Classic car reviews

From SUV to luxury vehicle

The first-generation Range Rover was built over a period of 25 years, with customer demand driving changes in the design and equipment. After nearly four years of development, the Range Rover was introduced in June 1970. Like the Land Rover, the elegant aluminium body contained a ladder frame chassis and two solid axles. For the engine, the Rover engineers chose a light metal V8, once adopted by Buick, coupled with a four-speed gearbox. The result was 132 DIN hp, helping to power the 1770-kg vehicle. The three-door Range Rovers featured a fold-down rear seat and a two-piece tailgate, with the window upwards and the lid folded down.

Competition for the original Range Rover

The first major innovation came in 1980, when Monteverdi offered a four-door version in collaboration with the manufacturer. Further factory adjustments began in 1981. The automatic version came in 1982, and in 1985, fuel injection replaced the carburettor. Little by little, the once-rustic SUV turned into a luxury SUV. Leather, air conditioning, power windows and a central locking system were soon offered – and help to explain the eventual launch of the “Vogue” luxury variant. The capacity of the V8 engine grew to 3.9 litres, with the KAT engine introduced in 1987. In 1992, a variant of the engine, 20.5 cm bigger, offered even more space and 4.2 litres of displacement. The P38A successor appeared in 1994, though production of the “classic” (original) Range Rover continued until 1996. Approximately 330,000 models were manufactured in total.

An elegant workhorse

From the outside, the early-era Range Rover still looks modern and quite elegant. But when you step inside, the SUV is immediately clear: rubber floor mats, gross schlautiger lever, the cluster of simple instruments and little by way of comfort. When driving, you can feel and hear the mechanics. The four-speed gearbox wants to be handled with intent, the body is staggering, and the large cross-sectional area – combined with non-wind tunnel aerodynamics – slows down the 3.5-litre V8 engine. But the Range Rover does not try to be a sports car. Still, you move quickly, driving is fun, and there is no lack of “involvement” for the driver.

1990s-style comfort

The Range Rover SEi Vogue, created almost 20 years later, is of a completely different calibre. It looks a bit more noble from the outside thanks to its aluminium wheels, hidden door hinges and elegant stripes on the side. In addition, it has four doors and the interior features a lot of leather, soft carpets and wood veneer. The disc brakes are now electric and the gears automatic. While the many improvements in comfort increased the weight of the car by around 200 kg, thankfully the engine grew with it. Despite the jump to 182 hp, the modern Range Rover does not try to look sportier – it was almost born to be a cruiser. From its high vantage point, one can observe the traffic. Both kinds of Range Rover can be enjoyed: active motorists in search of something special may prefer the early variant, while the later luxury variant will appeal to those who gravitate towards comfort, yet also want a classic Range Rover for everyday life.

Range Rover – Ruler of the Road

Guest author: Bruno von Rotz
Picture and video: Michael Klauser

Jaguar XJ 12 L – For those who want more

1973 Jaguar XJ 12 L Series II – The Jaguar emblem as a sign of its manufacturing heritage © Copyright / Photographer: Bruno von Rotz

It took around four years for the Jaguar engineers to develop the successors to the 240/340 and 420G series. Drivers were looking for a more spacious and, above all, comfortable high-end saloon. At 4.8 m long, almost 1.8 m wide and weighing at least 1.6 tonnes, the solution came in autumn 1968 with the launch of the XJ 6, which offered unexpected luxury and style. Technically speaking, the engineers relied on both proven and modern elements. The 4.2-litre six-cylinder engine came from its predecessor, though this time offering 186 hp. Whether manual or with Borg Warner automatic transmission, it had power. In addition, the wheels were individually installed and of course equipped with disc brakes.

More luxury thanks to 12 cylinders

In 1972, the long-awaited 12-cylinder engine was made available in the XJ, which then became the XJ 12 and the Daimler Double Six. The 5.3-litre engine, equipped with four horizontal Zenith 175 DD 2 SE carburettors, explained the significant petrol consumption and 253 DIN hp. Automobil Revue magazine reported a consumption of 25.6 litres of super petrol per 100 km and even 36.3 litres per 100 km at a speed of 200 km/h. The 109-litre petrol tank did not seem so generous anymore.

