Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Pure Class: Jaguar XJ-6

Leave aside "Lucas, The Prince of Darkness."  Leave aside oil on the garage floor.  If you wanted to exude style and comfort in the late '60's and early '70's, the best luxury sedan was the Jaguar XJ-6.  It wasn't a road-burner--too much weight for the 3.8 liter six to cart around.  It was too big and softly-sprung to carve canyons like a Mercedes.  And you'd be making some three-point turns in close quarters.

But if you wanted to do a couple of long days sensibly above legal limits, the XJ-6 would get you there unfrazzled.  I had a few rides in one, on freeways and curvy two-lanes.  With quick steering and i.r.s. (borrowed from the XK-E), it was sporty enough for a sedan.  Its burled walnut and leather screamed Traditional British Luxury at you, quietly.  And the XKJ-6 had a sleek stylishness about it that that boxy Mercedes-Benz's couldn't match.

The Series I cars, with their pre-crashworthy chrome bumpers, were the best-looking.

Great visibility and sight lines, and enough gauges to keep you engaged in what we now call "the driving experience."

A trunk that could take the luggage of 4 people for a week, and a back seat that a 6-footer could stretch out in without
his feet touching the front seat.  The standard chromed, stamped, slotted wheels looked better than the competition's.

If I had one, I'd be sorely tempted to put wire wheels on it for The Look.  Rudge-Whitworths, though, with the
"traditional" two-eared knock-off hubs.  These look like Daytons, with cheesy three-ears.  In black, this later car
makes the crashworthy bumpers look almost good.


My daughter-in-law drives an Infiniti M35x, and I recently had my first ride in it.  It reminded me of the Mazda Miata: "a British sports car done right," except that the M35 is a British luxury sedan done right.  It isn't as big as an XJ-6 (the trunk may be close; the back seat doesn't allow spread-out room). But it has the same feel: fast, smooth, and refined.  It's enough of a driver's car to keep you engaged, but comfy and quiet enough for long days behind the wheel.  Maybe some Lexus models are the same. Taking the long view, it's a shame the Brits got the concept right but the quality control and reliability wrong.  I admire the way the Japanese car industry has gone from funny to world-class over the past 40 years.  But it has been sad to watch the decline of Jaguar.

"Honey, they shrunk the XJ."  Not so much classy as it is very pleasant.

Real wood and expensive leather, and a good set of gauges, set the tone whether it's 1968 or 2008.

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