Jaguar MkII 3.4
This old big Cat still has claws and reminds us why classic cars have such a following,
You couldn't feel this way in a modern car. Having turned the key only three minutes ago this MkII Jaguar is already giving the fizz. There's a deliberate way you have to go about every action. Forget lazily turning the wheel in a car that can nearly do everything for you and leaves you indecisive and unsure of what you will do today. You must drive this vehicle as if captaining a submarine that has lost contact with its mother nation, you are the admiral, and each move has consequences. Stepping out for a moment you realise your step is now more confident, your demeanour more positive and your actions unwavering. You arrived here not by some lazy relaxed moving transport that cosseted you and delivered you on the other end, you arrive having made a decision to come here, the luxury and comfort the big Jag offers were all part of the package. You can't help but be a bit wistful of the past, but where the MkII really plays its party piece is today. Forget about stepping into a classic and worrying about how late you will be in the underpowered machinery, the 3.4 under the bonnet felt more than enough to keep up with everybody and even go for a few spritely overtakes past some of the somnolent drivers in their two-year-old executive saloons that do nothing but submit to their every need. If the Jaguar MkII could be a character in your life, it wouldn't be a faithful lapdog, or child demanding too much attention, it would be that mate you know that gives you a ribbing at every opportunity but would step out for a dust-up with any stranger that treated you the same.
This particular MkII was equipped with the manual gearbox, the automatic may feel a better match, but the manual adds to the need to drive every second your wheels turn.
Speaking of turning, it is where the classic feeling was most noticeable. The roll around a bend didn't give so much lean that you felt as though you were at the helm of an aircraft carrier, but it will be a shock to anyone who has only ever driven this size vehicle in modern sports trim. Somehow this did take away from the experience, probably because Jaguar doesn't attempt to saddle the driver with a sports ride and luxury surrounding. You have leather and wood with softly sprung suspension, any other mix would give the character of the car a mismatched feel and lose all of the comforts for the sake of speeding around a corner, gaining seconds that aren't precious on the public road, unlike in a race car. The approach of slow in fast out is needed to make progress but along a patchwork country lane that fifty-year-old chassis set-up really justified itself, taking up the misery of trying to gain speed in the bone-shaking rattle of a modern vehicle and replacing it with a smoothness akin to slipping a spoon into a Tiramisu.
Sure, it couldn't hold mustard against a modern 5-series, but who actually cares, if the only thing you are interested in when purchasing a vehicle is showing up others with your speed, go and buy a Tesla and race everyone on the road, even those that don't know you're in a competitive duel of speed with an invisible trophy of lonely smugness.
The toughest part of spending time with the Jaguar is accepting the flaws. There is no way the majority of today's drivers could get behind the wheel each morning on their way to the office, the car demands your attention, and as we learned, pushing it a little too far or not finessing a corner comes with a punishment, whether that be a mild slip from the tyres or a listing motion that transports you to the cab of an HGV in a gusting crosswind.
Driving should be a challenge, it forces you to pay attention, but with the ease of speed and forgiving modern chassis, it is hard to find a place for the MkII outside of the classic car shows and July outings for a picnic. Those that would be willing to take one of these as their main mode of transport deserve the respect of other road users which was on show for nearly every mile we spent behind the wheel. Never have we got out of side turnings so fast, nor had thumbs up from so much of the traffic. Even a Ferrari doesn't command the admiration of this classic Jaguar, at least not in the UK, and we hope that never changes.