- Post is under moderationJust as there are dog people and cat people there are two varieties
of Jaguar owner – those who prefer their cars totally standard and those who like to modify them. Although neither principle is better than the other, and it comes down to personal choice, modifying can offer some beneﬁts, which were made clear to me when I compared my 2000 XK8 with Graham Wood’s outrageous 1998 XKR Badcat . Not only is it the fastest X100 I’ve driven, but its huge rear wing, front splitter and aggressive image also make it unique.
The same can be said of the supercharged #Jaguar-420G on. I’ve been messing around with Jaguars full time for six years now, but I’ve never seen such an extreme version of Jaguar’s big saloon.
Of course, it’s not just classic models that can beneﬁt from modiﬁcations, as Viezu’s extreme F-TYPE Predator on shows. Even though the performance mods cost a fraction of the price of Jaguar’s own SVR, it is as fast. And even by bonkers F-TYPE standards, its radical body kit and carbon ﬁbre wheels make the car one of a kind.
And so, to celebrate the art of modiﬁcation, this issue is ﬁlled with unique Jaguars. From the monstrous Badcat and Predator to a gentler #Jaguar-XJ12 / #Jaguar with fuel injection, every car is very different to how it left the factory. We also explain how you can change your own car, and offer suggestions from a simple power upgrade to a visual transformation. You might not like modifying and prefer cats over dogs, but every car has room for a little improvement.
Love or loathe the XKR Badcat, it’s more conspicuous than Paul’s standard XK8Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationJaguar XJ6 S1’s out of the basement but still a bargain
/ #1969 / #Jaguar-XJ6-Series-1 / #Jaguar-XJ12-Series-1 / #Jaguar-XJ-Series-1 / #Jaguar-XJ / #Jaguar / #Jaguar-XJ6 / #Jaguar-XJ12 / #2018
Prices have been moving up nicely for the early Jaguar XJ6. Time was you could by a good ‘1969 XJ for £7k but fine original low-mileage cars are now approaching the £20k threshold, as buyers understand that a professional restoration comes with a £120k bill.
Pembrokeshire Classic Investments in Wales has a superb 22,000-mile ’1972 4.2 auto in Old English White with all books, manuals and tools for £18,995, while the Classic Car Warehouse in Blackburn has another very original ’1972 4.2 auto with 48,000 and two owners for £15,995. Back in 2012 Silverstone sold a perfect ’1969 4.2 with 13,000 miles for £24,640 – that car is worth £40k now. Those first XJs cost a bargain £2592 and were plush, fast and smooth but you had to wait a year for delivery. Road testers raved and in ’1968 it scooped the Car of the Year Award. Launch year cars carry a premium with their silver-rimmed gauges, body-coloured wheels and rear reflectors in the reversing lights, but only a handful survive.
The Jaguar XJ6 ushered in a new era of luxury car dominance with Mercedes-beating silence, speed and technological refinement for £1000 less than an S-Class. The 4.2s feel more urgent than 2.8s and although manual XJs are more rare, the Borg Warner self-shifter is much more waftable. Daimler versions are worth 20% more but are harder to find. Even tatty projects are now running at £3-£5k but seek out the best you can find. Given the current six-figure restorations costs a fine Series 1 XJ at less than £20k is a resounding bargain – just like it was back in 1968.
VALUE 2012 £6750
VALUE NOW 2018 £11K
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- Post is under moderationCAR / #Jaguar-XJ-C #V12 : #Sovereign #Swagger / #1977-Jaguar-XJ-C-V12 / #Jaguar-XJ-C-V12 / #Arden / #1977 / #Jaguar-XJ-C-V12-Sovereign-Swagger / #Jaguar-XJ-C / #Jaguar-XJ-C-Series-2 / #Jaguar-XJ-Series-2 / #Jaguar-XJ / #Jaguar / #Jaguar-XJ12-C / #Jaguar-XJ12 / #Jaguar-XJ12-Series-2
Here's a great example of a rare #1977-Jaguar-XJ-C-V12 tuned by Arden.
The Coupe version of the XJ V12 are extremely rare, which only 329 produced in 1977. The proportions of the pillarless design compliments the classy XJ, changing it into more of a full-size grand touring car.
It's an unconventional beauty that's sure to turn heads at gatherings.
Basic info : XJ Coupé /
Jaguar XJ12 Coupe Jaguar XJ5.3C
Also called Jaguar XJ-C, XJ6-C, XJ12-C
Daimler Sovereign Coupé
Daimler Double-Six Coupé
Production 1975–78 / 10,487 produced
Assembly Coventry, England
Body and chassis
Body style2-door coupe
Engine 4.2 L XK I6 / 5.3 L Jaguar #V12 engine
Wheelbase 108.75 in (2,762 mm)
Length 190.75 in (4,845 mm)
Width 69.75 in (1,772 mm)
Height 54.125 in (1,375 mm)
Kerb weight 4,050 lb (1,837 kg)
A 9,378-car run of two-door XJ coupés with a pillarless hardtop body called the XJ-C was built between 1975 and 1978. The car was actually launched at the London Motor Show in October 1973, but it subsequently became clear that it was not ready for productionand the economic troubles unfolding in the western world at this time seem to have reduced further any sense of urgency about producing and selling the cars: it was reported that problems with window sealing delayed production. XJ coupés finally started to emerge from Jaguar show-rooms only some two years later. The coupé was based on the short-wheelbase version of the XJ. The coupé's elongated doors were made out of a lengthened standard XJ front door (the weld seams are clearly visible under the interior panels where two front door shells were grafted together with a single outer skin). A few XJ-Cs were modified by Lynx Cars and Avon into convertibles with a retractable canvas top, but this was not a factory product. Lynx conversions (16 in total) did benefit of powered tops. Both six and twelve-cylinder models were offered, 6,505 of the former and 1,873 of the latter. Even with the delay, these cars suffered from water leaks and wind noise. The delayed introduction, the labour-intensive work required by the modified saloon body, the higher price than the four-door car, and the early demise promulgated by the new XJ-S, all ensured a small production run.
All coupes came with a vinyl roof as standard. Since the coupe lacked B-pillars, the roof flexed enough that the paint used by Jaguar at the time would develop cracks. More modern paints do not suffer such problems, so whenever a coupe is repainted it is viable to remove the vinyl. Today many XJ-Cs no longer have their vinyl roof, also removing the threat of roof rust. Some owners also modified their XJ-C by changing to Series III bumpers. This lifted the front indicators from under the bumper and provided built in rear fog lights.
A small number of Daimler versions of the XJ-C were made. One prototype Daimler Vanden Plas version XJ-C was also made, however this version never went into productionStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationJAGUAR IN PURSUIT OF PERFECTION / #Jaguar-XJ6 / #Jaguar-XJ12 / #Jaguar / #Jaguar-XJ / #Jaguar-XJ12-Series-3 / #Jaguar-XJ6-Series-3 / #Jaguar-XJ-Series-3 / #1979 / #1980 / #V12
In the Summer of 1980 , #Jaguar-Cars-Ltd was reformed as a separate company within the Cars Group of B.L. And one of the worlds great car makers regained control of its own destiny.
As a result, every model in the Jaguar range is now a better car. Not just face-lifted but better.
And better value too because, in the process, recommended retail prices for all models have been substantially reduced.
All 12-cylinder models are now fitted with our unique new 'High Efficiency high compression cylinder head-a triumph of Jaguar engineering which both improves performance and gives fuel economy superior to the Mercedes 380 and 500 S-class W126.
There are many improvements to the already superlative standard specification. On the XJ12 H.E., these include wider section tyres and new alloy wheels, an electrically operated steel sunroof, twin electric door mirrors, a headlamp wash/wipe system and a range of lustrous new paint colours using Jaguar's new high technology paint process. Both 6-cylinder models have also been improved-outside, inside and under the bonnet.
Finally a standard specification #Jaguar-XJ6-4.2-Automatic at £15,040 costs £260 less than a standard #Mercedes-Benz-280SE-V126 / #Mercedes-Benz-280SEL-W126 . But here is the real difference; standard specification on the Jaguar 4.2 includes leather upholstery electric windows, electric aerial and a radio/cassette player. On a Mercedes 280SE W126 these features are all "extras" at a recommended cost of £1,732.
Our philosophy is called the Pursuit of Perfection. You could call it more Jaguar for less money. Take a test-drive-because actions speak louder than words.
Price, based upon manufacturers R.R.P. and correct at time of going to press, includes seat belts. Car Tax and VAT (Delivery, number plates and road tax extra.) Mercedes-Benz W126 1980 price inclusive of delivery. Sun roof standard on XJ12 H.E. but optional on XJ6 3.4 and 4.2 models. Official fuel consumption figures for Jaguar XJ12 H.E. urban cycle 15.0 m.p.g. (18.8 L/100km); constant 56 m.p.h. 26.8 m.p.g. (10.5 L/100km): constant 75m.p.h. 21.5 m.p.g. (13.1 L/100km).
JAGUAR CARS LTD In pursuit of perfection.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationCRAZY JAGUARS /
It’s not often you see a #Jaguar with a supercharged #V8 sticking out of the bonnet. Well here’s two of them!
In the average wedding car, you’d be lounging in the back in the swells of loved-up marital bliss. But these big cats would definitely have you calling shotgun… Words: Dan Bevis. Photos: Ben Hosking.
“What is a wedding? Well, Webster’s Dictionary describes a wedding as: the process of removing weeds from one’s garden.” So said Homer Simpson in the iconic 1994 episode ‘Secrets of a Successful Marriage’. Inspiring stuff.
Weddings, it goes without saying, are hard. Months of preparation, agonising over seating plans and the family politics of who you can and can’t invite without causing awkward tension and a cessation of future Christmas cards, grappling with suppliers who double the cost of everything simply because you’ve prefixed each item with ‘wedding’ (seriously, ‘wedding napkins’ are just napkins that happen to be at a wedding)… it’s enough to age you ten years in one. The honeymoon comes as a blessed relief simply because it’s a chance not to spend every evening doing bloody wedmin.
For people like us, of course, there’s an extra level of stress and jeopardy: what do you go for in terms of wedding transportation? For the average couple it’s easy enough to just get on the blower to Rent-a-Roller and rock up in a Silver Shadow, job done – but if you spend every day with engine oil under your fingernails and squinting through arc-eye, you need something a bit more eye-catching.
Something with a story. And that’s where Fat Cat Classics come in – at least, for residents of New South Wales, Australia. This is your one-stop shop for a badass wedding convoy; they’ve got a fleet of three matching Jaguars jam-packed full of shock-and-awe mischief and rumbling horsepower. You see them here bunched together in the workshop of Sydney’s Forza Performance, but this is an aggressive trio that loves nothing more than a blast on the open road, vying for tarmac-troubling supremacy as they each deploy sodding great gobs of torque. Sure, they’ll get the blushing bride to the church on time, but they’ll frighten the life out of her on the way there. Which, naturally, should set a precedent for the rest of the marriage.
You’ll spot that there are three cars in the package, each resplendent in shimmering silver paint and lipstick red interiors. There’s a 1963 Mark X, a 1971 XJ12, and a more modern S-Type – we’ll swerve the latter for the sake of keeping this spotlight squarely focused on the Retro Cars heartland, and take you on a journey in the former pair, each one eager to ruck up your suit and do unseemly things to your cummerbund.
…but before we do, let’s take a little look at their respective personas. You see, these cars have names, and names always carry weight; the Mark X is named Elizabeth, and you may call the XJ12 Marilyn. As you’ve no doubt deduced, this refers to the classic celebrity rivalry of the late 1950s and early ’60s, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe. While history ultimately seems to have handed Monroe the trophy, it was Taylor who was winning the race for column inches, and her bank balance was pretty healthy too – she was earning $1m a movie while Marilyn was taking home $100k. It’s the classic tale of the eager up-and- comer in the shadow of established royalty, with both parties actually being enormously jealous of one another’s assets. And so the rivalry rages in the Fat Cat garage.
Elizabeth is imposing enough to immediately position herself as top cat here. The perky billet 8/71 supercharger poking through the savaged bonnet acts as a psiren song, an irresistible lure toward the danger within.
“The engine swap was easily the hardest part of the build,” says Fat Cat’s Sean Carolan. “We had to re-engineer the whole front end.” Indeed, with the Jag’s original motor swapped out for a meaty small block Chevy V8 – 6.3-litres, no less – you can imagine just what sort of upheaval was required. The floorpans were reconfigured, transmission tunnel reworked, and firewall modified to make room for the vast new powertrain. An XJ12 independent rear end sits out back to help deploy the growling fury of it all, ensuring that the engineering project wasn’t just confined to the car’s leading edge, and there’s a feel of solidity and dependability throughout the chassis. And that’s just as well really, as the last thing you want is your wedding car breaking down. “We made the decision to keep the power at a moderate level, to ensure that there were no annoying breakdowns or overheating when getting the bridal party to the chapel,” Sean explains. “As such, Elizabeth currently makes 450rwhp on 6psi, although more power could easily be found if we changed our minds!”
The natural balance to be reached here is that, no matter how powerful or extreme a wedding car may be, it must always be luxuriously appointed. No bride wants her five-grand dress being creased by a set of aggressive Takata harnesses or snagged on an exposed door innard. So Elizabeth’s interior has been artfully trimmed in fi nest scarlet leather – a hide plucked from the Aston Martin menu, no less. The carpets and headlining wear a similarly bright shade, with the overall vista being one of classic, timeless elegance. Well, until you peer over the chauffeur’s shoulder and spot that gargantuan blower poking out of the front, that is.
What of Marilyn, then? Is she a shrinking violet, in the thrall of the ruler of the roost? No, not a bit of it. Let’s not forget that Marilyn Monroe was a bit of a firecracker, and seldom happy to stand in another’s shadow. The logic of the respective names does falter somewhat when we look at linear chronology (Taylor was some years younger than Monroe, whereas the Marilyn Jaguar is the younger car here), but their positions make sense. The Mark X is the bigger, brasher, more imposing car, but the XJ12 snaps at its heels like a snarling puppy. The 1971 Series 1 was in fact born of a ten-day whirlwind of workshop activity in the run-up to Sean’s own marriage to his partner-in- crime Leigh. “We built Marilyn on a very tight timeline,” he says. “It was created from a rolling shell in just ten days, it was very intense – we were still working on it at 2am on the day of the ceremony. I was one tired groom!” Hey, it’s all about priorities, isn’t it? And if your wedding car is your business, you can’t show up in a half-finished motor. Particularly when your other car is so flawless.
You can see that the aesthetic is neatly carried over to the ’71; both cars wear the same 20in Vertini wheels and the same shade of silver paint, along with that shockingly red interior treatment with its old-school wood accents. They also share an absolute disregard for any semblance of subtlety when it comes to poking shiny slabs of mechanical equipment through the bonnet, and the XJ12 is also no slouch. Sean’s looking at the thick end of 420hp at the rear wheels, which should ensure that the bride’s mother arrives at the church sideways, screaming in terror and choking on acrid tyresmoke. In deference to her big sister, Marilyn wears just the one carb instead of two and a smaller blower, but the numbers still aren’t to be sniffed at. It’s more about hierarchy than compromise.