The Jaguar, however, showed the temperament of a sports car, accelerating to 100 km/h in 8.seconds and reaching a maximum speed of 227.5 km/h, despite the Wandler automatic transmission. Already tested on the middle engine of the XJ 13 prototype in the mid-1960s, the engine convinced with its astonishingly quiet performance. As Automobil Revue noted: “At a very slow pace or at idle speed, one cannot stop wondering, by shortly pressing the accelerator and keeping an eye on the revolution counter, if the engine is really on, as it does not make any noise. The vehicle reacts to the slightest touch on the accelerator and goes seamlessly above the 6,500-rpm red zone.”

In the context of the oil crisis, the early 1970s were not the best time for a 12-cylinder guzzling engine. That’s why only 5% of the Series I vehicles sold were equipped with the V12 engine, despite the moderate price surcharge compared with the smaller version, i.e. GBP 4,702.31 against GBP 4,154.15 (longer models).

It took around four years for the Jaguar engineers to develop the successors to the 240/340 and 420G series. Drivers were looking for a more spacious and, above all, comfortable high-end saloon. At 4.8 m long, almost 1.8 m wide and weighing at least 1.6 tonnes, the solution came in autumn 1968 with the launch of the XJ 6, which offered unexpected luxury and style.

Technically speaking, the engineers relied on both proven and modern elements. The 4.2-litre six-cylinder engine came from its predecessor, though this time offering 186 hp. Whether manual or with Borg Warner automatic transmission, it had power. In addition, the wheels were individually installed and of course equipped with disc brakes.

Modernised Series II

Five years after its premiere, Jaguar dealers introduced the redesigned XJ series at the IAA in Frankfurt. The bumpers were lifted to meet US standards. The engineers also took the opportunity to modify the dashboard design and equip the vehicle with a modern ventilation and air conditioning system. The six and 12-cylinder engines were still available. In addition to the four-door version, a two-door coupé was introduced, which cost 10% more and was also used in racing. The 12-cylinder Series II engine saw a slight increase in sales, thanks in particular to the fuel injection system, which increased power while reducing consumption. Of the 97,227 XJ Series II models produced, 14,226 were equipped with 12-cylinder engines.

Series III: A little help from an Italian designer

With the Jaguar XJ 12 PF, Pininfarina had already put forward his own interpretation of an elegant Jaguar saloon. However, that model looked more like a Pininfarina than a Jaguar. The Italian designer was nonetheless called upon again for the redesign the XJ series.

Pininfarina held back and only modified the bumpers, rear lights and roof area to retain most of the model’s classical line for the Series III launch in 1979. The interior boasted a new steering wheel, better seating with lumbar support and more headroom in back. The 4.2-litre engine, like the US version, was then equipped with a fuel injection system for more power. “Generally speaking, the third XJ generation fully meets the current requirements of an upper-class vehicle,” wrote Automobil Revue. This Series III would indeed live quite a long life. Up until 1992, 10,500 of the 132,952 saloons built (including the Daimler versions) were equipped with 12 cylinders. The Swiss racing driver-turned-engineer, Michael May, also contributed to its success.

Swiss efficiency

Elegant looks

Taking costs into account

The 12-cylinder vehicle was redesigned in 1981, a rare occurrence as only Ferrari and Lamborghini continued to manufacture such complex engines in the 1980s. With the help of Swiss racing driver-turned-engineer Michael May, the engine was given a new cylinder head, increasing the power to 295 DIN hp. Thanks to its significant value in terms of consumption, it was soon nicknamed “HE” for “High Efficiency”.

With many other improvements and fine-tuning, both the Jaguar and its sister model, the Daimler Double Six, were manufactured until 1992 – over 300,000 XJ in total.

More than 45 years after its premiere, the shape of the Jaguar XJ 12 remains attractive and subtly elegant. The Series II models have an especially modern and contemporary appearance.

