Jaguar E-Type Zero prototype review

The E-Type Zero might boast an electric drivetrain, but it still feels like a proper Jaguar

There’s always a risk that converting classic cars to electric propulsion will dilute their character, but Jaguar’s strict in-house parameters have created a car that feels almost identical to the original in everything but sound. With strong performance and an ultra-smooth drivetrain, it’s undoubtedly a “proper” Jaguar too.

The proliferation of hybrids and electric vehicles means near-silent transportation is a familiar sensation in 2018, but the 1960s surroundings of Jaguar’s E-Type Zero prototype lead you to expect the rousing of something rather more rudimentary when you twist the key.

Approaching the sleek Series 1 model from the outside there are certainly no clues as to its new power source, unless you approach from the rear and clock the missing exhausts - from the wire wheels to the delicate doorhandles, it’s identical to any other E-Type. Click the tiny door open and it’s only once inside that you’ll spot any differences. While the beautiful wooden-rimmed steering wheel and slim chrome handbrake handle are carried over, the digital gauges, central display and Jaguar rotary transmission selector hint at the technology hiding within.

Best electric cars on sale 2018

Owners will have the option to tone down some of the more modern features, according to Tim Hannig, Director of Jaguar Land Rover Classic, who joined us for our drive down Monterey’s iconic Cannery Row. One change will be to that selector, which will make way for something more conventional - and something with a Park position, which the prototype lacks.

There’s work to be done on the calibration too, though it’s a credit to Hannig’s team that even this early prototype (customer cars will be ready from 2020) feels very well resolved from behind the wheel. After a brief introduction to the controls - essentially, it’s like any other EV or automatic vehicle - the E-Type pulls away smoothly, with just wind noise and the audible but not unpleasant whine of an electric motor.

Squeeze the accelerator pedal a little harder and there’s a familiar sense of urgency to the 295bhp Zero’s acceleration - not just from other electric vehicles, but from the original straight-six E-Type too. The unassisted steering feels identical to the original (assistance will be optional) while lifting off results in moderate regenerative braking.

Jaguar has worked hard to maintain the E-Type’s feel and performance, and the final cars will be identical in both weight and weight distribution to a fully-fuelled original, two parameters set to ensure it feels as close as possible to the classic.

The E-Type Zero conversions also require no structural changes, while passenger and luggage space is unaffected, and the car has a range of at least 150 miles - a figure settled upon after discussion with potential owners on how they’d use the car.

Jaguar knows the Zero has niche appeal, and Hannig tells me they even dubbed it “Project Marmite” during development, but the team’s strict adherence to its in-house parameters and the use of JLR’s own componentry - batteries are from the firm’s plug-in hybrids, while the motor and related components are I-Pace - mean it’s still an authentic Jaguar. If nothing else, no other electric car on sale is as beautiful…

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