“If I had my time over again, I think I would have put a bigger supercharger on Marilyn,” says Sean thoughtfully, scratching his chin as he considers the implications. “In fact, I think I would have built both with injected setups instead of the carbs…” You can see the way his mind’s working, can’t you? These cars aren’t just built as static showpieces; they’re workhorses of course, but evolving ones. Work also happens to be pleasure here, and you can’t stop a man like this from playing with his toys. There are always treasons, stratagems, and spoils afoot. You can be pretty sure that if and when you were to see these cars again, they’d be subtly different – or perhaps, as befits their nature, not so subtle…
The act of planning a wedding is never going to run smoothly, but if you’re aiming to get married in the vicinity of this fleet of raucous Jags, that can at least be one major box ticked off the list. And if you need help with the rest of the planning, just remember the wisdomous advice that Homer Simpson had to offer on the subject: “That’s it! You people have stood in my way long enough. I’m going to clown college!”
Oh wait, no, not that. Er… “Son, if you really want something in this life, you have to work for it. Now quiet! They’re about to announce the lottery numbers.” There you go. The Simpsons always offer a solution.
SPECIFICATION #1971 / #Jaguar-XJ12-Series-1 (MARILYN) / #Jaguar-XJ12 / #Jaguar-XJ-Series-1 / #Jaguar-XJ / #Jaguar-XJ12-Series-1-Marilyn /
ENGINE: 400ci (6.6-litre) small block #Chevy-V8 #V8 , 4-bolt mains, 4in stroke Scat crank, Scat H-beam rods, Probe forged 8.9:1 pistons, Clevite bearings, ARP head and mains studs, ported alloy heads, Isky springs and retainers, Cam Tech custom solid cam, Trend pushrods, Yella Terra 1.5:1 rockers, Rollmaster doublerow timing chain, Melling oil pump, 750cfm Barry Grant carb, 4/71 #GM supercharger (6psi), MSD Pro Billet dizzy, MSD coil and leads, MSD 6AL, Holley fuel pump, custom 4-into-1 headers, twin 3in mild steel exhaust, X-pipe, 420rwhp
TRANSMISSION: T400 auto, 3000rpm stall, Jaguar XJ12 LSD, custom tailshaft
SUSPENSION: Pedders shocks and springs
BRAKES: Series 3 front brakes, stock rears
WHEELS & TYRES: 8.5x20in Vertini wheels
INTERIOR: Momo steering wheel, Recaro front seats, red leather trim, Hurst shifter, red carpets, red headlining, satnav, Pioneer stereo, Autometer gauges
EXTERIOR: Stock restored XJ12, bonnet cutout
SPECIFICATION #1963 / #Jaguar-Mark-X (ELIZABETH) / JAGUAR MARK X / #Jaguar-MkX / #Jaguar-Mk10 / #Jaguar-MkX-Elizabeth /
ENGINE: 383ci (6.3-litre) small block #Chevy-V8 / #GM-V8 / #GM , Scat 3.750” crank, 4-bolt mains, #Scat H-beam rods, Probe blower 8.8:1 pistons, moly rings, #Clevite bearings, #ARP head and mains studs, ported cast heads, #Cam-Tech hydraulic roller cam, Crower lifters, Trend pushrods, Yella Terra 1.5:1 rockers, Rollmaster double row timing chain, Melling oil pump, HE sump, #B&M oil cooler, Edelbrock water pump, XR6 thermo fan and radiator, 120A alternator, custom billet pulleys, 2x 750cfm #Demon carbs, TBS 8/71 supercharger (6psi), MSD Pro Billet dizzy, MSD coil and leads, MSD 6AL, Holley Black fuel pump, block hugger pipes, twin 3” exhaust, custom X-pipe, 450rwhp
TRANSMISSION: #GM-T400 auto, 3000rpm stall, #Jaguar XJ12 diff , LSD, custom 2-piece tailshaft
SUSPENSION: Pedders shocks and springs
BRAKES: Factory #Jaguar twin-piston calipers
WHEELS: 8.5x20in (front) and 10x20in (rear) Vertini wheels
INTERIOR: Custom Aston Martin red leather trim, Hurst shifter, Autometer gauges, red carpets, red headlining, Pioneer head unit, power amp and speakers
EXTERIOR: Stock restored Mark X, bonnet cutout
“Elizabeth currently makes 450rwhp on 6psi, although more power could easily be found if we ever decided to change our minds”
How many wedding cars do you know of where the engine sticks through the bonnet! Christ, it’s enough to make you want to get married!
At the time of its launch the XJ12 was claimed to be “the fastest full four-seater in the world”. With a #Chevy-V8 it’s now even faster! #Jaguar-S-Type isn’t really retro Cars fodder, but it completes the Jag trio nicely.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationBest of the Best - #Mercedes-Benz-450SEL-6.9 W116 Driven / - #Mercedes-Benz-W116 / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes-Benz-450SEL-6.9-W116
What it's like to drive a luxobarge with more torque than a Ferrari of similar years. This is the car that really paved the way for the super-saloons that are preferred by the super-rich today.
Today, the richest 1% of the population glides through city streets in monstrously powerful symbols of opulence like it’s nothing. The over-engined #Mercedes-Benz-S-class is power, a new-money V-sign to petty concerns like fuel prices, austerity and public opinion. And the more things change, the more they stay the same. In fact in May #1975 , when the 450 SEL 6.9 went on sale, more than a year after its official unveiling at the Geneva Motor Show, this fuel-guzzling statement car was even more dramatic, as the oil crisis of the early 1970s sent petrol prices through the roof.
Mercedes-Benz delayed the launch when the pumps ran dry, but eventually had to let the best saloon in the world free. Running a car that returned just 10.1mpg in Sport mode was still the equivalent of lighting a fat cigar off a £50 note and James Hunt’s own 6.9 ended up on bricks in his drive.
It was the wrong time for a car of this ilk but, at the time of its inception, Mercedes-Benz was determined to overthrow the #Jaguar-XJ12 . It also wanted a successor to the world’s first real Q car, the 6.3-litre W109 300SEL 6.3, created by M-B engineer #Erich-Waxenberger , which was once the fastest fourdoor saloon in the world. This one continued the ethos: the only things to mark it apart from the lesser 450 were the 6.9 badge and wider tyres.
Mercedes-Benz stripped the 6.9-litre M100 V8 from the 600, together with the trick hydropneumatic suspension system. Aluminium cylinder heads, hardened valve seats and sodium-filled valves, together with #Bosch-K-Jetronic fuel injection and dry-sump lubrication were all revised for the handbuilt 6.9. After all, this was an engine designed to make an impact on the world.
Today anything less than 500bhp is barely breaking a sweat, but back then this 286bhp titan with its 420lb ft of torque was Top Trumps stuff. The #1976 #F1 World Champion #James-Hunt declared: ‘It looks like a taxi, goes like a Ferrari.’ That was slightly optimistic, but it’s a glowing testimony nonetheless.
Others were equally keen. The great American journalist David E Davis said this was, ‘the ultimate manifestation of the basic Daimler-Benz idea of how automobiles are supposed to be designed and built. It is the best Mercedes-Benz automobile ever sold.’
Like Davis, who claimed the big Benz handled like a Mini, CAR magazine was entranced with the road manners of this hefty hunk of car, which tips the scales at 1935kg. That’s 200kg more than the standard 450, thanks almost entirely to the big V8 up front. ‘A car of such speed and weight must have demonstrably good roadholding and handling, and this one is no disappointment in anything from a hairpin to a three-figure bend,’ the magazine said. Swiss automotive newspaper Automobil Revue, which is hardly known for going too far, called it: ‘The best car in the world.’
So it’s good, then
The 450SEL 6.9 cost DM69,930 (£12,880) at launch, but inflation took this to £24,950 by 1978, which was less than £2000 cheaper than a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow II and almost twice as much as a #Jaguar-XJ5.3. For a car with cloth seats and not so many creature comforts inside. It was ludicrously expensive, but this was by far the fastest, most capable and brilliant saloon car in the world. It was a technical tour de force that came together in the face of environmental pressures making today’s Green movement look passive, and it a car that set the benchmark fo engined saloons everywhere.
JFK Junior, Frank Sinatra Telly Savalas and the Shah of Iran all drove a 6.9, as did heavy metal star David Lee Roth, who painted his black and put a skull and crossbones on the bonnet. It was, then, a fashion icon and the public took to it. Despite its staggering price and fuel consumption, 7380 were sold between 1975 and 1981. That means they’re readily available today at a reasonable price – but that is surely set to change in the years ahead as the much-revered 6.9 becomes harder to source.
As impressive as ever on the road
It’s amazing how much perspective 40 years provides, as the eulogies bestowed upon the 6.9 simply don’t hold true today. US motoring scribe David E Davis suggested the big #Mercedes-Benz could be thrown around like a Mini, but after picking up the car here from Mercedes-Benz HQ in Milton Keynes we glide right over the first mini roundabout. The steering simply isn’t quite as pin-sharp as I was led to believe.
The hydropneumatic suspension that was a development of Citroën’s system handles the weight well for a car of its era, but I still have to set up for the bend to avoid understeering into oncoming traffic. It’s well-damped in high-speed corners, holding the line effortlessly. The big Benz also tramples the mini-roundabout with barely a bump and squashes bumps and potholes without transmitting them to the cabin. It’s every bit as well damped as a modern car, more so even.
Adjustable ride height seems like overkill for a saloon car, but it’s a nice touch nonetheless. The self-levelling front and rear and anti-squat technology to keep the car level under heavy acceleration and braking are more relevant. At the rear, the 6.9 inherited the standard S-class rear semi-trailing arm, along with a Watt’s linkage to help with enthusiastic cornering. That 200kg hanging over the front end still dictates a slow in and fast out style in slower corners. But, my Lord, it’s fast out, even in a modern context.
The performance figures are impressive, with the big barge hitting 60mph in 7.4sec and a top speed of 140mph, but it’s the way it lets rip from 60-100mph that is shocking even today. The languid nature of the car simply does not match up to the way it acquires speed. It could absolutely shred your licence these days.
That rumbling V8 is distant, insulated, like a distant storm. It makes its presence felt with every stab on the bounteous accelerator, though, as the scenery starts to rush past at a surreal rate and the fuel gauge seemingly drops before my eyes. There’s no getting away from the scary consumption – the Benz consumes a third of the 96-litre tank in 60 miles, but then you shouldn’t buy a 450 SEL 6.9 without knowing what you’re letting yourself in for.
Thankfully for a car that builds speed so fast, it’s equipped with disc brakes all-round that seem stronger than the tyres’ ability to lay the braking power to the road. It will lock up, but that’s inevitable with this much weight going that fast, even though post- #1978 cars come with a rudimentary anti-lock system #ABS / #Bosch .
Modern AMGs could learn a thing or two from the understated looks. Many owners deleted the 6.9 badge, making the big Mercedes-Benz look like a totally standard 450 on the outside, with just the 6.5J x 14in alloy wheels and wide tyres marking it apart. That aside the W116 is a comical blend of understated elegance and fussy detailing such as the double-deck bumpers, overly complex chrome window surrounds and louvred light lenses.
Inside it’s typical 450 fare, with a few extra warning lights thrown in to accommodate the handbuilt engine that remained more or less maintenance-free for the first 50,000 miles. Those cloth seats seem out of place in a car that cost this much, but they’re supportive and suit the style of the car, allowing me to hang back with a single finger on the wheel. I can even mess with the #Blaupunkt stereo, with its digital display. It’s the one item on the car that isn’t period. The oversize handbrake is an item that never once fails to bring a smile to my face, even if starting out from an overnight stop at silly o’clock when nothing else is funny. The heavy wood veneer also takes me back to a bygone age. But the rest, including the cruise control, feels fresh.
That’s the real surprise with the 450SEL 6.9. It might be an icon, but it’s a car that can hang with modern executive saloons. It’s a classic that simply doesn’t make any demands on the driver beyond a simple adjustment in driving style to cope with tight bends. In short, it’s a 40-year-old car you could drive every day that will still put a smile on your face when you flatten the throttle. There aren’t too many of those in this world.
It’s fast enough to put a smile on your face, so if you can’t stand the thought of buying a Mercedes, the Jaguar will be more than enough fun. What’s more, you’ll be buying British.
Bigger wheels are about the only giveaway that this is not a standard 450 SEL, especially if you remove the 6.9 badge.
Target price £14k
Target price £15k
Above, man with smile on face, having just flattened the throttle.
Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9 vs. #Rolls-Royce-Silver-Shadow
Much slower, more luxurious and with that quintessential English charm, the Rolls-Royce is a stylish alternative if you don’t give two hoots about performance.
Yes, cloth upholstery. In a car chosen by plutocrats, heavyweight politicians, music superstars and Telly Savalas. David Lee Roth thought it looked better with a skull and crossbones. James Hunt said it looked like a taxi.
Rolls-Royce and Bentley owners may sneer at the M-B approach to car interiors, but it’s comfortable and long-lasting.
Select ‘S’ and you’ll appreciate that 420lb ft of torque. Three-dial convention, and a few more warning lights.
The 6.9-litre engine is handbuilt, has aluminium cylinder heads and drinks petrol at the rate of 10mpg.
ENGINE 6834cc/V8/SOHC #M100
POWER 286bhp @ 4250rpm
TORQUE 420lb ft @ 3000rpm
MAXIMUM SPEED 140mph
FUEL CONSUMPTION 10-15mpg
TRANSMISSION RWD, three-speed auto
ENGINE 12.4 litres
GEARBOX 8 litres
AXLE 4.8 litres
ENGINE Castrol Classic XL20w/50
GEARBOX Castrol Dexron 11
AXLE Castrol Axle Z
WHAT TO PAY
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- Post is under moderationFINAL XJ COUPE
We drive the final XJ Coupe built, arguably the company’s most glamorous model from the Seventies, on this year’s #London-to-Brighton Jaguar Run.
DRIVE STORY XJ COUPE
Glamour time. We take part in this year’s London-to-Brighton Jaguar Run using one of the most glamorous Jaguars ever – the final #Jaguar XJ Coupe to come off the production line. Words & photography Paul Walton.
As I drop down from the South Downs towards the coastal road to Brighton, I am transported to another time and place. It’s the Seventies and I’m no longer in East Sussex, but the South of France, cruising along the Mediterranean coastline to meet with Roger Moore, Raquel Welch and Jackie Stewart for pre-dinner drinks.
This image in my mind isn’t because of the weather (which is patchy, at best), but the car I’m driving – an XJ5.3 Coupe. This handsome two-door saloon comes from a more glamorous time, when sports wear was only worn by kids during PE, and when real gentlemen drove discreet, powerful coupes.
To introduce a little glamour into this year’s London-to-Brighton Jaguar Run, I’m driving the final XJ Coupe built. So finish your aperitifs, dig out your smoking jackets, and don your cravats, it’s going to be quite a journey.
The XJ Coupe is a special car for a number of reasons. It’s a one off for a start, unique in Jaguar’s timeline. Although the car sits comfortably amidst both the XJ and coupe families, there has never been a saloon-based two-door before or since. With production limited to between 1975 and 1977 due to disappointing sales, it’s one of the rare times that Jaguar got it wrong. Just 10,426 were built compared to 115,413 XJ-Ss, which also makes it relatively scarce. The Coupe’s lack of success is rather ironic, though, because it’s one of the prettiest cars Jaguar has ever produced. The XJ Series 2 was already a good-looking car, but the removal of two doors and the lack of a central pillar create a more rakish air.
If the saloon were a businessman, then the Coupe would be Marc Bolan. So, a special car, and this one is particularly so, being the last one to leave the Browns Lane production line. Built on November 8, 1977, but not registered until the following February, this XJ12 V12 Coupe, painted in Squadron Blue, immediately joined Jaguar’s small selection of historic vehicles, later becoming part of the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust when it was established in 1983. It’s still there, 32 years later, and the Trust has kindly agreed to let me drive it for this year’s London-to-Brighton run.