Similar to a gentlemen’s club, the interior welcomes you with wood and leather, and allows freedom of movement. The long version is also very spacious in back, although you would rather sit in the driver’s seat and gently lay your hands on the elegant steering wheel. The engine starts as soon as the key is turned, producing a soft baritone sound at idle speed. No sooner is the automatic transmission engaged than the saloon starts moving. The car enables effortless driving and steering. With a light touch on the pedal, the vehicle accelerates immediately. It is easy to understand why the test pilots spoke of a sports car’s temperament. This “feline” accelerates to 100 km/h twice as fast as an Opel or Ford from that time.

Nowadays, one naturally does not drive such a car as intensely as 40 years ago. And the high petrol costs quickly become an issue. The maintenance costs for the 12 cylinders, 24 valves and 9.1-litre oil capacity also take their toll.

If interested in a Jaguar XJ 12, it is important to understand that the maintenance and service costs are not cheap. Yet when well-maintained and cared for, the 12-cylinder Jaguar saloon still provides style in motion and a comfort that not many other vehicles can match.

Bentley Continental R – The new self-confidence of an iconic brand

In 2019, Bentley could look back on a 100-year history that included several Le Mans victories and many iconic models. The manufacturer of the famous Bentley Blower had lost much of its independence back in 1931, when it was taken over by Rolls-Royce. By the start of the 1980s, only five percent of all cars produced by Rolls-Royce/Bentley carried the Bentley branding – and the car make was almost forgotten.

The legend that came before

From a somewhat to a world premiere

Much acclaim

At the Geneva Motor Show in March 1985, the Bentley stand featured the “Project 90” – one of the concept cars by John Heffernan and Ken Greenley – which measured in at 534 cm long and 190 cm wide. While the car’s looks did not exactly win people over, it did spark interest in the prospect of a stand-alone model from Bentley.

At the Geneva Motor Show six years later, the prototype of the Bentley Continental R took everyone by surprise. Its premiere was anticipated in 1992, one year later, but distribution problems – especially in the US – forced the carmaker to move up the launch. As a side note, the Mercedes Benz S-Class (W140) was also launched at the 1991 show, only to be overshadowed by the unexpected new Bentley.

More than 45 years after its premiere, the shape of the Jaguar XJ 12 remains attractive and subtly elegant. The Series II models have an especially modern and contemporary appearance.

Similar to a gentlemen’s club, the interior welcomes you with wood and leather, and allows freedom of movement. The long version is also very spacious in back, although you would rather sit in the driver’s seat and gently lay your hands on the elegant steering wheel. The engine starts as soon as the key is turned, producing a soft baritone sound at idle speed. No sooner is the automatic transmission engaged than the saloon starts moving. The car enables effortless driving and steering. With a light touch on the pedal, the vehicle accelerates immediately. It is easy to understand why the test pilots spoke of a sports car’s temperament. This “feline” accelerates to 100 km/h twice as fast as an Opel or Ford from that time.

The new concept car by John Heffernan and Ken Greenley, who had also designed the Aston Martin Virage, impressed the critics. Despite its enormous dimensions (534.2 cm long, 187 cm wide and 146.2 cm high), the car proved to be more elegant and less bulky than its size would suggest.

Even its drag coefficient (cD value) of 0.385 was considered state-of-the-art. But the Continental R, whose name recalled the Continental model of the 1950s, did not include the expected four-valve Bentley engine.

Heavy weight

A sports car with luxury in its genes

After the premiere, it took about a year before the first Continental R models were delivered. Nearly none of the specifications had changed. To make the driving performance of the nearly 2.4-ton coupé more competitive, the Turbo R engine received a 10% boost. The result was 320 hp for a powerful drive and, at least according to the factory, 0 to 60 mph (96 km/h) in 6.6 seconds.

Priced at 462,387 Deutschmarks or 376,850 Swiss francs, the coupé was clearly aimed at the super-rich, who would be getting a stylish cockpit and proven Bentley technology. For the first time, the gears of the four-speed automatic (from GM) could be shifted with a lever on the middle console. The Bentley had its share of clever electronic gadgets as well.

The chassis featured independent double wishbone front suspension and independent multi-link rear suspension with hydropneumatic spring struts. Electronically controlled, the coupé aimed to strike a balance between sportiness and comfort.

