Best of a dying breed: Ford, Lexus and Jaguar V8 showdown


The walkers, cyclists and assorted day-tripping visitors of the Peak District should have no trouble hearing us coming.

It’s an early July day in the middle of the working week (and, yes, this does count as work, although I never cease to be amazed about that), so I’m not too sorry to interrupt their peace.

I am, after all, only making the most of the opportunity while I can. Soon enough, the tourists will have nothing to detract from their leisure but electric motor whine and cattle flatulence (watch out, Daisy: you’re next).

In front of us is a slightly mixed trio of cars that you might not have expected to appear together in the same group test. But since they’ve been chosen by fate and happenstance, not by me, they are what they are. Specifically, they are the last three front-engined, rear-wheel-drive, V8-powered sports cars left on sale in the UK.

From the late 1950s right the way through to the rise of the affordable mid-engined sports car in the 1990s, this was how it was done.

Plonk a powerful V8 engine longways in the front of your lightweight chassis, sending its drive to the axle at the back, and then work on the finer engineering details later.

It was a proven successful recipe that produced sports cars as different as the AC Cobra, Chevrolet Corvette, TVR Griffith, Porsche 928, Jaguar XK and Aston Martin Vantage V8, along with a great many more that you might loosely have described as affordable in their day.

Today’s varied band, among them a sporty luxury GT, an ageing British sports car and a much-celebrated legend of American muscle, is what remains to represent one of the most popular mechanical layouts that the sports car market has ever known.

A Ford Mustang GT can still be snaffled up for less than £50,000. The Lexus LC500 is now off-sale, although if you’re content with a base model, you might just secure one used for a whisker under £100,000.

And the Jaguar F-Type, also now retired, previously split the difference on price and just about meets our qualification criteria in as much as the mid-range P450 version can still be bought with only one driven axle.

So which of these three is the best tribute to a classic mechanical recipe? Which should you seize, if you’re so inclined, and treasure for as long as the world will allow? And which will we miss the most?

Engines

A V8 engine in the front of a useable, affordable, powerful sports car just makes good sense when you think about it. Yes, they burn hydrocarbons – quite a lot of hydrocarbons, obviously, and must therefore be wiped from the face of the planet as quickly as possible, according to good old public opinion. 

But if we’re mature enough to acknowledge that such a problem actually concerns not what they are but what they burn and that there are ways to make clean, sustainable fuel for them, just as you can generate sustainable energy for an EV (although not every EV runs on it), we might just make room to observe what makes them great. 



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