It’s always an exciting moment whenever I arrive at the Trust’s faceless storage facility in the West Midlands to collect a car and as I drive through the facility’s tall gates, my eyes fall upon the Coupe waiting for me, looking resplendent in its bright blue paintwork and familiar Kent GKN alloys of the era (a £321 option in 1978). I recognise the car instantly, as it’s still regularly used for publicity purposes as well as magazine photoshoots.
I’ve driven hundreds of Jaguar models over the years, but I’ve yet to drive this one – or any other XJ Coupe. It’s not because I haven’t wanted to, as this was always one of my favourite Jaguars when I was growing up. There is something about the car’s looks, power and saloon-like practicality that I still find appealing. I have also often considered buying one, thanks to their comparatively low values putting them in reach. Just £6,000 is enough for an XJ6C, and a couple of grand more buys the V12 version. However, as interest in these cars is rising (and prices, especially pristine examples such as this one – I saw some for over £20,000 researching this), try buying any permutation of E-type for the same money and you’ll come up short. I drive home extremely carefully, but excitedly, and store it safely in my garage in readiness for the day.
Very early on Sunday morning, I slip behind the car’s thin, black plastic steering wheel and fire the mighty 5.3-litre V12 to make my way south for the start of the L2B, which this year starts at the magnificent Chartwell in Kent, the former home of Sir Winston Churchill.
The bright blue velour covering the car’s seats takes some getting used to, but it is typical of the age; the blue Peugeot 504 estate my parents bought in 1979 had identical upholstery, though nowhere near as stylish or as comfortable. Hoping to hear some Wings, David Bowie or Fleetwood Mac, I click on the period Pioneer radio. I’m disappointed as there’s nothing but static. Still, better than Genesis.
So I instead listen to the noise of the 12 cylinders in front of me. Ignore the 5.3-litre’s reputation for being lazy and unresponsive – a quick tap of the throttle pedal results in an instant, forceful, but effortless, burst of acceleration. Even at 70mph the engine is spinning at just 2800rpm. My washing machine spins harder than that.
As I chase down the empty motorway I become Steed from the New Avengers, who swapped his Bentley from the original series for an XJ Coupe in the Seventies reboot. A dark green, pre-production model, registration NWK 60P, it had the same visual exterior modifications as the largely unsuccessful – but wild – Broadspeed racing cars, giving it plenty of onscreen presence. The car’s most famous outing was in the episode called Three Handed Game, when Steed overtook a red formula racing car. While it lacked the discretion of the standard models, Steed, as a sophisticated gentleman about town, still represents the typical Coupe driver more than I ever will.
Despite the drizzle when I arrive at Chartwell, the car receives plenty of admiring glances. The event is dominated by more modern Jaguars, such as XK8s and X-TYPEs, so, as one of just three here today (there is also a Jaguar XJ6 and a Daimler Double-Six), the Coupe stands out in much the same way a Monet might in a gallery filled with David Hockney paintings. Even Jaguar designer Wayne Burgess (who is taking part in a new XE 3.0 S) cannot resist coming over for a look, admitting that the XJ Coupe remains one of his favourite classic Jaguars. At 9.43am precisely, I am waved away from the start line and begin the 57.1 miles to Madeira Drive in Brighton. The route initially follows the B2026 through beautiful, sleepy villages such as Crockham Hill, Marsh Green and Cowden. What a fabulous sight for pedestrians this procession of 300 Jaguars must make, especially that blue Coupe with the handsome man behind the wheel (ahem).
Ahead of me as I drive south, an even more beautiful area awaits. Known as The Weald, this land crosses the counties of Sussex, Hampshire, Kent and Surrey and is, according to The Old Song by the writer and poet GK Chesterton, ‘The place where London ends and England can begin.’ Since I’m a Yorkshireman, I think Chesterton has dismissed a large part of the country, but I do understand what he means – The Weald is a welcoming calm after the noise and pollution of the city, a mere 32 miles to the north.
It so happens that it is also the extent of one of the car’s petrol tanks. With the fuel gauge needle hovering around empty, I press a button on the dash to swap tanks, and the needle makes its way back towards full. Even with fuel injection (introduced with the XJ12 Series 2 in 1975), the V12’s economy is still a paltry 13.5mpg. Costly in the Seventies, today it makes for an expensive weekend. But the Coupe does make it a fun one.
It might be four decades old, but there’s something very modern in how it moves; there’s plenty of grip from the fat rubber and, in spite of weighing 76lb over the #Jaguar-XJ12 saloon, there’s very little body roll as I weave around the bends. To be honest, the steering is a little too assisted for serious sports driving, offering very little feel at slow speeds, but it is still precise, and ideal for cruising through the East Sussex countryside. This car is also in fabulous condition.
Meticulously maintained by the technicians at The Jaguar Heritage Trust, it has covered just 10,000 miles, equating to 270 miles a year. There are shopping trolleys that do more than that. The paint is unmarked, the standard black vinyl roof unstretched, and the interior appears as if it has just left the showroom. At Maresfield, the route takes the A272 before swapping for the A627 at Five Ashes. This will take me to the coast and I can already see the South Downs in the distance, the classic sign that I’m getting close to the final destination. With the sun out for the first time today, I finally have a chance to lower all four windows, creating the fabulous pillarless opening the car is famous for. They may all be electrically operated, but instead of one smooth movement, the rear windows lower into a tight space in the wing via an awkward pivoted action. I won’t repeat the #Jaguar-XJ-Coupe ’s history (Jim Patten having covered it in the May 2015 #Drive-My site), except to say that it was this lack of a middle pillar that caused the two-year delay before it reached the showrooms. After making its debut at the 1973 London Motor Show, the Coupe then didn’t go on sale for another two years because early testing found that the window seals caused too much wind noise. Although the engineers persevered and eventually solved the problem, there’s still a considerable amount of wind noise in the cabin compared to modern cars. But it’s not too intrusive – and worth it to drive a car that looks this good.
A couple of hours after leaving Chartwell, I reach the outskirts of Brighton. Passing the town’s marina, I'm instructed to turn left by marshalls from the #Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club onto Madeira Drive, cursing for the umpteenth time today that the indicator stalk is on the right (I start the wipers). Not something Steed would have done, I’m sure. I roll slowly to the finish line where I’m greeted by a familiar face – editor of the JEC magazine, Nigel Thorley, who is on microphone duties this year. He confirms that Raquel Welch isn’t waiting for me holding a Tequila Sunrise, but that JW’s Phil Weeden with a bag of chips is. I park the blue #Jaguar-XJ alongside the red XE of Wayne Burgess; they make a handsome pair and receive plenty of attention for the rest of the afternoon.
The Coupe might have been an interesting diversion, an anomaly in the XJ’s otherwise straight family tree, but as the L2B crowds openly show, it remains one of Jaguar’s most popular models from the Seventies. Whether this is because of the car’s rarity or the huge power of the V12 versions such as this I couldn’t say. For me, I think it’s due to the car’s lingering cocktail-drinking, cravat-wearing, boulevard-cruising, glamorous image.
Thanks to: The Jaguar Heritage Trust (www.jaguar-heritage.com) and the organisation team behind the London-to-Brighton Jaguar Run (www.jaguarrun.com)
Paul navigates the Coupe through one of East Sussex's pretty villages.
It might be four decades old but there's something modern in how the coupe moves.
TECH DATA #1978 #Jaguar-XJ5.3-Coupe
Engine 5,343cc V12
Torque 295lb ft
Top speed 147mph
Price then £7,281 (1978)
Value now £20,000
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- Post is under moderationGiant road test #1977 - #Daimler-Double-Six Vanden Plas vs. Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow II and Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 W116 with Cadillac Seville.
Simple, elegant and understated lines of the biggest #Mercedes-W116 . Only its wider tyres and 6.9 badges distinguish it from the lesser models. Interior is built to the same philosophy, with greater accent on efficiency than luxury #Cadillac Seville is clearly styled to influences from both Mercedes and Rolls, shares its body shell with more basic #GM cars. Interior is on the pseudo-luxurious side, but seats are comfortable. Gimmicks like automatic light dipping abound Low and sporty Daimler body is almost as old as Rolls, still has enormous appeal. As with Mercedes and Cadillac, body is shared with lesser models in Jaguar range. Interior is pleasing blend of traditional wood and leather #Rolls-Royce , recently revised as Shadow II, is stateliness itself. Height of body gives it an air of superiority from without and within. For all occupants, cabin is tremendously appealing, with space, wood, leather and charm.
Mercedes priorities are aimed fully at the driver. It's roomy but rear seat is too hard. Badge tells the story, cruise control governs it, ducts heat doors, roof is standard Handling and drivability right up to top expert level Antithetic Cadillac has only a vague speedo and tiny fuel gauge. Modest room detracts from seats' comfort. Auto dipping and on-off switching, tell-tales for duff bulbs, recessed wipers but false spokes. Handling is understeer all the way Half-way house XJ12, combines modern gauges with traditional wood. Leather looks nice but cloth is more comfortable. Air conditioning is superb, fan cools battery, beading spoils I seat comfort, some trim is rough. Handling and stability are terrific.
Rolls dash is appealing if inefficient. Everything feels so nice. Flat seats but lots of room and superb finish. Loads of Silver Lady status, glorious air conditioning, electric seat adjustment but tacked-on fog lights. Handling is ...rolly.
Mercedes engine is as neat as it is powerful, has dry sump for 10,000 mile service intervals and provides pressure for the hydro-pneumatic spring and damper units.
Much more basic Cadillac V8 does sport fuel injection but is no fireball. Priorities are typically American: reliability and easy servicing; this is rhd convert.
Marvellous XJ12 engine is a sight to behold: all alloy and superb castings. Injection has made it both more powerful and economical. Heat soak is incredible.
Rolls engine bay looks every inch a craftsman's paradise, probably unappreciated by most owners. Twin SU carbs still supply the fuel, in appropriately large quantities.
Rolls-Royce say it and most people believe that they make the best car in the world. In pub and party arguments, the most common contradiction has it that #Daimler-Benz hold the crown. We have heard other people insist that both protagonists are wrong: the best car in the world is a Cadillac. And others, generally those who have driven all the cars involved, advance the Jaguar/Daimler XJ12 as the current king among cars. Indeed, we were partly spurred towards an overdue and once-and-for-all resolution of this tedious argument by our experiences with the #Jaguar-XJ5.3C (Coupe 2-doors) that we recently took to Hungary. Yes, it was brought to halt when its new American transmission failed, and we were inconvenienced when its German headlight relay packed up. But - and you must remember our overtly cynical natures - reprehensible as they were (for the responsibility for such failures must rest at Loyland's feet, regardless of who is actually to blame) they could do little to dampen our absolute enthusiasm for a car that had demonstrated such extraordinary refinement. It was a pertinent reminder of the XJ12's ability: Mr Editor Nichols had only weeks before spent six days driving across the United States in a #Mercedes-Benz-450SEL-6.9-W116 , and it wasn't long before that that we had experienced a Cadillac Seville and the latest #Rolls-Royce-Shadow-II . The question, it seemed to our freshly jolted minds, was whether any of these cars could measure up to the overall standards set by the Jaguar, rather than whether it could compete with them.
A perennial question like 'best car in the wood' hinges around priorities. To most people, cars are saloons, so this debate has always been about saloons. As a piece of uncompromising automobile design and execution, what can compete with the #Lamborghini-Countach ? Prestige is also involved: relative to cost and achievement attained for money spent, is there a car to compete with the #Citroen-GS ? But beyond these factors, the argument broadens. The car that is the best in the world - within this popularly-conceived sphere - must have more than just the best finish, the best styling, the most prestigious name. To be the best it is going to need the finest chassis: on the one hand it has to provide the best ride with the least noise, tor that is the beginning of real luxury; on the other, it needs the strongest roadholding and best-balanced handling. It needs performance, smoothness and quietness from its engine. It must be as good to drive as it is good to be driven in; it will compromise each of its functions the least, and Wend them the best.
It is intriguing that these four natural contestants should vary so greatly in price. At one end of the scale, the #Daimler-Double-Six-Vanden-Plas , the ultimate #Jaguar-XJ12 - indeed, the ultimate Leyland Car - costs £14.582 which includes £721 worth of air conditioning and a #Philips mono radio/stereo cassette system. The #Cadillac-Seville, converted to right-hand drive (RHD) in London for importers #Lendrum and #Hartman , is very nearly the same price: £14,888, which includes the complex 'climate control system' and hosts of other universal fittings. You then jump almost £10,000 to the Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 W116 and #Rolls-Royce-Silver-Shadow - £23.850 for the biggest Benz, everything included and £24.248 for the Shadow II (or #Bentley-T2 ). A two-level air conditioning system, rather like the Cadillac's, is a standard fitting. So is a stereo system, which may be altered to your choice and, as Rolls-Royce say: ‘It has always been our policy to produce motor cars incorporating special equipment to meet the requirements of individual customers.' Among the 'more frequently requested items' listed as options in the R-R price 1-st are headrests at £39.19 or head restraints at £79.56, a badge bar at £17.84 or GB letters at £3.22. There are many other items, listed and unlisted, and it's really up to the customer to tell R-R what he wants. Addenda to the #Daimler price list suggest the same sort of flexibility.
Mercedes build the 6.9 virtually to order, and it is inconceivable that Cadillac would not fit any number of non-standard items for their customers if they were asked. So far as production numbers go - exclusivity if you like - Rolls-Royce will build 3500 cars this year on a delivery time of 18 months, Leyland will make 7000 XJ12s, of which 250 or so will be Vanden Plas with a delivery time of six to nine months, Mercedes will make 1800 6.9s on six to seven months delivery and Cadillac will make 40,000 Sevilles, of which 150 will come to Britain for delivery in three months.
Traditionalism and conservatism are part and parcel of the styling approaches of the makers of these cars, if to a lesser degree where the Cadillac Seville is concerned. A Roils and a Mercedes must always look like a Rolls and a Mercedes, and central to their styling are their grilles, without doubt the most prestigious in the world. Each new Rolls and Mercedes follows on subtly from its predecessor, trying hard not to look too new or different. It is an approach that suggests continuity and establishment. security and taste: it is also safe. The Jaguar/Daimler has a slightly different sort of body - lower and more sporting - but it also abides by the rule of continuity and marque character laid down by Sir William Lyons. So within the confines of taste, prestige and stateliness, we have three very different looking cars - the tall, dignified Rolls, the contemporary, slightly wedge Mercedes and the rounded, sleek Daimler. The Cadillac, an enormous departure in size and concept for its makers and the American automotive industry in general, is a copy cat. It blatantly steals its prestige from both Rolls and Mercedes and is a curious amalgam of styling features from both, with stronger Roils overtones than Mercedes, and because it is from the hands of probably the word's most adept mass- production car stylists, it succeeds. It does not really look out of place in Europe, either in size or appearance, and t has put the seal of desirability an a new era in American car design, in the prestige stakes, the Rolls-Royce scores a valuable point by being a model unto itself. The Silver Shadow body is the lowliest in Crewe's range, and except for the long wheelbase Silver Wraith II derivative, has no look-alike. On the other hand, the Cadillac is a development of the Chevrolet Caprice/etc body, suitably re-worked by GM's Cadillac Division for prestige, quality and refinement. The Daimler Vanden Plas, badge-engineering on badge-engineering, differs very little from the 'lesser' Jaguar V12s, and even the sixes, and most people would not spot them should they miss the subtle badges. Badges and wider wheels are the only give-aways that stand the 6.9 Mercedes apart from its lesser S-class brethren, a deliberate Mercedes policy that finds considerable favour with many buyers: they want the biggest, fastest Mercedes but they don't want ostentation. Indeed, in Germany at present such a point is a decided marketing advantage. The badges can be left off, or even replaced by 280SE W116 script and the workers will not know precisely which model their boss is using to tear past them. A Rolls, on the other hand, is unmistakably a car of and for the very rich even though it costs little more than the Mercedes 6.9. As a result Rolls-Royce cannot sell more than 30 cars a year there. Jaguar/Daimler badges can be switched about to read 3.5, Vanden Plas can be removed and the owner can bask in the same sort of obscurity as his Mercedes-driving counterpart which consuming petrol at an equal (well, almost - but we'll go into that later) rate. The weights and sizes of the four cars are interesting: the Rolls is easily the tallest at 59.8in, the longest at 204.5in and. has the longest wheelbase - 120in. The Cadillac, sharing a width of 71,8in with the Rolls, is only slightly shorter at 203.9in but has almost 6in less m its wheelbase. Next shortest, the Mercedes - just under 200in long - is the widest, at 73.6in, and almost 1in taller than the Cadillac. The Jaguar is the shortest (194.7in) the narrowest (69.7in), the lowest (54in) and has the most-modest wheelbase (112.8in). The Daimler is the lightest at 4179lb, then comes the Cadillac at 4232lb, the Mercedes at 4260lb, with the Sumo-wrestler Rolls pushing the scales to 4850lb.
