Why size really matters

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

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?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Neo-Nazis march in London  

I'm taking my Jewish kids to a vile neo-Nazi rally in London this weekend because I want them to learn about free speech

Richard Ferrer
A police officer carries a casualty to safety  

Tunisia attack proves that we cannot stop terrorists carrying out operations against Britons in Muslim countries

Robert Verkaik
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map