Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Jaguar XKE Road Tests


Jaguar XKE Handling
The Jaguar XKE's nose was an ideal shape, but the glass-covered headlamps provided inadequate illumination.
The Jaguar XKE's nose was an ideal shape, but the glass-covered headlamps provided inadequate illumination.

As a driving instrument, the Jaguar XKE was found to be a delight in many ways.

The independent rear suspension was able to give a soft ride over rough roads allied with a feeling of great stability. The steering was light, smooth and precise "to an outstanding degree," yet there was little kickback. Body rigidity was deemed high for a convertible.

As for handling, Motor's description likely set a million mouths to watering: "A great deal of clever development must have been required to produce cornering characteristics which are not only outstandingly good but particularly well suited to the unusual power-to-weight ratio.

"It is basically very near to being a neutral steering car, but the driver is constantly astonished by the amount of power he can pile on in a corner without starting to bring the tail round; as with front-wheel drive, hard acceleration through a bend is the right technique, and lifting off suddenly gives a marked oversteering change.

"Naturally, the power technique can be overdone in the lower gears, but this merely increases the nose-in drift angle in a most controllable way. It is possible to go on increasing the sideways 'g' value to a quite surprising level, because the XKE retains its balance far beyond the point at which most sports cars have lost one end.

"The very low build (we only realized how low when we saw a small foreign GT coupe towering over it) and anti-roll bars at both ends keep the roll angles right down, and it seems natural to throw the car about in a manner usually reserved for smaller and lighter sports cars."

Motor noted some negatives, though. There was some audible engine "pinking" (ping, or detonation) in the 2,000-2,500 rpm range even with 100-octane petrol. Oil consumption was very high, about one American quart for every 250-300 miles. Spark plugs tended to protest prolonged low-speed work by fouling.

Then there was the four-speed transmission: slow, heavy, balky, and noisy-shifting, exacerbated by Jaguar's typical long clutch travel, coupled here with incomplete clutch disengagement. Pedals weren't well spaced for heel-and-toe techniques, either.

The magazine also opined that by sports-car standards, the coupe offered ample luggage space (enhanced by a side-hinged hatch door), but judged the roadster's "boot" too shallow to be very useful.

Wind noise was judged excessive at the junctions of the side windows and top, while seats were termed "unsatisfactory" because of inadequate lumbar support and a tendency to let the body slide forward (this well before seatbelts became common).

Taller people found the cockpit too short and too low. Ventilation was not up to hot weather, and fuel odors sometimes invaded the cockpit. The editors said the aerodynamic "LeMans-type" glass-covered headlights proved "not really adequate for the performance.

There was insufficient spread to illuminate the sides of twisty roads and the dipped beams seemed to cause considerable annoyance to other road users."

For more on Jaguar and other great cars, see:

  • Jaguar Cars: Check out more information on the great sporting cats.
  • How Sports Cars Work: Get the lowdown on hundreds of fantastic sports cars from the 1940s to today.
  • Classic Cars: Learn about the world's most coveted automobiles in these illustrated profiles.
  • Ferrari: Learn about every significant Ferrari road car and racing car.
  • New Jaguars: Reviews, ratings, prices, and specifications on the current Jaguar lineup from the auto editors of Consumer Guide.
  • Used Jaguars: Reviews, recalls, trouble spots, and more on pre-owned Jaguars starting with the 1990 model year. From the auto editors of Consumer Guide.