The foundations of the engineering story are essentially straightforward: conventional front-mounted engines driving to the rear wheels. Within that basic framework there exists varying sophistication, allied more to the philosophies of the manufacturers involved rather than to their resources. The wealthiest company. General Motors, opt for nothing more advanced than a live rear axle if you please, thus standing apart in a group where the norm is independent rear suspension (with twists in the case of Mercedes and R-R - not that the Jaguar/Daimler system is altogether common). On the other hand, it is little Jaguar who break the V8 engine rule by being the only ones to offer a V12, that obvious symbol of luxury and prestige as well as performance. And although it has an extra four cylinders, the Coventy engine is the smallest of the quartet, a mere 5.3-litres compared with 5.7 for the Cadillac, 6.7 for the Rolls and 6.9-litres for the Mercedes. With the Cadillac, by the time the emission equipment has had its go at what's left over from a pushrod valve arrangement and an 8.0 to one compression ratio - but electronic ignition and fuel injection - you get a mere 180bhp at 4400rpm. Rolls-Royce have chosen not to reveal how many horses lurk in their regal stables, but judging by the Silver Shadow's performance one would guess at something in the region of 230bhp, also a result of pushrod-operated valves and an 8.0 to one compression ratio, but with feed by two big SU carburettors. One-up on the Cadillac however, the Rolls' block and cylinder head are made from aluminium alloy. Changes to the engine for the latest Shadow II run to a quieter and more efficient fan, more emission efficient carburettors and a new dual exhaust system that steals less power than before.
Sticking with the V8, we find the Mercedes powerplant rather more sophisticated. The block is cast iron out the cylinder head (atop a special gasket that eliminates re-tightening) is alloy and sports an overhead camshaft on each bank (with hydraulic tappets to take care of clearance adjustment). Its compression ration is a mere 8.1 to one but it is fed electronically by the #Bosch-K-Jetronic system. Rather more out of the ordinary, the Mercedes has dry sump lubrication which extends oil change intervals to every 10,000 miles. The power from all this is 286bhp at a low 4250rpm... with the enormous beck-up of 405lb/ft of torque at 3000rpm. So far as straight power goes, the much smaller Jaguar V12 - alloy block and heads, one overhead cam per bank, #Lucas electronic injection, 9.0 to one compression ratio - is almost precisely as strong: 285bhp at 5750rpm. But it has a lot less torque: 294lb/ft at 3500rpm. Just what sort of difference this makes on the road we shall see later on. It shall also be interesting to weigh up the transmissions: Rolls and Jaguar/Daimler use the three-speed #General-Motors-Hydramatic transmission (a recent and very welcome replacement for the #Borg-Warner Model 12 in the Leyland car) that belongs in the Cadillac. Mercedes, chauvinistic as ever, use their own transmission, but with three-speeds and not the four gears found in the smaller-engined models.
All four chassis are essential unitary (the Cadi lac has a small front perimeter frame), although built up in varying degrees of automation. The Cadillac is separated from its Chevrolet parent by careful extra welding and strengthening, with a lot of attention going into reduction of noise and vibration. The suspension is basically the same as John Doe's car though: wishbones and coil springs at the front, with an anti-roll bar and a good ol' live axle and good ol' leaf springs at the rear, given something byway of location through an antiroll bar and by way of sophistication through a self-levelling system. The recirculating ball steering is of course power-assisted but has the added advantages of variable ratio gearing that increases as the wheel is turned. Perhaps surprisingly for an American car, the Seville has disc brakes at the rear to match those at the front; a limited slip differential is optional.
On the face of it. Coventry's suspension is fairly straight forward too: semi-trailing upper and lower wishbones at the front, coil springs and an anti-roll bar with plenty of built-in anti-drive in the very clever geometry. At the rear, drive shafts act as the suspension's upper links, working in conjunction with lower transverse wishbones. There are also radius arms, and twin spring/damper units on each side of the car, spanning the drive shaft. It is an arrangement that works beautifully, and Ferrari, Lamborghini, De Tomaso and Maserati are among those who (although they use upper wishbones too) know of its benefits. But the secret of the refinement of the Jaguar/Daimler suspension rests in the separate sub-frames located into the body by rubber mountings that in turn carry the suspension units, and in the enormous skill that has gone into sorting out the correct bushings and settings. A limited slip differential is optional, the rack and pinion steering (subject of so much debate - for revision later in this test) is power assisted, with three turns lock-to-lock like the Seville's, and there is the added sophistication of inboard rear disc brakes.
There are disc brakes all-round in the Silver Shadow, and now that it has all after it, it can also boast power-assisted rack and pinion steering - probably the most important facet of the up-date a few months ago. It's a Burman rack, developed in conjunction with R-R’s engineers, with its hydraulic cylinders at its extremities and the output to the track-rod halves in the middle. The suspension components remain the same as before - very wide-based lower wishbones upper stabilizer lever, coil springs and an anti-roll bar. But the geometry has been slightly modified to reduce the changes in wheel camber, and the body roll. At the rear, there continues the semi-trailing arm system with its coil springs, anti-roll bar (reduced in diameter to allow for the modifications at the front end) and an automatic ride leveller.
The Mercedes, design-wise the most sophisticated of the lot, has wishbones and an anti-roll bar at the front, vast trailing arms and another anti-roll bar at the rear, with a goody dollop of anti-dive and anti-squat geometry worked into it all. But where it departs from normal practice is in its damping and springing: instead of steel springs, four Citroen-like hydro-pneumatic spring units bear the 6.9’s weight, at the same time acting as the dampers, and keeping the ride height and vehicle attitude constant. The steering is assisted recirculating ball and there are big disc brakes at all four wheels. A limited slip differential is standard. Now let’s see how all this pudding fares in the eating…
Big engines, yes; but big overall weights too, and if the pre-requisites of adequate, unobtrusive performance coupled to refinement far above the average can be ticked off in each of the four cars then there is also an even split between them in the degrees in which the engines actually overcome those weights. The split conforms directly with the sophistication of the engines. The Rolls and Cadillac get on with the job in the way that a disinterested driver would wish, surging smoothly and easily away from the delights or loping lazily along the motorway. Their torque will keep him happy, providing enough acceleration to put most Cortinas and the like in their rightful place, and since the Cadillac’s speedometer reads only to 85mph. a genuine top speed of 105mph would appear to be more than General Motors think most of their customers will require. They may be right however, the car is quiet and stable at such speeds, and a serious driver or even a disinterested lead-foot win find that he probably uses ail of the performance a good deal.
Much the same thing applies to the Rolls, although there is rather more on hand in both acceleration and top speed. But electronic wizardry doesn’t stop the Crewe speedo reading little short of 130mph when the true pace is just on 116mph - at which speed the Silver Shadow II is decently stable thanks to its new nasal spoiler - but those last dozen or so mph come up fairly reluctantly. That doesn’t matter, for no-one could suggest that the Rolls is a car built for sheer speed. But it does matter that at an 80mph cruising speed, full-throttle is needed more often than not to clear slower, more erratic drivers and maintain one's long-distance decorum. At the lower end of the scale, there is enough urge on hand to allow the car to be whisked in and out of traffic with ease.
The #Jaguar-Daimler and the Mercedes are different. Even smoother and refined they reap the benefits of their designers’ more serious and modern approaches, and they have the sort of sheer performance that will leave all but a few cars way behind. They border on the realms of the all-out supercars, with 0-60mph times of around 7.5 sec and top speeds comfortably in excess of 140mph. And yet within such similar abilities there are differences. The Mercedes feels very fast, spritely and potent, like a good sports car, and tremendously efficient. With that sort of torque on hand, there is little other way it might feel. The Jaguar seems more sedate, quieter, smoother, still more refined. But after losing some time to the Mercedes in the lower ranges, it very swiftly gains on the German car, hauling it in hard as it nears 100mph and taking over firmly as the speed rises from there, incredible though it might seem. Come out of a bend and keep on accelerating, brake into another one, come out hard and wind up to the maximum possible pace, perhaps up a modest incline with a long, sweeper running with it and you'll know that you are going in the Mercedes. It is a high performance car and it feels like one. Ah, this is the real thing, you’ll be inclined to think. But hop into the Jaguar and repeat the exorcise and you will find that, with noticeably less effort, you are actually surging out of that sweeper and towards the top of the incline at a speed greater than the Mercedes managed. The Jaguar just seems to take it all in its stride, and if you notice and appreciate it then that's fine. The Mercedes takes it in its stride, certainly: but it makes sure you notice, through its noise and. well, just its feel. Obviously, thon, the XJ12 and the 6.9 have far more than just 'adequate' performance. Their characters and their abilities arc more complete than the Rolls' and Cadillac's; they will potter just as off handily - even more so - but at the other end of the scale they can really turn it on, providing the driver with more aground capability than the others as well as more sheer refinement. Within that, simply because it has the extra smoothness that goes with 12 cylinders, the XJ engine has more appeal than the 6.9's once one has understood that it has comparable performance, and the sheer excitement of the Mercedes has subsided in favour of the mailed fist in the British car's velvet glove.
Nor is there a penalty in terms of running costs for the extra performance provided by the XJ12 and #Mercedes-Benz . Efficiency extends to more than just go; cruising pretty quickly across country we were surprised to find that we returned 16.4mpg in the Benz and 15.8 in the Daimler, but with a heavier load on board. In similar conditions, the Rolls returned 14.4mpg and the Cadillac 14.5 (on two-star fuel). Pushed as hard as they're ever likely to go, the Cadillac increased its thirst to 12.8mpg, the Rolls to 13.2, the Daimler to 13.6 and the Mercedes to 11.9mpg.
Handling and roadholding
Again, the group splits into two: Mercedes and Daimler on one plane. Rolls and Cadillac on another, with not that much between either pair in their respective sectors. Climb into the Mercedes and you're likely to react the way John, our borrowed chauffeur, did: to know at once that it is a driver's car par excellence. Like the Jaguar (forgive us, but we really can't get used to calling the damned thing a Daimler, or even a Vanden Plas) it is subtle and business-like in its styling inside. It is just plain efficiency. Start it up and what sound there is from the engine suggests that too; the suspension's road rumble only adds to it. The steering, not too light, not too heavy, is entirely in character, and so are the solid, push-me-and-I'll-answer brakes. That also goes for the throttle, and when you enter the first corner you soon learn that it extends to the handling as well. The car feels small, lively and so very responsive. It could be a very good 3.0-litre, not a two-ton heavyweight with almost 7.0-litres under its bonnet. It has honest-to-goodness verve, it feels, as Steady Barker says, like a damned good four-door racing car. It is thus an intensely personal car, one in which a lasting bond is immediately established between car and driver, and which is likely to lead him to reject passengers as often as possible or to think to hell with them and just get on with enjoying themself should they really insist on coming along. If they understand, they will enjoy all the Mercedes has to offer just as much as he: the way it can be flung into bends neutrally or in drastic oversteer at will, or be pushed in quietly but quickly and then snapped sideways and held in the most tremendous slides on the throttle. It just does what the driver tells it.
Now what surprised John the chauffeur and every last man of us was that, again in its own subtle, understated way, the Jaguar proved to have fractionally more roadholding that the Mercedes, and even tidier handling. It is engineered to be as neutral and efficient as possible while at the same time having abilities as impressive as those of the Mercedes should the driver seek them At about the same cornering speed as the Mercedes is swinging into oversteer, the Jaguar is just as neutral as it was when it entered the bend, rolling rather less. Push it in a little harder next time and as t limits are reached it will gently edge in very modest oversteer, that is counteracted with an equally tidy and natural feeling movement, using up less road space than the Mercedes as the transition and the return takes place. Because the Jaguar is set-up more as a system than a tool, it takes longer to learn that it can be so utilised than it does in the Mercedes. Erroneously, the lightness and the small movements of the wheel and the initial stages of the body motion make it seem as if it will be slightly unwieldy. But the lesson, once learned, will not be forgotten: go in yet harder, and the XJ12 can be flung towards the apex as sideways as the Mercedes. Power it hard past the apex and it can be held in longer, tidier slides than the German car, and when the body drops back as it comes straight there will be considerably less lurch - and important point when it comes to passenger comfort. In short, the Jaguar/Daimler’s suspension is better controlled. Interestingly, coming from the other cars to it during our test, we found that its steering was the nicest of the lot, something we could never have envisaged saying in the past. It no longer seemed so light; it just impressed us with its absolute lack of fuss, its progressiveness and its precision. You could hop into the car and feel totally equipped to get on with the job without drama of any description: bends, crests, dips...they mattered not,, for it only took a few seconds to know instinctively that the Daimler was not going to put a wheel out of p ace. And yet it was at the same time so easy and re axing to drive.
Now, to return to pure roadholding, you drop almost exactly 10mph in a given bend when you take the Rolls around, and a little bit more in the Cadillac Their roadholding is good, but not to anything like the level of the others, or the upper reaches of current standards. Their handling is not bad. The Rolls is quite curious: it feels tall and narrow, and rather as if it waddles around on a narrow-gutted suspension located somewhere down below. The new steering is light, quick and twitchy, as John says, and it has you son of chipping away at the wheel until you learn the correct degrees of input to be used. Even then, it is a studied business not to overdo it. But despite its size, and what many people might assume to be its character, the Rolls is no longer ponderous. Given correct steering action, it comes into bends cleanly - gone is the drastic understeer of the past; that new geometry works - and sort of sets itself into what feels like a roll-oversteer attitude. Then it stops and goes around fairly neutrally, widening its line, if not actually sliding, all-of-a-piece. Eventualy it seems to push into sort of roll understeer again - quite strange, really - as it eaves the bend. Should you find the power on hand, or be cornering hard enough to induce it by pure speed alone, oversteer can be easily caught and despatched; but the car never feels as inherently flat, stable, progressive and cons stent as the Mercedes or the XJ12. As it transpires, the Cadillac has very good steering: it isn't as light as most people would expect of an American car, the gearing is excellent arid the feel adequate. It directs the car accurately, the chassis responding with consistent-to-strong understeer that becomes terminal if you insist on pushing right to the limits, so that it imposes its engineer's will on the driver. Body roll is well-controlled, and the indication that the limits are nigh is a riding of the nose across the road rather than anything much more dramatic reaching the cabin. Along a country road, however, the Cadillac can be conducted with aplomb and a fairly high level of driver satisfaction. It has more natural poise than the Rolls and is thus easier to hurry, still managing to feel a little more relaxed. But lest you get this out of context, don’t attempt to give either a Rolls or a Cadillac a hard time in your Cortina or Marina: they'll have little trouble putting you straight as long as the bends don’t become so tight that their sheer size handicaps them.
