Jaguar XK Vs E-Type

It’s the ultimate cat fight, as present-day great faces a landmark in British motoring history

YOU can trace the upturn in Jaguar’s recent fortunes to the arrival of the XK. It was the first of a new breed of cars, but design boss Ian Callum vowed it would be the last retro-inspired model under his supervision.

And he picked the ultimate expression of Jaguar values for his inspiration, as the latest XK’s oval front air intake and pronounced haunches borrow directly from the E-Type.

The old-timers in this test take all shapes and forms – but the Eagle E-Type is arguably the closest in concept to its original counterpart. While the Porsche Spyder is a straight replica and the VW Camper an old design with a modern powerplant, the Eagle is a re-engineered E-Type – with all the sharp edges taken off.

If you can imagine a classiccar with all the character of the original but the reliability and build quality of a modern XK, you won’t go far wrong. The firm has been trading since 1982, and has established an enviable reputation among enthusiasts. Each Eagle E-Type takes approximately 4,200 man hours and 18 months to build – which is a far cry from the highly mechanised world of its modern equivalent.

And it’s hard to convey the quality of the finished product. From its stainless steel under-bonnet fixings to the deep lustre of the metallic paintwork, the car reeks of attention to detail.

The remanufacturing process, as Eagle bills it, sees the models stripped and built to a buyer’s precise specification – and the car in our pictures is a beauty.

The 1962 S1 3.8 Roadster was given the Eagle treatment in 2007, and features a big-valve engine conversion, five-speed gearbox upgrade, electronic speed-sensitive power-steering and Eagle’s own suspension set-up.

Servo-assisted brakes with vented discs complete the dynamic improvements.

The introduction of wider wheels, modern fuel injection and ignition systems, plus a big-bore exhaust and upgraded cooling set-up, ensure the ‘old’ E-Type will be just as reliable as its modern counterpart.

This all comes at a cost, but the astronomical £225,000 price tag of this example makes more sense once you’ve taken a turn behind the wheel.

The Eagle looks like an E-Type, and it still drives like one – albeit one that’s evolved since the Sixties, rather than being frozen in the decade of flower power and the Beatles. The creamy smooth engine, snappy gearshift and tactile wood-rim steering wheel all have a deftness and precision that’s at odds with the Eagle’s ancient roots.

Performance is brisk and the Eagle is more responsive than you expect, with sharp body control and powerful brakes.

Best of all, you still get to enjoy the wonderful view down the E-Type’s louvred bonnet. Only the old-school lapbelts, retro seats and wonderfully evocative dashboard date the experience.

Jump into the XK and it feels bang up to date before you turn a wheel. Touchscreen controls for the in-car entertainment system dominate the dash, while the trademark rotary automatic gear selector rises from the centre console. And pressing the pulsing red starter button fires a 385bhp 5.0-litre V8, rather than a straight-six.

Want to enjoy al fresco motoring? Simply push and hold a small lever, and the high-quality fabric hood stows quietly behind you. The automated design incorporates a flush-fitting tonneau cover, which gives the XK a sleek profile with the roof down – in direct contrast to the chrome manual fixings and simple hood of the E-Type. But the classic model will attract more attention than its rival, whether the top is up or down.

Unsurprisingly, the modern Jaguar is more refined in either configuration, and its smooth paddleshift automatic box and torquey V8 combine to great effect. The XK is incredibly relaxing to drive, with effortless performance and comfort. Erect the rear wind deflector, switch on the heated front seats and steering wheel, and you can enjoy open-top motoring whatever the weather. Plus, refinement with the hood in place is genuinely impressive.

Not many people will ever have to choose between these two models. If you can afford an Eagle, the chances are you’ll be able to put an XK on your driveway, too. And if you’re interested in the XK, an Eagle E-Type is far too special to be used every day.

Either way, the modern car looks like good value here, although the discreet charms of our re-engineered classic surely make it the dream model of every Jaguar enthusiast. And having experienced one for ourselves, we can understand why.

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