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?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Read Next
'Our media are suffering a new experience: not fear of being called anti-Semitic'  

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk
David Cameron (pictured) can't steal back my party's vote that easily, says Nigel Farage  

Cameron’s benefits pledge is designed to lure back Ukip voters. He’ll have to try harder

Nigel Farage
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices