Electrifying E-type… A battery-pack where the XK straight-six normally sits and snarls? Jaguar Classic takes E-type into the future. Words Mike Duff.
Philosophers and theologians have spent centuries arguing about the metaphysical connection between body and soul. Now Jaguar Classic has created what could pretty much be a practical experiment into the effect of their separation in the elegant form of the E-type Zero.
It’s an electrified version of the Series 1 E-type, with a 40kW/h battery pack, 190kW motor and single-speed reduction gearbox occupying the space formerly filled by the 3.8-litre straight-six engine and transmission. We told you about the idea last year when Jaguar produced a concept car, which then featured at the royal wedding with Prince Harry driving his new bride to the reception in it. Now Classic has confirmed that it plans to start building customer cars alongside the regular ‘Reborn’ factory-restored E-types.
The power unit is certainly clever. Developed in conjunction with Rimac, the Croatian EV supercar maker, it weighs slightly less than the original XK engine and manual transmission, and it can be fitted to an E-type without major structural changes.
The conversion is reversible and Classic will even help owners store their original powertrain in case they ever want to swap back. Without active battery cooling the Zero doesn’t have Tesla-like fast charging, so replenishing the battery will take around seven hours and deliver around 150 miles of real-world range; the charging port is hidden beneath the original fuel-filler cap.
My drive is limited to the streets of Monterey, so there’s no chance to confirm Classic’s claim of a sub-7-second 0-60mph time, but even at urban speeds the Zero feels keen and responsive, here’s strong initial acceleration – it would see off a Series 1 being driven with any degree of mechanical sympathy. And the lack of the XKs rorty low-velocity soundtrack is no deal-breaker. The electric motor whines under hard acceleration, but otherwise silence suits trundling well, and despite the lack of straight-six burble there’s none of the creaking you might expect from the structure of an elderly roadster. On an open road, the lack of noise could be more of an issue.
Despite its heart transplant, the demonstrator sits on original suspension and the Zero handles in a similar fashion to its internally combusted sisters, the ride is pliant, the steering is always talkative and, even though the electric motor can produce peak torque from a standstill, traction feels secure; there are no electronic guardians but the motor’s peak output can be turned down to take account of slippery conditions.
The demonstrator’s cabin has a carbonfibre dashboard and digital instruments as well as a touchscreen interface; Classic says it will offer also a far more traditional finish, as well as the option of electric power steering and even air conditioning.
Does it offer a proper E-type experience? Frankly, no – it’s a symphony with the volume muted, a sensory-deprivation sports car. But it’s not intended to be a direct rival; Jaguar Classic says that much of the early interest has come from existing E-type owners wanting to add something ‘similar but different’ to their collections.
Thanks to the modular nature of its powerplant, Jaguar says it can offer electrified versions of other models powered by the XK six. Which makes us think… How about an electric XJ6 Series 1 as an alternative to the ubiquitous Tesla?
Left from below From outside, only the lack of exhaust note gives the game away; inside, it looks a bit more sci-fi.