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Jaguar XKE Series 2

Jaguar XKE 4.2 in America

Even in lands where long journeys at triple-digit speeds were impossible, the Jaguar XKE 4.2 was popular. In fact, the United States was consistently its best market. Maybe Americans were mature enough to enjoy the marque's other virtues without indulging in its great performance potential.

1964 Jaguar XKE Series 2 rear
Rather than focus on the impact of the new 4.2-liter
engine, American road testers still seemed awed
by the Jaguar XKE's sex appeal.

More likely, there was some "forbidden fruit" fantasizing going on. Anyway, in a 1965 test of the XKE 4.2, or "XK-E" as the the car was generally known Stateside, Car and Driver focused less on speed than on sex-appeal: "There's something so sensual, so elemental in the appeal of that car that few men can resist its siren song. It's like that woman you used to love, the one you'd never waste another minute on. You can avoid her for months, but one night she calls...."

Getting down to more tangible aspects, C/D found that the 3.54:1 rear axle specified for the U.S. gave 21.5 mph per 1,000 rpm, which limited top speed to an "estimated" 130 mph (6,047 rpm). But acceleration was commensurately fiercer, with the 0-60 time cut to 6.5 seconds. Over the quarter-mile, the results were pretty much as seen in Europe: 15.0 seconds at 98 mph.

C/D's test Jaguar XKE 4.2 was a roadster with a dry weight of 2,465 pounds. That rose to 2,515 as "curb weight" with fuel aboard, and to 2,800 as tested, the last distributed 49/51 percent front/rear. Gas mileage ranged from 16 to 22 mpg. List price in 1965 was $5,525-not cheap (some $1,500 dearer than an open Corvette, for example) but hardly "exoticar" territory.

Though C/D rated bumper protection and front seating room as Poor, it judged most points Excellent, Very Good, and Good. "Jaguar has been accused of ignoring its owners' anguished pleas in the past," said the report, "but this time they listened intently and fixed virtually everything [with the 4.2]."

The magazine especially appreciated the new gearbox, saying it "can be banged into first at 40 mph without a qualm, although it's sometimes a little sticky when selecting the same gear at rest." Some other tests had mentioned that, some had not; perhaps a quirk in preparation of individual cars.

As did almost every publication, this one marveled at the XKE 4.2 engine's flexible torque delivery, a "locomotive-like ability to pull smoothly away from anything over 500 rpm in any gear." It also welcomed a reduction in brake and clutch effort, although some other testers complained the latter was still too stiff.

C/D's writer was among those who found seating to be cramped. He acknowledged that the only way to provide more legroom would be to lengthen the wheelbase.

"However, people of short to medium stature have been known to reach new heights of joy in the XK-E, and have accomplished 500-mile journeys in a single day's driving stint without discomfort. Limited luggage capacity in the XK-E roadster makes this sort of travel problematical, but it's noteworthy that the car makes you want to do it."

Expanding on his overall impressions, the writer added, "Driving the 4.2-liter XK-E is little different from driving its 3.8-liter predecessor. The driver sits proudly behind the same comprehensive -- and comprehensible -- instrument panel and bends the eager beast to his will ...The short shift lever is just about where you'd put it yourself, and the throws are short, quick, and accurate.

"The steering wheel is placed at a nice angle for those who like to affect the Stirling Moss-Hero Driver style, and the steering is amazingly light for such a big car. It goes where it's pointed without fuss or surprises, and the handling is the kind that forgives the most ham-fisted cretin. The ride is sedan-like, and although the car isn't small the driver soon loses any apprehensions he might have had about that long nose and where it's going."

In all, C/D was "really very impressed by all the improvements that have been made to the XK-E, but we must be completely honest and admit that the things that really get to us are the looks and the noise. It's a Jaguar. It reeks of purest automotive erotica."

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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