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Jaguar XKE Series 2

Jaguar XKE 4.2 Performance
In the way "buff book" writers have of describing something new and fresh, initial reviews of the XKE 4.2 were generally favorable.

"The biggest improvement," stated Motor in October 1964, "is the all-new, all-synchromesh gearbox. Gone is the tough, unrefined box that had accumulated a certain notoriety, in favour of one that will undoubtedly establish a correspondingly high reputation: although the lever movement is still quite long, it is fairly light and very quick, the synchromesh being unbeatable without being too obstructive."

Jaguar XKE Series 2 engine
The XKE Series 2's torque-rich 4.2-liter six was
complemented by an improved manual transmission.

Enjoyment was also found in the new engine's bottom-end strength. "Low-speed torque and flexibility are so good," Motor observed, that you can actually start in top gear, despite a 3.07:1 axle ratio giving 24.4 m.p.h. per 1,000 r.p.m.

"Driving around town, this fascinating tractability can be fully exploited by starting in first or second and then dropping into top which, even below 30 m.p.h., is sufficiently lively to out-accelerate a lot of cars." Such tactics did tend to soot up the spark plugs, the magazine admitted, but a little high-rpm work would usually clear them.

When driven as a sports car rather than, say, as a limo, the XKE 4.2's greater torque easily dealt with its slightly greater weight and somewhat taller final gearing.

From a standing start, Motor's test coupe reached 60 mph in 7.0 seconds, compared to the 7.1 the magazine had clocked with an early roadster three-and-a-half years before. The time over the quarter-mile was 14.9, versus 15.0.

On the top end, the XKE 4.2 coupe was only slightly faster than the XKE 3.8 convertible -- exactly 150 mph, versus 149.1 -- this despite the slinky fastback's much superior aerodynamics.

To achieve that velocity, by the way, Motor's test crew apparently thought nothing of violating the tachometer redline by 1,100 rpm. "All this performance is accompanied by astonishingly little fuss, the engine remaining smooth and mechanically quiet at all times ...Even 6,100 r.p.m. -- corresponding to 150 m.p.h. -- does not sound unduly strained."

Autosport's John Bolster confessed to the same transgression in reporting an observed maximum of 152.5 mph: "The needle of the rev-counter has by then invaded the red section of the dial, but the engine is just as smooth as in the medium speed range, and that means very smooth indeed." His 0-60 time was 7.4, rather in arrears of Motor's result, but his quarter-mile time was exactly the same: 14.9 seconds.

One cannot leave this point about high engine speeds without wondering whether it may help substantiate something long and widely suspected about published Jaguar performance figures -- namely, that the cars loaned out for road testing were specially tuned for the task.

Several marque historians have noted that private owners of production-line cars seemed unable to duplicate the press numbers -- unless they spent a few hundred extra Pounds with the factory to have special engine work carried out. These modifications might well have raised an engine's willingness to rev, but also its oil consumption, its tendency to knock on normal gas, and so forth.

Such suspicions have cropped up in regards to other automakers. Some have even been proven. In this case, all that can really be said is that few, if any, private owners ever thought their own 4.2-liter XKEs were near as fast as the publicity had led them to expect, nor even as fast as the 3.8.

That noted, it also must be said that the last tenth of a second and ultimate few miles-per-hour have very little relevance in real-world driving. Reaching the limits takes too much out of car and driver both.

Besides, few XKE owners go about their daily rounds burning up clutches and grinding tires into nothingness. (Truer than ever now.) Few, frankly, ever cared to find out if their car was really capable of breaking 150 mph.

For more on Jaguar and other great cars, see:

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  • New Jaguars: Reviews, ratings, prices, and specifications on the current Jaguar lineup from the auto editors of Consumer Guide.
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