Now, the normal pay-off for a car with inferior handling and roadholding is for the ride to be better. The measure of real refinement to be found in the Jaguar/Daimler is that it rules absolutely in this area too. It is ever so slightly firm at very low speeds, but beyond that it is utterly absorbent, going about its work with less fuss and noise than any other car's. The isolation of the suspension is so good that to all intents and purposes the XJ12 has no road-noise. A gentle thump s noticeable only when there's a particularly abrupt join in the road surface, and even then it will need to have presented itself White the car is going very slowly. For all this absorbency and comfort, there is absolute stability at all times, each wheel always under control. Even under full-bore acceleration, there is just a faint hum from the engine, so at all cruising speeds right up to 140mph the V12 is present but not heard, and certainly not felt, unless the driver wishes it by way of acceleration.
The Mercedes' ride loses little in absorbent quality to the Jaguar; it is rather more joggly and pattery over troubled surfaces at low speed, but just as pleasing at high speed, and just as naturally stable and re-assuring. It is also, in terms relative to the Leyland car, extremely noisy. By German standards it might be very quiet; by ultimate standards as determined by Coventry it is raucous, so that any idea that the car is a real limousine is instantly dispelled. There is a hum from the engine when it is given anything like its head, albeit a pleasing hum, and there s enough wind-noise to be noticed. On that score, the Daimler test saloon had some wind-noise upwards of 120mph. whereas the XJ5.3C we ran recently had not a trace of it, thereby feeling even more refined.
Such is the level of that refinement that even an eminently quiet car like the Rolls is shown to have rather too much road-noise. It is rumble at low-speed more than anything else, a constant pattering over cobbles and plenty of bump-thump when the big radials roll in and out of potholes. It rides very well, but it just isn't the pace-setter, or even near to it. There is no wind noise in the Rolls now though, and the engine is as imperceptible as ever.
Strangely enough, it's the V8 that gives the Cadillac most of its noise: a steady hum when pushed decently quickly. Save for a solid thump as the rear axle strikes proper bumps, there is less road-noise in the Seville than in the Rolls. But the inadequacies of its live axle are shown in a sort of lateral squirm as the heavy unit throws against its location when the springing and damping as pressed hard; it's not severe, just enough to say 'slightly crude' in this exacted company.
Car manufacturers so often get their seats wrong; and these four are not really exceptions to the rule. The Rolls' front seats are tall, wide and generous; but they ore a little too hard and too flat for long distances along twisty country roads. The Mercedes' seats are just as hard 'out better-shaped; but they aren't as comfortable when trimmed in leather as they are in the alternative soft velour. The Cadillac seat is soft and plush and (like the Rolls', adjustable every which-way by electric toggle within easy reach) but doesn't go back far enough. The Daimler seat is on the modest side, but it's well-shaped and pretty good - except for the beading that runs around its edge in the Vanden Plas. The simple brushed nylon of the lesser models is much better. Steady Barker spent hours sampling the four cars' back seats while John whisked him from one place to another, and he has plenty to say about life in the back in his accompanying piece. But to recap briefly: the Rolls is the best overall for room, then comes the Mercedes, then the Jaguar and then the Cadillac. Interestingly, although the XJ12 has the longer wheelbase it seems to us to offer less real rear comfort, despite better legroom, than the XJ coupe, mainly because the rail above the saloon's rear window restricts head room too much. The roofline in the coupe is subtly different and less of a restriction.
Air conditioning is standard for the quartet, and so is a stereo system. So far as the air conditioning goes, the Rolls' automatically-controlled split-level system is the best; then comes the Jaguar's dial-a-temperature unit, the Caddy's similar system (but it’s not really quite strong enough) and then the Mercedes, which is more difficult to work and then doesn't do the job so well. Life is fairly straightforward in the Jaguar and #Mercedes : the adjustable mirrors are hand-operated, so are the seats, whereas the RolIs and Cadillac have electric systems for getting comfortable, along with the usual power windows and central door locking systems.
Again, the approaches differ - from the clinically efficient Mercedes to the over-kill, schmaltzy Cadillac, but each with its own character and its own special appeal. The Mercedes is under-played to the extreme (the Germans seem determined to eliminate all the frills and just get on with the job; and quite right too in the view of many people), but reveals its nature to its driver at once. He will understand, or he will find it dull. It will not suit the pretentious man at all: it's appeal is through its thoroughness, visually as well as functionally- There is a modern four-spoke wheel, leather bound and handy; behind it a simple instrument pod housing a proper complement of dials. The one big column-mounted stalk looks after indicators, light flashing and dipping and wipers and washers (including an intermittent phase). The cruise control lever lurks close behind, easy to reach and easy to work, and in charge of the best system. The heater/vent/air conditioning controls are slightly more complex but are mounted within easy reach; so is the radio. Best of all is the automatic transmission selector - that familiar Mercedes 'golf club' jutting up from its ragged slot in the console. Flick it and it finds the right spot, and activates the transmission beneath with tremendous speed and smoothness. Just another facet of the 6.9's appeal to serious drivers. The gearbox itself, permitting first to run to 59mph and second to 97mph, is crisp and smooth, although not without the odd noise. The brakes feel excellent and stop the car with enormous strength, pushed by either left or right foot, as they should be. Vision is clear and easy, the car simple to place. In other words, if efficiency and responsiveness appeals to you, you'll love the Mercedes to distraction.
The Jaguar is rather more of a hotch-potch inside; a half-way house. It has all the instruments and the facilities to allow the driver to make use of a car with even more outright ability than the Mercedes, but the presentation is confused, an attempt to combine the contemporary with the traditional by way of big plastic dials and yet a wood veneer fascia and door capping’s. The driving position, however is as pleasing and efficient as it is in the Mercedes, restricted only by a lack of left footroom that worries some but not others. The wiper action is slightly clumsy when they need to be parked, and the tail, spindly shift selector requires overly strong and deliberate movements. The transmission works beautifully, but first cannot be selected or held manually: can't the gearbox cope with its power? The maxima in the intermediates is 60 and 100mph, even more handy than the Mercedes' thanks to a higher rev limit. Overall, the Jaguar has a very pleasing effect on the driver, quite apart from its mechanical aspects and abilities. It feels quite small and tidy, modern but not brash, and quite tasteful (despite horrible touches like the gold plastic V12 badge on the console). It has the impression of being a gentleman's sporting carriage, with a small but meaningful 's'.
The Rolls goes one step further. You sit up high, surrounded by wood and leather, faced by big round dials set into the wood that tell you things like the time and the temperature rather than the engine's revs. The shift lever is on the column, jutting high to the upper right, with an easy action when it comes to activating it, and with the cruise control set into its knob. Things like the .vipers are worked by chromed meta knobs on the fascia: decidedly old- fashioned, but they feel so beautiful. The transmission shifts silently and easily, running out to a mere 40 and 74mph in the intermediates. Best time to be driving the Rolls is on a relatively deserted motorway. You sit up in that coach-like atmosphere, wafting along, looking down on the world and its minions, savouring the car's straight-line stability, and, at this speed, its silence. But be careful les the idyll should be upset: don't move the wheel too quickly or too much, for the reaction of the car will be more wayward than you would wish. Yes, a car to waft along in, above all else, with something nice on the stereo and your mind not too much on the driving.
Despite all its gadgets, that goes for the Cadillac too. Very largely, it is all add-on luxury. Besides the electric seat controls there is the central locking system, activated when the transmission is put into Drive, the Sentinel lighting switch that brings on the lights at dusk and switches them off at first light, and the automatic dipper that drops back to low-beam when it detects the lights of another car (or its own lights' reflected by Cotswold rock walls!). There are the fibre-optics tell-tales to let you know whether your head and stop lights are working, and tiny green and amber lights in the fascia to show whether you're driving economically or not. There is a digital clock, ell sorts of buzzers for unfastened seat belts and keys left in the ignition and so on, and the steering wheel tilts through crazy angles at the touch of a lever. All well and good, but GM don’t seem to understand about priorities: the windscreen wipers/washers switch is small and awkwardly located on the driver's door armrest, there is only the 85mph speedo (reading a full 20mph slow at 60mph in the test car!) and a fuel gauge too small and too impossibly located to be read without extreme effort. The angle of the pendant carrying the brake pedal is far too awkward to allow fully adequate pressure to be exerted upon it too (although that could be a fault of the British conversion) and the brakes themself fade badly without much provocation. And whereas the Cadillac's boot doses and opens by electric motor, the (collapsible) spare wheel takes up far too much space to make it much use at all. So the Cadillac emerges as a car for those who like to see their luxury and be constantly reminded of it. Subtle it isn’t, although to judge its driveability by its cabin would be wrong.
If you look closely in the out-of-the-way places on the Cadillac, you will find the same sort of flaws that spoil the XJ12 and which you will never find on the Mercedes and Rolls-Royce. There are too many rough edges on the Cadillac, too many poorly-folded panels. And yet from the outside they all fit so exactly: just don't look too deeply. Some of the Jaguar's flaws cannot escape detection: chrome trim sections that don't mate up, fascia edgings that are skew-whiff. Then again, look under the bonnet and behold that super engine and all its castings and plumbing, and marvel that it could ever have been fitted beneath such a tow bonnet line. The Mercedes is the epitome of top-class mass-production build quality, with never a drop of paint or glue where it shouldn't be. never a panel fitted roughly, never an awkward-looking screw. And yet it is rather cold with its efficiency. The Rolls reeks of traditional craftmanship and hand-building, sporting the odd rough edge now and then to show that it has been touched, and lovingly, by human hands. It has magnificent paint work and under-bonnet detailing, for instance, and everything is in equisite, conservative taste.
Several points emerge from this Giant Test. First, the #Cadillac-Seville attains quite remarkable heights of refinement considering its remarkably basic and cheap engineering. Given its own environment, it is obviously a" very good buy. Yet it is a fairly good buy in Europe too. It is smooth and quiet, rare, loaded with convenience items and not at all bad to drive in an uninspiring sort of way. It is not a pace-maker in the chassis, but it suffers no major vices either. Even if it were a lot more expensive it would still be a very worthy competitor for the Rolls-Royce for it is just as competent in most situations, every bit as quiet and were it not for its restricted room would be just as comfortable. When hurrying many drivers will find it preferable to the Rolls.
That the Rolls does not really rise much above the #Cadillac as a creator and upholder of motoring standards does most to establish its own perspective. It is still the most commonly-accepted and desired motoring status symbol; and because of its presentation - its unique character - it deserves much of the adulation. Its seats are slightly too hard and the rear reading lights and mirrors prevent one from lounging property, but it is a marvellously pampering car to ride in. and to be seen riding in. It is far from unpleasant to drive, but it is not as pleasant as it should be, those loping (aunts down the motorway or edging down Park Lane apart. The point is that it is eclipsed in too many areas to be considered the best car in the world. It might be the best finished, the most enticing; out it is not the quietest, it does not have the best ride, the best steering, the best brakes, the best roadholdinq, the best engine.
The Mercedes-Benz 6.9 is notably better in many of those areas. And yet it is not the best either. More often than not it is a misunderstood car: It is a driving machine, a truly superb sports saloon conceived and developed by skillfull and enthusiastic drivers for skillfull and enthusiastic drivers. It is not a limousine: it is too noisy for that, and its rear seat, in the leather anyway, insufficiently comfortable, and lacking detail niceties. It is for the high-speed business man who likes to whisk very quickly across vast distances in maximum safety with minimum fatigue and yet extracting a very high degree of driving pleasure. Yet he can, carry passengers if he wishes or needs to. To understand this Mercedes for what it is to appreciate it for what it isn't.
Finally, while we expected the Jaguar to have the edge over even the Rolls in terms of ride quality, overall silence and drive-line smoothness, we did not anticipate that it would not only match the Mercedes as a driver's car, but actually better it, although without such a feeling of excitement. It carries its capabilities more subtly, blending them with more overall refinement than any other car currently made. They are tremendous capabilities, made even more awesome by the car’s price: even in its ultimate form it is £10.000 cheaper than the Rolls and the W116 450SEL 6.9. Yet, if it were up to us, we would opt not for the top-line Double-Six Vanden Plas but for the standard £10.668 XJ12 with cloth trim, for its seating is more comfortable in that form. If motor cars are ultimately a compromise, the XJ12 - in whichever form you select to suit you best - is the ultimate compromise. Rolls-Royce have a new model lurking in the wings. If they wish seriously to lay claim to the title of the best car in the world with it, it's not the Silver Shadow they must better but the car from the other end of the Midlands.
FROM THE FRONT
By John Hatton, professional chauffeur who drives DJ Noel Edmonds XJ 4.2
1977 #Mercedes-Benz-450SEL-6.9 W116
A driver's car, no question about it But not a chauffeur's car. It has so much life, spurring you on to enjoying its marvellous handling, its terrific acceleration, that powerful braking and absolute stability. It responds so temptingly to your every command. But your passengers, along for the ride only as a matter of convenience at best, as a matter of necessity at worst, won't appreciate that. Even at steady speeds, as you check yourself, they'll find the ride too stiff, the seats too hard, and the road noise too extreme and not just in relation to the price they've just paid for it. You hope they don't take their ire out on you - you’re frustrated enough as it is, seeking so’-ace in the beautifully lad out controls and waiting for the chance to have it and a decent country road all to yourself one day.
All I imagined it to be - flashy, full of gadgets ... some useful and some useless. It reminds me of a funfair car. But it has a comfortable enough chassis from the driver’s point of view, except over the occasional harsh join in the road surface where there’s a thump from the rear axle to upset things a bit. The cornering is alright, the braking average, the steering very good in fact. Good gadgets, like the fibre optics to show if the headlights and brake lights are on, enable the driver to make sure his vehicle is not defective without having to check externally. I also like the two lights on the dashboard - one green and one orange: the green light indicates that the car is running at the most economical speed, and the orange shows that it is running uneconomically, which in this day of conservation is an advantage. It also means, of course, that you’re driving as smoothly as you should. The interior as a whole looks quite cheap and plasticky really; otherwise, the Cadillac compares more favourably most of the time with the Rolls than most people would imagine - more than I had anyway.
I drive a Jaguar, but taking part in this test made me appreciate just how much it stands out. even in such exalted company. It is by far the best car for driver and chauffeur with its silence, excellent steering, well-balanced brakes and such ideal handling. Really, there's nothing at all in the mechanicals that I, as a private and professional driver, can criticise. Instead you find your faults with the obvious cost-cutting in the cabin (although it is. of course, so much cheaper than the Rolls and Mercedes). For instance, although the reading lights in the rear arc very good, their wires are left exposed and bits of trim elsewhere are not finished off property. Sections of the dashboard are the worst. More seriously, the beading on the front seat is too prominent; it becomes uncomfortable over a long distance, or many hours in the city. But then your passengers will be finding similar problems with the back seat in the Vanden Plas. I’d have to recommend that my boss give the Vanden Plas a miss: the lesser Jaguars are more comfortably upholstered, and give me the cloth trim over the leather any day.
