Why size really matters

Big engines make for happier motoring. Tax smaller company cars off the roads, says Jonathan Glancey

Share
Related Topics
Last month, Sir John Egan, chairman of British Airports Authority, spoke on the future of transport in 21st-century London. Facts and figures at his fingertips, Sir John put the boot into the car, attacking this monstrous form of selfish urban locomotion. The tax 'em, ban 'em brigade was suitably encouraged. Yet when the debate was over and the crowds dispersed, Sir John was swept away in a gleaming new, chauffeur-driven 4.0-litre Jaguar Sovereign. Sir John must be finding it hard to escape his past as the former chairman of Jaguar, makers of big-engined luxury cars.

Sir John's choice of transport was particularly odd, because he was all but siding on every point in the debate with new Labour's transport policy,whose key feature is a big tax on cars with big engines.

I, however, share Sir John's quandary. Not only did I have a swanky, air-conditioned Jag of my own parked around the corner, but I have been a shameless fan of the lithe mechanical cats from Coventry since I first saw a brand new 3.8-litre Mk2 saloon purring out of a garage showroom the summer before I started school. I believe that the 3.8-litre Jaguar twin-cam XK and the Jaguar V12 are two of the finest petrol engines ever built. I have driven, and even raced, many thousands of miles behind both over the past 15 years and have nothing but praise for their bravura engineering. I also happen to believe that big engines, whether a loafing American V8 or a fast-spinning BMW V12, make for better and happier motoring.

Before I am taken for some familiar of Steven Norris or an ecological terrorist, let me say, in politically correct mitigation, that I also burn up shoe-leather rather than Dunlop rubber in city streets, take public transport whenever appropriate, ride bicycles in fits and spurts and thrill, as I did when a teenager, to day-long continental train journeys.

I am a committee member of the new "London on Foot" campaign but also the proud owner of a second-hand Jaguar V12 Sovereign - 12 cylinders, 5.3 litres, 300 brake-horsepower, lashings of walnut and leather and a 37cwt body of sensually sculpted steel.

Of course the car, unbridled, is a monster . There is, however, every reason to lower road tax on cars like my own V12 Jag, while raising it on the nasty little sub-2000cc executive buzz-boxes that scream past me at 100mph-plus on the fast lane of motorways, driven almost exclusively by inadequate males (yes, I know what they say about men who drive cars, like Jaguars, with long bonnets) in the death throes of terminal road rage.

Give a car a small engine, a big body, a dangling Hugo Boss suit and a bootload of fish-paste samples, and its driver will thrash the thing within a square inch of its mechanical life.

The company car is a menace and should be taxed to the point of extinction. Are tough, no-nonsense business executives incapable of buying their own cars? Are there no trains? It is time to clear our roads of cars in the 1300-2000cc business-class bracket, thus reducing at a stroke the national energy bill and putting an end to road rage.

The rest of us, cocooned in Jaguars and other big-hearted cars will purr along newly liberated highways and byways, content merely to caress our throttles and, in general, drive like gents of the old school. After all, when did you last see a big-engined car being driven maniacally? And, who could possibly get hot under the collar in a car like a V12 Jaguar, in which the volume of the radio does not need to be turned up as road speed increases?

Cars with small engines encourage drivers to thrash their overstressed mounts. To get a move on they must fuse accelerators to the floor, encouraging their cheap and cheerless tin boxes to scream in mechanical pain. Driven in this unforgiving manner, the small-engined car develops a surprisingly dipsomaniacal thirst while emitting torrents of noxious fumes.

Inside - because small-engined cars are nearly always kitted out with nasty-to-touch, vile-smelling and ugly plastics, and fabrics adapted from high street branches of building societies - drivers and passengers are offered no soothing distraction from the racket raging under the bonnet. For this alone - aesthetic torture - the superfluous company car should be taxed until its fan-belt squeals.

The danger is that those ignorant of the virtues of Bentleys and Jaguars, Deusenbergs and Hispano-Suizas will also tax these gentle giants off the road. If that day ever comes, I would still pay to visit a gallery (on foot, of course) displaying their magnificent engines, with Sir John Egan as knowledgeable company. No amount of horsepower, however, could drag me to a show of engines gouged from the likes of stressed-out Mondeos and Vectras.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

East15 Acting School: Finance and Contracts Officer

£20,781 to £24,057 per annum: East15 Acting School: The post involves general ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: ACS qualified Domestic Gas Brea...

Recruitment Genius: Product Packager / Stock Assistant

£16250 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Product Packager / Stock Assistant is ...

Recruitment Genius: Head Chef

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Garden Centre complex base...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Between the covers: Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet, opposite Colin Firth's Mr Darcy, in the acclaimed 1995 BBC adaptation of 'Pride and Prejudice'  

To talk about 'liking' a character may be a literary faux pas, but I don't care

Memphis Barker
Hinkley Point A to the right of development land where the reactors of Hinkley C nuclear power station are due to be built  

Should the UK really be putting its money into nuclear power in 2015?

Chris Green Chris Green
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen