.p, power link. The wheelbase is less than 9 ft. and Burman power-assisted steering makes it an easy car to park, with the proviso that the rather long boot is invisible to the driver when reversing. The steering is so finger-light that acute corners are rendered effortless to negotiate and the car’s “dodgeability” factor is high.

The body style may have been with us for a long time but it remains acceptable. Its sheer simplicity enhances the lines and the dropaway bonnet certainly assists forward visibility, except when the scuttle fresh-air flap is open. The extremely comfortable front seats, with reclining squabs controlled by side levers, lack lateral support to some extent, but both have folding arm-rests. This lack of support is not true of the back seat, on which three adults can be carried, or its centre armrest unfolded if only two occupants are carried. (The cushion is steeply angled, however, which made the motoring dog rather restless.)

On the road the S-type is essentially safe, and notably effortless. The engine does not “go into the red” until it is taken to over 5,500 r,p.m., but as it does not get within 800 r.p.m. of this limit when at full speed, and 80 m.p.h. is available in 3rd gear, the big power unit is invariably working very much within itself. It is also a premium-petrol burning (8.0 to 1 cr.), smooth-running, and very docile power unit, willing to potter along in the 3.7 to 1 top gear and accept the overdrive from qatte low speeds. So it not only does its work quietly, but should be extremely durable.

The synchromesh gearbox, once notoriously poor on Jaguars, was improved in time for this model and the gear-change is generally acceptable, although the short, rigid central lever has rather a long travels is very notchy, and the synchromesh from 3rd into top could be beaten quite easily. The off-set of the pedals makes clutch engagement a trifle uncomfortable.

The steering wheel can be adjusted for height. It is almost too large and it would benefit if even higher gearing (3 1/4 turns, lock-to-lock) could be provided in power-assisted form. There criticism ends, because this is very excellent power steering. The stalk controls, l.h. one for turn-indicators-cum-flasher, r.h. one for o/d. are set rather too far below the steering-wheel rim for convenient quick operation.

The S-type Jaguar has highly commendable suspension, giving a high standard of comfort and ride, although the latter is inclined to be spirited and mild shake comes through to the body shell. It is understandable, therefore, that in cornering fast it rolls and lurches somewhat, for its supple springing has to cope with a weight not all that far short of two tons, fully laden, and transmit power and torque of a kind that prompted the designer to give this model a limited-slip differential. But once on its selected keel, as it were, the car corners very confidentially indeed, with no protest from the 185 x 15 Dunlop SP41 tyres. The servo-assisted all-disc brakes contribute undramatic, progressive retardation for very modest pedal pressures. So this two-mile-a-minute saloon is essentially a safe-handling car.

It is also nicely endowed with sensible and worthwhile detail equipment. For instance, fresh air, or heating, can he selected via vacuum servos by a battery of three push-buttons on the central console, which is handy when driving fast, although more fresh air would often be welcome—Jaguar need to investigate full-flow ventilation, like Ford’s Aeroflow, to be competitive in this line of development. Then there are the big openable rear-window vents with good catches, and a switch on the console for opening the rear outlet ventilator. An anti-dazzle rear-view mirror is fitted and the vizors are deep and typically rigid, with vanity mirror. A reversing light is standard; and coat-hooks are provided. Turn-knobs angled on the facia deflect warm air to feet or face, as required, and there is efficient Triplex electric rear-window heating. The radio aerial can be extended by an under-facia handle which, if it calls for seven crankings and isn’t a patch on electrical elevation, is better than having to get out of the car. (Alas, the Radiomobile radio on the test car developed a fit of the crotchets; nor was the clock working correctly.) There is ample stowage room within a Jaguar—the lockable cubby-hole just takes a Rolleifiex, the stiff-lidded pockets in the front doors are surprisingly commodious, and there are deep wells in the back doors and a useful under-facia shelf, also a pull-out picnic table under the facia in matching polished walnut wood. The facia panel hinges down to give access to the fuses, after a couple of screws have been removed. Turn-buttons serve as convenient interior door locks and there is the traditional light to warn that the r.h. handbrake is on or brake fluid level dangerously low. The front two-position, guttered quarter-lights have thief-deterrent locks.

The boot, its lid self-supporting, is notably long and of 19 cu. ft. capacity; it is illuminated automatically at night. But the test car offended because the lid tended to stick shut. After a car which won’t start, nothing is more exasperating than one in which one reaches one’s destination and is unable to gain access to one’s luggage. . .  

Otherwise, it was a great pleasure to re-experience the contentment that comes from driving this all-independently-sprung Jaguar saloon. I covered over 1,000 miles in it and had very little to complain about, except when it rained, for the wiper blades did not appear to have been replaced during the life of the car. There was a certain amount of creaking from the region of the rear suspension, but this particular car had over 31,000 miles to its credit. It “bottomed” at the front more frequently than I would have expected, on only moderately rough lanes. The headlamps are scarcely adequate to the car’s speed and although the full-beans light is non-dazzling, this is off-set by the “overdrive” label which shines in the driver’s eyes when the highest gear is in use.

In town driving I got 15.7 m.p.g. and on the open road this improved to 20.1 m.p.g. The dual petrol tanks are an excellent feature, enabling simple consumption checks to be easily made, or some fuel to be kept always in reserve, or the full-fuel load to be decently balanced. The latter should give a range of approximately 250 miles. At the end of this 1,000-mile test the awkward flexible dipstick indicated the need for three pints of oil. The automatic choke gave generally faultless starting.

There may be quieter cars than this Jaguar, but noise-level, especially at the legal British open-road cruising-speed, is commendably low, and for effortless travel in the lap of luxury, with an enormous performance potentiality in reserve, the Jaguar S-type, priced at £1,900 15s. 8d., is still unique in its class. It is a British production over which no bias is necessary to bestow on it the warmest praise.

To ride behind the leaping Jaguar mascot is to indeed experienee a special kind of motoring. It is, perhaps, symbolic that the animal remains more discreetly out of the driver’s line of sight than does the Triple-Pointed Star or Flying Lady.

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