What peculiar handling! The steering’s so light it has you constantly over- correcting. whereas you need it to be more in keeping with the size and character of the car. And if you haven't upset your passengers that way. the brakes, at first so sharp and fierce, should do the trick. Pity the driver relying on tips. The brakes need to be far more subtly efficient. All this is particularly upsetting when driving in town, although after a while you became accustomed to the peculiarities and adjust accordingly, if not entirely satisfactorily. So doing your job with the Ro Is-Royce. rather than perhaps doing your job in it, is a tot harder than it should be. In the country the steering is more of a problem Getting your passengers along at a decent clip is far too twitchy; you can't relax behind the wheel, the concentration needed is too great to allow that. Nor can you fail to notice the excessive road noise, worst in town - and you wonder what your passenger will be making of it. Nothing much to criticise among the instrumentation, the switches or the air conditioning, which allows you to keep your charges cool headed, at least. Handy electric seat adjustment, if there is another driver or you fancy a small change yourself, although the leather of the seats is a little too hard for long days at the wheel because of the tightness of their leather. It will slacken after a few years, but so might you. Anyway, if somebody is paying so much money they want the seats to be comfortable from the outset. With the Rolls, both owner and driver expect the very best. In practice, though, they don't get it.
AND FROM THE BACK
By Ronald Barker country gent, critic and owner of quality conveyances
1977 #Mercedes-Benz-450SEL 6.9 #W116
But took, it's full of Alsatian dogs! Himmel. does prosperity so swell the West German head, or are they just peaked headrests ? These doors are so thick and heavy, and their locks massive - no wonder they shut cl... unk like a safe. You can sense the strength, it’s no illusion created by advertising copy. Echt leder inside, genuine thick, strong, shiny, slippery German leder, with a cheese grater pattern punched into its surface - for grip? For ventilation? For chafing the skin of a lady's back through her thin summer dress? Sniff how it smells and hear how it creaks like an old club library every time the chauffeur moves or I fidget. Why fidget? Because the back seat is quite appalling; the backrest is tod upright and short of lumbar support, and the cushion seems to have a semi-rigid spring frame just beneath the surface that has to move ail together or not at all. There's lots of legroom, but a fiat floor and hard ribs under the seats to catch your feet. No woolly bear nonsense Gort sei dankt and the removable carpets are secured by press-studs. No safety belts, either, which is surprising. The Alsatian headrests are adjustable for angle - gut! Behind them, recessed into the window shelf, is a great big box of First Aid goodies. There's just one central roof lamp above the backrest, ashtrays but no cigar lighters in the doors (not even a gauleiter!) No mirrors or armorial crests, but we shan't miss them. Gute fahrtl (Have a good trip, actually). But it's quite astonishing - this magnificent machine, so powerful, so stable and controllable on the road, so rewarding for the chauffeur to drive and substantial, yet it isn't a luxury car at all when you ride in the back, not for such a vast price tag. Although the ride is stable and level and shock-free, it's also unexpectedly harsh and noisy, with a mush of din from tyres and/or transmission, and if your man presses on a bit to exploit the M-B abilities, you roll about on that unresilient leather platform, unrestrained by safety harness or ergonomically profiled upholstery. It's just a genuine four-door four-seater hard-topped air-conditioned racing car.
Even if this is really only a chevre-au-lait with a cream filling it looks very posh outside and inviting inside, all soft pale grey cloth and voluptuously rounded cushions. And it feels good - for a moment; but the cushion finishes inches short of the back of the knee. It’s a full 3in shorter than the front cushions. Does Detroit consider back seat riders collectively as idle rich drink-and-be-driven dwarves? No, they made the body shell too cramped and had to chop the back seat to create an illusion of ample legroom. So my thighs are inadequately supported and my feet rest on a flat floor which will soon tire the inkle joints; they ere trapped in a nicely padded slot beneath the front seat. The backrest is rather upright, and where am I expected to stow any of the countless small things I'd need if sitting hero for days on end motoring from NY to LA? Not a door pocket or back-of-the-seat net, only a narrow rear window shelf that the Cadillac manual tells me not to put things on.
If I want to doze, there's no headrest, and the rear quarters are filled with reading lamps and embossed crests. It isn't designed for seating three-abreast, but there are lap straps for two-and-a-half. The centre armrest is too short low and awkwardly angled, and those thinly padded elbow rests on the doors are pretty mean. In each door there’s a rather vulgar pretend-wood and bright metal console with rigid door pull, ashtray and lighter. The thick woolly carpet seems not to be readily removable for cleaning. It's very quiet back here, less wind noise than in front; no tyre rumble to speak of, but no way can you fully suppress an unsprung live axle dancing about below. The Seville rides surprisingly flat and stable round the bends, and the tyres don't disturb with roaring and squealing. Thank goodness for front headrests shallow enough to see over - I can’t bear looking forward to a sort of grasshopper's eye view of Boot Hill cemetery. A surprisingly nice car, but only in the front.
A #Daimler-Benz did you say? Oh - just plain Daimler, please! Two days with these four cars and no one mentioned #Daimler or #Vanden-Plas . It’s a V12 #Jaguar and other badges don't stick. All Jaguars/Daimlers need interior designer (what about David Bache?) to modernise and harmonise and en them without necessarily spending more money in production. They are super-cars mechanically, let down by visual deficiencies in quality and tad taste.
The Vanden Plas treatment evolves pseud seating with ably showroom appeal, so thickly upholstered and unyielding that your head almost touches the roof, with high pressure rolls under the thighs (front and back seats) where they should be soft and leather piping at the leading edge that gave our short-legged chauffeur John actual pain after 100 miles in the back (he likes a change).
Stupid woolly bear rugs (extras) effectively reduce critical cushion-to-floor depth, and push your feet further up under the front where several vicious hook-ends of springs are poised to gouge them, but the best ride, the least road noise, the least roll, the least engine and mission noise - at the cost of the least headroom, no legroom to spare (but enough), less all-round visibility than the high-seated six-window cars.
Not too easy to enter or leave, either, without tripping over the Kangol Euroflex belt. All four doors have rigid pockets also encasing quadraphonic speakers, and there are elastic pockets behind the seats. One sits high enough in the back to see right over the headrests. Might not the standard Jaguar V12 possibly provide more true comfort for a lot less money?
Does it have to idle so fast, with all that noise? I suppose it's to keep the alternator spinning for the auxiliaries. Pity the doors shut with that shudder and tinny rattle. Smell the leather! Beautifully stitched, but pulled so taut over the cam - how long will it take to stretch and wrinkle a bit, so as not to look like pvc and to fit you snugly like an old shoe? The seating feels so formal, dictating you posture, not really letting you relax. After paying more than 24 grand, isn't one entitled to slouch? And all the great big windows, to see and be seen: in the old days when #Rolls-Royces were clothed by HJ Mulliner and Thrupp and Maberly and Hooper and Barker and Park Ward and James Young and Gurney Nutting - most had sumptuous, separate down-filled cushions, and smaller windows with roller blinds so you could, if you wished, be obscene without being seen. And why not in your own car, behind your own discreet chauffeur?
Mirrors and reading lamps with spot lenses replace padding in the near quarters, but there are headrests; no seat belts. Open-topped elastic pockets are set in the front seat backs, beneath are loose footrests that slot into cutaways under the seats: very right and proper, a real aid to comfort. The fitted carpets are press-studded, but topped by those untidy status-creating, dirt-collecting, space-reducing woolly bear rugs. A fixed transmission line (IRS) allows a much more slender tunnel than the Caddy's, and a third passenger - be carried in quite reasonable discomfort. All the fittings are superb, even down to door lock buttons and ashtray lids. Nothing looks skimped or in bad taste; none of the others approach the Rolls-Royce standard in this area. Discreet little head (optional) restraints on the high-backed front seats partly obscure the view forward, but can be looked around. Drive on, James!... But where's the traditional ghostly hush disappeared to? I can actually hoar the engine as well as the road beneath - suspension by Messrs Thump and Rumbelow. A little faster, my man!... Whoops! No, you'd better slow down if you can't help it lurching about like that. If only I could sink into the seat a bit more, perhaps I wouldn't notice so. And should it have this stow-motion pitch, with all that hydro-pneumatic gear controlling it? Perhaps a Mercedes-Benz after all.
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- Post is under moderationWhen money doesn’t matter – the discriminating luxury saloon byer will choose one of these cars. Each has a claim and here we debate the cars merits. Then on #Drive-My – the seasoned LJK Setright decides.
It is a greasy Friday evening. There will be fog tonight. The autumn gloom is gathering already and the M1 has been closed for hours by a bigger-than- average pile-up. To complicate matters, it is the beginning of the half-term holidays, and ten thousand extra car-borne families have wrestled their way into the northward traffic flow on the A1 (M).
We struggle, hours behind schedule, to insinuate our four big saloon cars into the melee. We Knew we should be feeling apprehensive; after all conditions are absolutely ideal for getting involved in someone else's accident, even if you can avoid creating your own. And our cars have a combined showroom value of £220,366, a fact that ensures that even the smallest mishap will not be laughed off.
That we do not feel too greatly concerned (as we would in a quartet of Ferraris and Porsches) is the first of many credits due our cars, the finest saloons in the world. Each purports to be built for exceptional comfort and ease of control and here, so early in our journey, is first proof of the claims. Door handle-to-wheel with swaying Scammells, crowded from behind by madmen in Marinas, we feel safe and are at ease.
We have managed to assemble a #BMW-750iL-E32 , a #Bentley-Turbo-R , a #Mercedes-Benz-560SEL-W126 ( #V126 Drive-My) and a #Jaguar-Sovereign-V12 over the same precious few days. It has not been easy, because such test cars are not parked in serried ranks, awaiting requests from the rotters.
We are heading towards roads we know in Northumberland, 250 miles from Earls Court Road. The idea is to test them where the going is as difficult (and absorbing) as on any roads in Britain, but where the traffic is light. There will be photographs and hard driving and arguments and £250 worth of petrol sent up in smoke. In the end we will have a firm view about which is the world’s best car. So we think.
The coming of the #E32 #BMW-750iL , the vaunted V12, has fomented the British- versus-Germans argument all over again. The launch of the six-cylinder 7-series models. 11 months ago, caused all manner of squabbles involving the new #Jaguar-XJ 6 . (In CAR magazine you’ll remember, the #Jaguar won.) Now, the 750iL is an even more serious contender. According to BMW chairman, Eberhard von Kuenheim, this is no less than BMW’s attempt to ’satisfy the highest standards which could be demanded of an automobile’.
The E32 750iL is the familiar 7-series, now powered by BMW's long-expected 300bhp, 5.0-litre 60 deg V12 M70 (Jaguar-like in that it has single overhead cams for each bank and only two valves per cylinder). It has won early points in the tabloids by being the only car to have its top speed electronically governed (precisely to 155mph). To distinguish it from the rest of the 7s it has wider 'kidneys’ in its grille, a slightly re-shaped bonnet hump, twin square exhaust outlets under the nearside rear body and four inches of extra length (thus knee room) let into its rear body.
We have had no difficulty choosing its opponents. There are only three. The Rolls Spirit is too high and slow, and insufficiently agile. The #Lagonda-V8 is not well enough developed or packaged. The new-body #Jaguar-XJ6 has neither quite the power nor the presence. Nor the price, come to that; it is just too affordable in this company. There is nothing the Americans or Japanese build which is truly comparable, and the Italians' only big car, the #Maserati-Ouattroporte , just can’t cut it.
Even in our tiny field the cars are widely disparate. The prices show it best; the Bentley Turbo R costs only a little less than three times as much as a #Jaguar-Sovereign V12, itself a former title holder in this contest. And the #BMW is the only one of the four which can honestly be called modern. The Mercedes is at least eight years old; plans are in train to replace it early in the '90s. The #Bentley Turbo R. though rebodied in #1977 , improved greatly in #1982 (by addition of a turbocharger), in 1985 (by a fine set of suspension improvements) and again late in #1936 (by a set of #1987 model year detail changes) is based firmly - and dimensionally- on the #Rolls-Royce-Silver-Shadow, which began life in #1965 . Of course, this is the kind of statement that may drive Crewe engineers into paroxysms of protest because there have been literally thousands of changes to the car in 22 years. But the Turbo R’s foundation on the Shadow is still firm.
The Jaguar’s roots are in the short- chassis #XJ6 of #1968 - and even V12- powered versions on this latest car’s extended wheelbase of 113in have been rolling out of the factory for 15 years. The car continues for another three years or so, while Coventry struggles to make a new-body V12 which can better this one.
The BMW crew are quite sure they have built the best saloon in the world. You've read as much in the advertising. Certainly BMW has built a car which provides a middle course in the group. They have attempted to incorporate some of the wood-and-hide of the british cars. They have learned much from the exotic- appeal and the sheer, outrageous refinement of Jaguar's low-stressed V12.
They have avoided what they see as the frumpish bulk of the Bentley. They have taken some of the Mercedes' long- wheelbase, limousine-look, while staying a telling four inches short of Stuttgart’s unwieldy 120in wheelbase. They have bowed to the conservatism of this market by building an all-steel, family-look body, and have decided not to make an issue out of a low drag factor. The #E32 750iL figure is routine at 0.34.
So there are no radical claims for aerodynamics; none for light weight. The big #W126 S-class claims to be 120lb lighter than the BMW at 3980lb. The advances are reserved for other areas, such as making full use of #1987 -theory electronic gadgetry. British E32 750iLs will have an electronic control for varying their damper rates between 'sport' and 'comfort'. They have power steering whose degree of assistance lessens with speed to provide good centre feel. They will be offered with the option of a traction control device which makes wheelspin next-to-impossible even on very slick surfaces. Anti-lock brakes go almost without saying, and there is a 'wire' link, instead of a mechanical one. between accelerator and engine. That means when you summon more power, a computer varies ignition and transmission settings, and shovels more fuel into the engine.
The #BMW-E32 newest of test quartet. Handling sharp for big car. Design almost identical to cheaper six-cylinder 7-series; main differ once longer wheelbase. Cd only average at 0.34. Interior trimmed in optional buffalo hide - much better than standard leather. Rear roomy, but cabin lacks class of two British cars. Dash has usual fine BMW instruments, ergonomics. Now M70 5.0-litre V12 lacks mid-range urge but is very smooth, develops 300bhp.
Jaguar oldest c or, bettered in some ways by the cheaper and newer #XJ40 six-cylinder brother. Nonetheless. styling still marvellous. Interior traditional loather and wood, seats comfortable, roar most cramped of group – but still quite adequate. Instruments traditional analogue - much hotter than XJ40's mix of analogue and electronic. V12 engine has turbine smoothness, less obtrusive than new BMW unit. Ride excellent, handling sharp.
The Bentley is probably the strictest adherent to old ways. Above all. this is only the second shape in the marque's long history not to have a chassis separate from its body. The Turbo R is as big a car as is made anywhere, these days. It is a foot longer than the BMW at 17ft 5in. It is nearly 3.5in taller than the BMW’s 55.1 in (and a Rolls is 1.5in taller still). Its suspension is by massive double wishbones and coil springs at the front, and absolutely enormous semi-trailing arms at the rear. The steering, now needing just 3.3 turns from lock to lock and having a small-diameter, leather-bound wheel at the top of its column, is a power-assisted rack and pinion system. The brakes, huge and ventilated in front, have standard #Bosch #ABS .