 

While the 6.75-L light alloy V8 engine with central camshaft dated back to the 1960s, the addition of Garrett turbochargers and Bosch KE Motronic injection brought the performance and environmental friendliness up to the present.

Needless to say, car magazines jumped at the chance to test-drive the speedy Bentley coupé. It did not, however, live up to its promises. In June 1992, Automobil Revue clocked 8.3 seconds for 0 to 100 km/h, with the maximum speed reported “over 240 km/h”. The fuel consumption levelled off at 16.8 litres per 100 km based on the test runs – not bad for a fully loaded 2.8-ton coupé.

 

The magazine classified the car as a “tourer for long trips” but criticised the stiffening of the suspension on German motorways. In general, the compromise between sportiness and comfort did not completely succeed, and it would have been nice to be able to fiddle with the electronics.

 

As for the roominess and interior, there was little to complain about. Automobil Revue concluded: “With the new Continental R, the Bentley brand reclaims a good part of the independence it lost over the past three decades. The new luxury coupé marks a new beginning – one which is full of promise yet also raises expectations!”

 

Wolfgang König from Auto Motor und Sport also got behind the wheel of the Bentley coupé, which slightly exceeded the length of the saloon. He, too, was critical of the driving comfort when the suspension switched to the sporty setting. But overall, his review was positive: “In the normal setting, the Bentley is tight enough, even comfortable enough, and, like the saloon, surprises with its unexpected ease of handling. The cardinal question, however, remains: Can such a car really be worth 460,000 marks? For Continental drivers – more than 500 are rumoured to have already placed their order – this is not an issue and the question does not even come up.”

 

Several years after, in 1996, Motor Revue compared the Continental R with the Mercedes-Benz 600 SEC. Although the Mercedes was not even half the price and featured a lot of wood and leather in its stylish interior, it still fared poorly against the Bentley. The Mercedes-Benz was more modern from a technical standpoint, yet in some respects could not keep up with the Bentley, especially in terms of style.

 

Reviewer Götz Leyrer wrote: “The icing on the cake is the view over the bonnet. With the Mercedes, the view is the same as with all other cars: almost nonexistent. The Bentley, on the other hand, has a tapered bonnet just like in the old days, infinitely long, a symbol of the power that lies beneath it.” In summary, he put it like this: “Driving a Bentley is a matter of conviction. You have to be forgiving of certain weaknesses and can’t expect absolute perfection, and you also have every right to be annoyed by the fact it has one of those dreadful steering wheels with an airbag hidden in the hub. If you want the perfect car, buy a Mercedes. And remove the intrusive lettering. That is the first step on the path that may well lead you to Bentley.”

Ever faster

Successful rarity

Gliding in comfort

In 1996, Bentley launched the Continental T with a slightly shortened wheelbase and 400 hp, and eventually 426 hp, for increased performance. At 500,000 Deutschmarks or 421,200 Swiss francs, the Continental T was even more expensive, but it now went from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.6 seconds and did so without a significant bump in fuel spending compared to the R.

A total of 1,854 Bentley Continental R, S and T models were built between 1991 and 2003, with the R, including several limited-edition models, making up the majority. Only 350 of the Continental T were produced, along with 79 of the Continental SC, a Sedanca coupé variant.

The Bentley Continental R has long been considered a classic, even if it did not actually originate in the classic car era. Surrounded by pleasing leather and beautifully finished Californian wood, the driver can get comfortable in no time and leave everyday worries behind. The engine is started by turning the key in the ignition, left of the steering wheel, and the desired gear is selected by lifting the gearshift of the four-speed automatic gearbox.

The Bentley Continental R is a first-class glider, and nobody would think of taking it out for a joyride on a curvy road. For this reason, there is really no need to opt for the S (sport) gear, which only makes the ride less smooth. If the driver takes it easy, the suspension feels comfortable. The overall visibility is excellent and makes the car seem more compact than it is. The power steering also plays an important role in that respect. The Bentley Continental R would be an ideal companion for a long road trip, which is ultimately why it was designed.

Bentley Continental R – The new self-confidence of an iconic brand

Guest author: Bruno von Rotz
Pictures and Video: Michael Klauser