Car and Driver's 1971 Jaguar XKE Series 3
convertible test yielded these numbers:
0-60, 5.5 seconds; quarter-mile, 14.6 at 93;
top speed, 135; price as sampled, $8,809.
As long as it was spending so much money, Leyland-owned Jaguar might well have spent a little more on restyling (to better integrate the headlights, for example). Then the XKE Series 3 V-12, or "V-12E," could have demanded acceptance on its own terms as something new.
Instead, the first impression for some people was that the poor old XKE had somehow been made too long and heavy and soft; and besides, there was something wrong with its nose. Nevertheless, the XKE Series 3 really was a new car in most respects.
"Perhaps a little naively," confessed Roger Bell in his April 3, 1971, Motor road test, "all we expected to try was a new engine. What in fact we drove was a new car -- not a yowling, aggressive Ferrari-like machine with which, perhaps, most people associate a V12 engine, but a very smooth, quiet and refined grand touring sports car."
In several respects, Bell's prior expectations produced "disappointment." That was the actual word, an extraordinary word to find in a British review of a high-end British car.
"It is only at the top end of the rev range that you really begin to hear that beautifully distinctive and busy V12 purr," he observed. "At lower speeds exhaust noise is well subdued -- perhaps too much so for sporting cars. Inevitably, there will be further disappointment that the car itself looks much the same as it did 10 years ago ... We ourselves are disappointed that certain detail things have not been improved-such as the switchgear."
Bell did find several things to laud. The V-12, especially. "For its flexibility low down -- by no means a weak point of the old XK [six] -- and for its smoothness at the top of the rev band, the new engine is outstanding, altogether in a different class. It will pull strongly in top gear from under 500 rpm with an uncanny absence of vibration ... Its ability to rev smoothly and willingly up to 6,500 rpm is perhaps of greater significance, at least in the XKE, for the [4.2-liter] XK begins to feel rough at 4,500 rpm.
"On twisty secondary roads where all good sports cars should excel, the engine's smoothness and eagerness encourage far more use of the lower gears than before."
Bell also liked the ride, "excellent by any standards," and the handling and roadholding; he called the general manners "impeccable." The power steering, though, was "rather too light" for his taste.
Motor Sport's race reporter, the eminent Denis Jenkinson, was able to assess the new design on the basis of his own 150,000 high-speed miles in two examples of the six-cylinder model. He immediately disliked the driver's seat cushion, calling it too high and too flat for him. And he detested the automatic transmission fitted to one of the two Series 3s he sampled.
Nor did "Jenks" approve of the way the big radiator opening had "a decorative bird-cage grille stuck up its nose." From a mechanical standpoint, he was surprised, after years of intimate experience with high-performance V-12 engines from other manufacturers, that Jaguar's was so smooth and silent -- enough that he wasn't always sure it was running.
And at first, at low speeds, Jenkinson didn't seem to see any advantage in having twice the number of pistons.
"Throughout the whole afternoon I spent driving the two 12-cylinder 'E'-types, I found myself continually commenting that I would never know there was a V12 under the bonnet, especially when cruising about in a normal, leisurely 'seven-league-boot' fashion, but now and then there would be occasion to pull out and squirt past some traffic, and in the 70-110 m.p.h. range it really did come into its own.
"My reflexes and judgement being well attuned to 'E'-type performance in this speed range, I soon found that the V12 did not need anything like the time and space I was subconsciously allowing for overtaking, which made me realize how rapidly it was accelerating, making it an even safer and more long-legged car than the old six-cylinder."
At the end of his rapid afternoon, Jenks slipped back into his own XKE Series 2, and " ... as I motored off, my smooth, silent, silky, six-cylinder engine seemed as rough as the proverbial bear's hindquarters, and I realized that Jaguars [sic] have made an impressive step forward in refinement, which is so encouraging in these days of glorification of the cheap and shoddy."
For more on Jaguar and other great cars, see:
- Jaguar Cars: Check out more information on the great sporting cars.
- 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.