The Bentley's real talking point is its massive, all-aluminium turbo-blown 6.75-litre engine. This is the Rolls pushrod V8, well-developed to give minimal throttle lag for maximum mid-range torque, courtesy of a huge Garrett T04 turbocharger, the kind they use on diesel artics. Some called the installation crude when it was first developed (and were probably right) but now the engine is fed by fuel injection. Rolls-Royce is coy, as usual, about output figures, but this engine’s power is much more than adequate’. Something like ‘copious’ or ’abundant’ would be nearer the mark.
Since the 1986 changes - fuel injection, a low back-pressure exhaust manifold and a high output twin electronic ignition system - this engine has put on 10 percent in power and improved its fuel economy by 18 percent. It works within a 4500rpm rod-line (and doesn’t approach that very often). Informed estimates of power and torque are 330-400bhp at about 4000rpm; 430-450lb ft at no more than 2500rpm.
The Mercedes has a rugged double wishbone front suspension system where BMW has struts. At the rear, both cars use semi-trailing arms (though it is certain that in the next S-class, Mercedes will use its ’geometrically purer' multi-link system, already in use in the smaller models).
The #Mercedes-Benz V8 #M117 is a smooth, well-developed unit, controlled by an electronic engine management system (though not the BMW’s third generation Motronic device) and has been impressive all its life for a big power spread and better than average economy. The capacity is 5547cc; from that is extracted 300bhp at 5000rpm and 335lb ft at 3750rpm.
In a nutshell, the #BMW-750iL-E32 is the king-pin of this confrontation. It is a thoughtfully planned car, built in the light of the experience of the rest. But many a disappointing car has promised a lot on paper and in the eye. As von Kuenheim goes on to say, 'these 12-cylinder luxury models have been created for people who expect optimum agility, ride, comfort and convenience in operation’. If the man had been in the mood for brevity, he would merely have said that it's how they go that is really important.
As well as pioneering V12 engines in modern saloons, the Jaguar is the car with the purest suspension geometry. It has tough but routine double wishbone-and-coils front suspension, but its wide- tracked rear wheels are connected to what is. in effect, a double wishbone rear suspension system. There is a big, strong lower A-arm for each wheel, and the job of the top link is done by each half-shaft. Coils are used for the springing, and the rear disc brakes are mounted inboard, in unit with the Salisbury differential.
The front brakes are ventilated discs, and the system breaks with the class norm by not offering an anti-lock system, even as an option. That, in this arena, is pretty well unforgivable. The steering is a power-assisted rack and pinion system requiring, just like the Bentley's 3.3 turns from lock to lock.
Economy is supposed not to matter in such cars as these, but touring range does. That is why #Jaguar spent several millions giving its car a high-compression May head, and why #Mercedes and #BMW have spent even larger sums over years on research into combustion efficiency. And in its latest, fuel-injected guise, the #Bentley is claimed to be 18 percent more frugal than it once was. We ran numerous fuel checks on the cars; the best figures were returned on gentle motorway cruising (nothing over 80 mph); the worst came from a combination of rapid driving on Northumberland roads and very low speed maneuverings for photography.
The E32 BMW’s best figure was 21.3mpg (worst 12.9mpg). Others were Bentley 16.8mpg (11.9mpg). #W126 Mercedes 20.8mpg (12.6mpg) and Jaguar 18.8mpg (12.3mpg).
The main deduction here must be that the German cars do well when gently driven, but each of these cars delivers about 12mpg when driven hard.
The slowest here does 141 mph, so we are not talking about ordinary cars. The fastest is not much slower than a #Porsche-911-Carrera , and the performance is a damn' sight easier to extract. There is no unseemly pulling of left-hand levers, or stamping periodically on the floor with your left foot. Massive, quiet engines and discreet automatic transmissions do it all.
Off the mark, the Bentley is sensationally quick. Though it has only a three-speed #GM400 automatic transmission (and thus a higher first gear than either of the four-speed German cars) its massive torque, huge 275/55 tyres whose grip is coordinated by a limited slip differential, provide massive thrust. With a cultured burble from its slow-throbbing engine, it erupts off the line without a hint of wheelspin, passing 30mph in just 2.4 sec - a time which you would match with your average supercar only by using high revs, a dropped clutch and exactly the right degree of tyre-shredding wheelspin. And just as often as you’d achieve it. you'd also get it wrong. The Bentley does 60mph in just 6.6 sec (Crewe’s conservative claim is only 7.4 sec) and at 80mph it’s still the fastest of the group, getting there in 11,6 sec. Thereafter, it slows a little because the transmission selects its 29 mph/100rpm top gear and by 100 mph, the barn door aerodynamics have become a big-big factor. You can feel the resistance of the air, rather than hear it. Vet the Bentley still gets to 100 mph in 19.1 sec. and its 30-80 mph is swift at 9.1 sec. Anything that breaks 10 sec is an extremely quick car.
The BMW is ultimately the fastest of them all. It isn’t exactly sluggardly in getting to 30mph in 2.8 sec (without wheelspin) and it's at 60mph at 7.0 sec dead. But it seems to be a virtue of the four-speed auto that it gets the car away so fast. For a 5.0-Iitre engine (and for all BMW's claim that almost 80 percent of peak torque is available above 100rpm) this engine feels rather flat until it is turning 3500 or 4000rpm. Beyond 60 mph, the performance is marvelous: any car which can make the BMW's dignified departure from the line and still get to 100 mph in just 17.2 sec is special indeed. By a narrow margin, the BMW’s 30-80 mph time of 8.3 sec is the fastest of them all.
On the two-mile oval at Millbrook, we did not reach BMW's claimed top speed of 155 mph (it will go faster, company men say. but there's a speed governor to curb the excess). We managed 152, probably because tyre scrub becomes a factor on banking, and because we did not press the car to do dozens of flat-out laps, given that it was bound for Northumberland.
One interesting facet is that the 750, when used hard, does not select its 30 mph/1000rpm top gear until it’s doing 30 mph true (about 148-149 indicated).
The #Mercedes-560SEL-W126 was built as a short-term answer to the BMW V12 #M70 (there will be a V12 from Stuttgart with the new S-cIass body, early in the '90s – #W140 #Drive-My) and it matches the #E32 750iL's performance almost to the letter. It is a shade slower to 30 mph at 2.85 sec, (and allows a little wheelspin), it actually beats the BMW to 60 mph in 6.9 sec, it storms past 100mph in 17.9 sec (holding its third gear for another 25 mph or so) and it achieves 147 mph on the Millbrook banking. Its 30-80 mph time is a mere 0.1 sec behind the BMW.
The Jaguar's 141 mph feels slow because the car is quiet. We were convinced that the speedo error (almost out-of-court at 10 percent) was even greater, because its 141 mph felt so easy. On acceleration, the Jaguar misses a four-speed automatic, which could give it a much more rapid step-off. Its slowish 0-30 mph time of 3.3 sec illustrates that. Thereafter, the car goes quickly. The 8.1 sec time for the 0-60 mph sprint is still affected by the off-line slowness, but 20.73 sec for a sprint to 100 mph is still impressive. The Jaguar's 30-80 mph time is only 1.6 sec behind that of the BMW.
More important than its outright performance is each car's ability to get up and go from a gentle cruise. The Bentley can always draw on its massive torque to gather speed at a great rate. Turbo lag is present put hardly noticeable because the car has 6.75-litres to propel it, even when off boost. Only above 90 mph does the feeling of instantly available torque slip a little. The BMW engine does not always feel as if it's on the boil, despite its high outputs. But its quick-acting #ZF transmission #ZF-4HP24 (with discreet part-throttle kickdown) largely covers the engine's shortfall.
The Merc's engine feels stronger low down than the BMW's, and it is, but its wooden throttle pedal requires that a deliberate, ungainly long-throw push is needed to make things happen fast. It's a crying shame, because for discreet smoothness and power, the Merc's V8 is every bit as good as the BMW V12.
The Jaguar's ability to sprint without notice is impaired by its shortage of gears. Its accelerator is more responsive than the Merc's (but not the BMW's) and its #GM400 transmission is extremely smooth. But the Jaguar loses a little time on every one of the others. This is not the problem it sounds, because the Jag has decisively the smoothest and quietest engine. There is no bark of response when you squeeze on the power. It just goes, as if propelled by a medium other than an internal combustion engine.
The BMW is the best handler. High marks go to its steering, which on the open road is well weighted for fast driving. The BMW has very high cornering limits, completely reliable turn-in (even if you arrive at corners too fast in the wet). There is just a hint of final oversteer under full power, but nothing like the tail-happiness of BMWs past. But it is worth mentioning that our test car did not have the electronic dampers which are to be standard on British production cars, and which give a dashboard choice of 'sport' and ‘comfort’ settings. However, our European editor, Georg Kacher, has opined that neither of the optional rates is as good as the standard one, which our test car used.
The Bentley is completely surprising. It feels agile, it grips the road like mad; there is no untoward roll and lurch even in full-noise bends, and the massive understeer for which these cars were once well known is long gone and easily forgotten after you’ve spent half-an-hour sprinting rapidly around the roads of Northumberland. The car’s remaining limitation, as you’d expect, is its bulk.
It cannot be as nonchalantly placed in tight spots as the smaller cars. Yet it can be fairly described as a sports saloon, and this underlines Crewe’s considerable achievement. The steering is very direct, perhaps still a shade too light, and it suffers a little from road surface kickback. But it is superbly sharp and responsive.
The Jaguar's 'dead' steering is a well documented phenomenon. It has gradually been improved over the years to a point where it is more or less acceptable, even in this company. Less assistance and more centre feel are still needed, but a smaller diameter wheel and a thicker rim would go most of the way towards improving things. The steering wheel rim is the single most important communication point between car and driver; it’s a mystery to us why Jaguar insists on inhibiting the exchange.
The Coventry car has the usual leechlike grip in corners, little body roll, no discernible understeer at sane cornering speeds, perhaps a whiff of final oversteer for those who choose to induce it. But what distinguishes it is the typically Jaguar, glorious, flowing progress along difficult roads that no other car maker has yet matched. We’re starting to wonder if one ever will. The Jaguar’s security and effortlessness are enhanced by the fact that its occupants sit low and are little affected by roll or pitch.
Mercedes S-class W126 - one time best car in world - has fine build quality, solidity, but lot down by wallowing handling, and by excessive road noise. Seats are made for people endowed with massive backsides - anyone of regular build will slide around. Steering wheel vast, ungainly. W126 SEL has generous rear room. Styling stilt looks crisp. Engine is fine V8, develops 300bhp, gives excellent performance, also smooth, and has wide power spread.
Bentley most aristocratic car of group, has real presence on road. Interior wonderful to some, although thoughtless scattering of switchgear can annoy. Not particularly roomy for cur more than 17ft long. Handling surprisingly good, steering sharp. Big turbo V8 engine delivers massive urge, has wonderful throttle response. Bentley most accelerative car to 60 mph. Despite blunt aerodynamics, car very quiet at speed.
The Mercedes, for all its optional hydro pneumatic levelling, is the least accomplished of those on the road. Its suspension does well, mind, as the cornering limits are unfailingly high. But the car always feels cumbersome, partly because of its uncommunicative steering (and the #W126 S-class steering wheel which is perennially too large) and partly because of a 120in wheelbase. The Bentley has the same wheelbase but more overall length, yet its firmness and good roll-control could teach lessons at #Daimler-Benz . If you can manage to get the Benz into a steady state of high cornering load (a difficult thing in a cumbersome car on the give-and-take roads of northern Britain), the chassis is well balanced and the wheels grip well. 8ul this was substantially an unsatisfying car to drive. They must be worried in Stuttgart.
Ride comfort honours go routinely to the Jaguar. This #XJ12 does better than any other car except the latest XJ6, and there the honours are tied. In a few modes, the XJ12 floats a little too much; on others, the new-theory XJ6 feels a little harsh. But each Jaguar out-distances its rivals by being quieter and softer and, well, nicer. The wonder of the #Jaguar-XJ12 is that its ride is superb even at 25mph, where other 140mph cars seem to chop and thump. Yet the Jaguar felt the most composed of this bunch on the speed bowl at Millbrook.
By comparison, the BMW feels firm and even a little choppy. But it is purposeful, too. Its tyre, wind and mechanical noise are kept low a: all speeds, and the ease with which it sustains the 130mph is exemplary. Compared with something like a Renault 25, the 750 is quiet. Compared with the Jaguar, its various thumps and whirs are always heard.
The luxury trimming of these cars, and the comprehensiveness of their gadgetry, can be taken (or granted. Each car is naturally equipped with such hardware as automatic air-conditioning, leather trim, deep pile carpets and self-levelling suspension. Practical pieces such as electric windows, headlight washers and central locking can be taken as read. Only highlights need be recorded.
As usual with Mercedes-Benz cars, you need to pay more for the 560SEL's options than the other cars'. The BMW, though completely equipped, lists no-slip buffalo hide as a £700-odd option for its seats which we would not cheerfully be without. The Jaguar is the only car which cannot be had with ABS brakes (standard on the others) but as a result it has the firmest, most progressive pedal of the lot. The Bentley is so completely equipped that its option list refers mainly to small-demand combinations of paint and trim.
It is enough to say that these four cars are the most completely equipped on the market, and that the BMW is the one whose creators consistently have the most thoughtful approach to gadgetry.
Three of these cars were superbly finished: the BMW, Mercedes and #Bentley . The Jaguar's main problem is its paint, which is soft, easily marked and less lustrous than the others. And its door gaps are wide, indeed. Still, nothing broke or foil off or failed to function. And there were no rattles.
In cabin accommodation and comfort terms it is tempting to look at the Jaguar as a small car. Yet it is only 2.5in shorter than the BMW, and weighs more.
The truth is that the Jaguar's cabin is cramped by modern standards, lacks rear legroom (a six-footer can only just about sit behind another) and is narrow. Its leather seats, comfortable seating for four only, are too shiny to provide really good support, but there is an appealing 'closeness' about the cabin, particularly the driving position, which can appeal. The controls are nice and conventional, but not the car's finest feature.
BMW has got its controls and cabin exactly right. The marque's standard set of wands, switches and dials will be familiar to BMW users. There is plenty of room back and front, the grippy, luxurious buffalo hide is the best trim material we've seen in many a year, and all that is lacking (probably deliberately) is an old world air of clubby luxury. This is a modern car. The Mercedes also has the marque’s standard interior. Its components are beautifully made and work well enough, without being near as practically planned as the BMW's. The big wheel and single, multi-function column wand have been criticised too often in these pages for that to need doing again. We consider (as undoubtedly do DB's people themselves) that a re-think is well overdue.
The Bentley, for all its bulk. Is outrageously small inside. On the other hand, it is quite big enough for four adults to disport themselves in luxury, and this is probably as much as matters. The division between this car and the rest of them is the sheer altitude of the seating positions; occupants can stare right back at normally superior people in Range Rovers. The Bentley seats, though thinner and better bolstered than ever before, are still big and sumptuous by ordinary standards. They are surprisingly firm (the sports saloon again), but some feel the front buckets lack lumbar support.
The controls continue to be the usual Crewe mish-mash. The parking brake is a pedal with a very awkward release. The wiper switch is hidden behind the key fob, a full-arm's reach away on the facia. The auto selector is on the column. The ancillary switches are scattered over the facia as if distributed by blunderbuss. There is a certain charm in this antiquated arrangement, but only when driving conditions are undemanding.
How does one choose from such an array? Each is a big. fast, expensive, luxurious car-yet within that description the cars differ enormously. In which other serious comparison does the cheapest car cost just one-third the price of the most expensive?
Still, it is fairly apparent that the BMW is the best car here, by conventional judgment. It is the fastest, best handling, probably the best made and the most thoughtfully equipped of the lot. It employs the most modern construction methods, is probably the most crashworthy and will be in production for the most years yet. That's the good news. On the other hand, our testers were not much more impressed with this car than with the normal wheelbase E32 735i, since the V12 engine lacks mid-range oomph. (We suspect that a 5.0-litre #Chevrolet lump strapped in there would have more 2000rpm push). Besides, the V12 engine sounds and tingles much like a six. And since the #BMW-735i-SE costs nearly £19,000 less than the 750iL (shorn, admittedly, of some equipment and four inches of body length) the V12's virtues do come at a ludicrously high price.
The Mercedes we can dismiss. It just doesn't have enough driver appeal. The wooden throttle and the cumbersome handling make this a real bookmaker's car. for people who know they want a good, big and expensive machine, but don't much care how it drives.
Which leaves the Bentley and the Jaguar. What a motley duo they make. Only a heretic would choose the XJ12, more or less declared obsolete by its own makers. Or the Bentley for that matter; too big and expensive to be truly practical over the good, modern sense of the BMW.
Yet the British pair offer something which most enthusiasts find crucial, and which the Munich car almost totally lacks. And that is character - a unique, distinct identity and an ability to turn every journey into an enjoyable occasion. The Jaguar is still the world’s most refined car. Driving in it remains a special experience. It is quieter in progress, quite often, than your own sitting room as you sit in an armchair. The ride remains superb - and as we've said before, these virtues are as accessible at 120 mph as when you're driving to the post office.
The Bentley is appealing because it is so separate, and so surprising. There simply isn't another big, 145 mph turbo V8 which goes like this, and does so inside a 4500rpm rod-line. And there is certainly no other 17ft 5in saloon that fully justifies the description, sports saloon. The car also carries with it a heady helping of Rolls-bred superiority and there is also the excitement of knowing that the people at Crewe, once not dwellers in the real world, can now do things well. What in the world will they build when allowed a completely new model? Such considerations make the Bentley a persuasive purchase.
The best saloon in the world? You can argue sensually for the Jaguar, quixotically for the Bentley and logically for the BMW. But which set of arguments will hold sway? Setright now decides.
It is unlikely that anyone under the age of 42 years is able to appreciate the real worth of these four cars and those few others that merit bracketing with them. Their monetary value is a different matter: as Benjamin Franklin suggested, if you want to know the value of money, just try to borrow some - and similarly, if you want to know whether the cost of any of these cars can be justified, you will have to buy one.
In the end, however, money is not the point: we finally judge merit, not price. If money mattered, then by all means invite the youngsters into the debate, for youth and riches are not mutually exclusive. I am reminded of a lawyer who boasted that he had only three books in his office: he died worth half-a-million... which happened to be half the amount he inherited. How one spends one's money is one thing; how one spends one's life is another.
Life, I should add, does not begin at 40. It begins afresh every seven years, when the whole body has been replaced in what is literally a metaphysical cycle; and by the time one has passed through six such spans, one is ready for a sabbatical phase, one of rest and reflection. Thrashing around and waving your arms - or indeed your fists - in all directions is seen to be no longer the way to make waves or to make progress. Making journeys, no less than making love or music or money, is seen to be a process Involving an order of priorities: what one does is less important than how one does it, and what matters most is why. Driving is no longer a mere athletic enterprise, and the car has ceased to be an end in itself. It is merely a means - and that means that it can no longer be forgiven its faults, can no longer be indulged.
Instead it is the car that must be indulgent, forgiving its driver's faults, allowing him his whims, acknowledging his dominion. He is no longer the slave of boyish enthusiasms, preferring mastery to such an extent as he can achieve it. His car must now be the perfect servant, demanding nothing but upkeep; and he must have, if not perfection, at least the best that he can genuinely afford.
If he can really afford the best, he can afford one of these four. These are cars that have been created for those as richly judicious as they are richly dued, who will make no allowances for disabilities because they are past giving thought to mere abilities. That is why It is not enough that these cars should be utterly comfortable and impeccably finished; they must also be so fast and so sure that they should never be found wanting, so safe that they may never be suspected of wavering.
How comfortable, how smart, how fast, how safe? Someone once wrote that you can only know what is enough when you have known what it is to have more than enough, but I disagree; it is enough to feel to desire for more. When life, despite Dr Johnson, proceeds from enjoyment to enjoyment instead of from want to want, that is freedom from covetousness, and that is enough.
In this case it may be significant that I was content to drive each of these cars, on open roads, just about 10mph short of what proved on the test track to be its maximum speed. I think, and perhaps many people would think, that they are probably fast enough; but that alone is not enough. How far some of them fell short of sufficiency in other respects was surprising, even shocking. One of them was not quite good enough, another was not nearly good enough; and at this level anything less than enough is not acceptable at all.
The trouble has nothing to do with the abilities of the various manufacturers to produce what is wanted. The faults do not lie in execution, but in conception: what these four cars reveal is the quality of the men who chose that they should be what they are. I can infer from this only that the product planners of #Daimler-Benz are not men of the calibre of the customers that we in Britain would suppose them to be addressing. They are doubtless very astute salesmen who understand and perhaps even share the mentality of the German swanks and American posturers whom they so easily separate from their money. They must be, for what they are selling is not legendary but mythical. The Mercedes-Benz is nothing more than a quite ordinary car - so ordinary that I could not take it seriously - that happens to be very powerful.
Sometimes that allows it to be very fast, but conditions have to be right. At night the thing is utterly futile; the headlamps are abysmal. The ride is almost as disgusting: despite all the complexities of the D-B air suspension, the car is not a patch on the simply air-sprung #Lincoln-Mk7 that I drove in Texas last summer.
That was a good car, better in many ways than the Merc, and when Ford develops it next year, installing air suspension that promises to be as good as that of the Toyota Soarer, it may well be marvellous. Right now, the #W126 #560SEL is bumpy and pattery, lurching about in a sort of roll-rock on long fast bends or slow bumpy ones as though wheel and body movements had had to be confined by excessive anti-roll stiffness. The effect on the driver is very inhibitory.
Given plenty of practice (which would need plenty of space) and more aggressiveness than is nice in a mature person, this Mercedes could probably be taken by the scruff of the neck and Hung about like any boy-racer hardware; but do you suppose that any likely customer would be interested? And. unless he were built like a bus himself, could he stay put m his seat? Each sitzptatz is obscenely wide and laterally unsupportive; being covered in leather imitation plastic so slippery that it might be undried eel skin, it allows its occupant to go submarining despite all that harness and electrical adjustments can do to hold him.
The old traditional Bayerischer Bauer would be about lour feet wide from neck to knees if only he had a neck, so it may be natural that the BMW seats should also be more than broad enough. In this case the leather is impressive buffalo, but the firm cushioning was too poorly contoured to support anyone not carrying his own built-in upholstery. After a couple of hundred miles I was acutely uncomfortable, and that is just not good enough.
Long before that. I had been discomfited by the steering, which starts out by being lighter than the Merc's (not difficult) but gets heavier with speed, and which loads up terribly as one winds it into a corner. The change in feel is of such magnitude as to swamp any sensitivity to feedback, again inhibiting the speedy negotiation of serried corners. Making matters worse was a confusing pitch change which intruded at the apex of a corner as the brakes were finally released after progressive easing and the throttles opened. The #BMW-750i does not handle as nicely as the 735, does not encourage one to drive it as fast, is neither quieter nor sweeter, and may therefore be nothing more than a badge o1 rank among those for whom promotion is essentially stipendiary. The car thus offers a salutary warning to Jaguar, in time one hopes, for it to profit from it; it would be tragic if the future V12 should be similarly inferior to the new XJ6.
It would have been interesting to include that magnificent vehicle in this test, but the call of the old V12 was too Strong. It is an old car; perhaps that is why it is so good, having had longer than any of the others for development in service. Whatever the reasons, it is remarkably good, and I found to my surprise that I was happily driving it faster than the BMW in similar circumstances because it was so much less stressful.
I had feared instability under heavy braking from high speeds, that being a vividly remembered fault of the original XJ12; in all the long intervening years I have not touched one, but now I find it vastly improved, still fast and refined but much more sure-footed.
Some of the compliance seems to have been taken out of the suspension: bumps are now heard, though still not felt. For the rest, tyre developments may be largely responsible; whereas, compared with the rather slim Continental Super Contact of the Mercedes, the #BMW was generously shod with the Pirelli P600 (probably to cushion the ride with its radial flexibility, leaving it to the belts and bandage to provide ample lateral stiffness), the Jaguar wore the older #Pirelli-P5 . It is an excellent choice, for the Jaguar is exactly the type of car for which the P5 was designed, and the increase in lateral stiffness over the dubious old Dunlops almost certainly accounts for the reduction in driver-stress when going briskly.
Another boon was the sheer comfort of the car. It seems small, but in fact it is big enough: the glove like fit of a Jaguar is almost without motoring parallel, and despite the limited (and merely manual) adjustments available, the seats were actually the most conforming, the most supportive, and the most comfortable, of the lot. It is much nicer to move harmoniously with the car than to have to try to follow it around, and this, too helps to ease the driver’s mind.
It cannot be overemphasised, this matter of driver stress. In cars of this category, the driver must never have a moment's doubt about the ability of the car to do what he requires, nor ever suspect that it might demand more skill than he is willing or able to deploy. It was probably Fiat who first made such a car with enough roadholding to transcend handling: that was the 130, the supremely elegant coupe version of which set standards for comfort, competence, sensuality, and serenity at speed, to which any present manufacturer without an XJ6 to hand could still profitably refer. It was not a very powerful car: it would reach only 120, but it would average over 100 from Esher to Paisley, and after 15years’ progress I doubt if any of today’s quartet would do it more easily.
Only one of them would tempt me to try. Only one of them offers unfailing reassurance of infallible behaviour, inimitable sensual pleasure, incredible steam-hammer controllability, impeccable address to any situation, unutterable contentment. The Bentley does not belong with these other cars: it does not belong with any others, but occupies with effortless superiority and unforbidding remoteness a pinnacle entirely its own.
It is the only truly aristocratic car of them all. The Jaguar is fit for a gentleman, but with all due embarrassment I have to state my opinion that neither of the German cars is. In baser company the #Mercedes-Benz might impress as it is meant to. but compared with the other three it is unfortunately vulgar. The BMW is not so bad, and to give the thing its due. it is likely to prove mechanically (in the broadest sense) as sound a proposition for investment as the Bentley. When the dozen jurors (who come from all around the world) met last year to allocate the Turin Design Awards, we chose the 7-series for the production class not only for its looks but more particularly for the superb mechanical detailing of the body. The way the doors are hung, the way the bumpers are mounted, the way the door and window seals admit and enfold their charges; these and many details like them reveal exceptional care and competence in BMW engineering. Similarly, the new mechanical connections for all the electrical circuitry, are unmatched except by the new XJ6's which are also superior electrically: but noise from the alternator (or the timing computer?) interfered with the radio, which is inexcusable.
Are there excuses for the way it feels? Having heavy steering and brakes, it is not a car that a lady would choose to drive. With coarse-grained surfaces for its wheel and some minor controls, the sweaty - and the horny-handed may come to grips; such asperity would ruin fine gloves, but the nouveau venu does not wear gloves.
I know nothing about the latest bunch of bosses, but the chaps who really matter at #Rolls-Royce are not newcomers, and they overlook nothing. Regardless of scale, everything is done very properly. The Bentley hull, the work of delightful Dr Fritz Feller, is probably the strongest in the world: at the other extreme, there is not a switch or handle, not a lock or lever, that would endanger the most fragile of feminine fingernails.
’The car must be indulgent, forgiving its driver’s faults, allowing him his whims’
If one chooses to go at it bare-handed, there is tactile pleasure to be found on every surface, yet only the tiniest buttons of the radio defy gloved operation. The very pedals delight the feet, however shod the accelerator is like no other, precise in action and subtle in are, while the brake pedal not only provides beautifully progressive response but also a cancellation of the cruise control just like the set trigger of a bench-rest rifle.
Most amazing of all the Bentley controls is the steering. Whether you grip the wheel in clenched fist or caress it with fingertips, the servo assistance is always enough and never more than enough, the response is always precise and predictable, and the feel is extraordinary: a ripple in the road is translated, for information rather than trepidation, as a ripple through the wheel - not the reptilian squirming of a #Porsche-911 , horresco referens, but a feathered touch to the fingers to tell them what passes beneath those vast Avon treads. I do not remember sensing this when the original Turbo R wore #Pirelli-P7 s, but a good deal has been done to the car since then; for one thing, it is a good deal faster.
Suaviter in modo, fortiter in re: gentle in manner, resolute in deed, the Bentley moves with absolute authority. I wish its motor were a little less audible: what little can be heard of the two V12s is musical, and if the #Mercedes #W126 has only a V8, at least it keeps quiet about it. So the Bentley is not perfect? No: its front ashtray is a meagre shadow of its former self, and the instruments’ illumination is too dim for my eyes - but oh, those blessed headlamps! The BMW's mam beam bull’s-eyes are all right, but its dipped beam is miserable: I reckon that Germans drive fast only on motorways, and Americans do not care a dime about headlamps, having been brought up on the rubbish their own protected industry makes. The Bentley's are wonderful: one is not aware of a hotspot or cut-off anywhere, but everything one needs to see is evident.
The same is true of the under-bonnet view. The old traditions of black enamel and clean pale metals - aluminium, cadmium, nickel, but no chromium if you please - are still observed. The engine oil filler is built like the quick-release cap of a pre-war Le Mans car, labels are relief castings or enamelled plates rather than sticky plasticised paper. Do these things matter? As much as wearing clean linen.
It is a costly way of doing things. Does that matter? Do you suppose that the sheer thirst of the Bentley counts against it. when petrol costs are actually among the most trivial of motoring expenses and fuel economy is a government-sponsored delusion? Is the price of the car so unreasonable, considering what unparalleled care is taken in the design and manufacture of every component, and what a stupendous return you get for your investment?
Does money matter? When only the best is good enough, money (a nasty enough subject at any time) becomes completely irrelevant. Does the size of the car matter? When only the best is good enough, then once again only enough is enough. Long enough ago (516 years. more than long enough) to put most other nations into perspective. Sir Thomas Malory died, having a year earlier written Now I thank God... for his great mercy of that I have seen, for it sufficeth me. His full story would have sufficed to justify Macaulay writing, in his History of England, our democracy was, from an early period, the most aristocratic, and our aristocracy the most democratic, in the world. It is no coincidence - there is no such thing as coincidence - that the most aristocratic, is also the most English car.
Were it made anywhere else yet made as it is. I would choose it without hesitation from this quartet. I might hesitate if given a wider choice: even after all these years I would still be tempted by the holy simplicity and the ladylike grace under stress of a Bristol Brigand, which has most of the Bentley's virtues except that its engine bay is more like a battlefield than a parade ground. I would also weigh carefully the prominence of the Bentley against the reticence of the XJ6. The latter is perhaps a bourgeois virtue: ye: bourgeois is, as Anthony Hope observed, an epithet which the riff raff apply to what is respectable, and the aristocracy to what is decent.
So what is it to be? I knew when I pondered the profile of the Bentley looming above the others as they were clustered for photography. Stature means much more than mere height, and stature is something that none but the Bentley possesses.
'How far some of these cars fall short of sufficiency is surprising, even shocking'
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