JAGUAR XJR REVIEW

Classic Jaguar XJR Review

Classic Jaguar XJR Review

Apart from the Jaguar XJR manual being a rarity, the X306 range is notable in its own right, being only the second Jaguar to use anything other than a normally-aspirated engine (the first was the turbocharged XJ220) and the first to use a supercharger. The X300 shape also marked a return to the traditional fluted bonnet/twin headlight design that had been an XJ6 trademark for so long, before the introduction of the flatter, squarer-rigged XJ40 in 1989.
Despite appearances, however, the X300 wasn’t an entirely new car. A brand-new car, codenamed XJ90, had been planned originally, but the recession of 1991 put paid to that idea.
Former Jaguar technical director Jim Randle is on record as saying that Jaguar’s eventual compromise was to take the central portion of the XJ40 and add the front and rear sections of the stillborn XJ90 to make the X300. The result was mighty impressive computer-aided design (a first for the Jaguar marque) makes the common styling ground between the two cars very difficult to spot.
‘X300’ is an umbrella name for the earliest of these 3.2-litre and 4.0-litre cars. ‘X305’ was the codename used for the 6.0-litre V12 cars from the same period, the last of which – a black XJ12 – rolled off the production line in April 1997, and is now part of the Jaguar Heritage museum collection. Meanwhile, the supercharged models, went by the X306 moniker.
By 1997, further revisions had given rise to the visually similar (from the outside at least) V8-engined X308, which saw this supposed interim model through to 2003, when the all-new aluminium-bodied X350 was finally launched. The X308 was much praised at its launch, but its reputation was later marred when it emerged that the Nikasil engine bore linings that Jaguar (and, indeed, BMW) had used on all X308s built before August 2000 would break down rapidly when exposed to the high sulphur petrol that was prevalent at the time. As a result, many engines had to be replaced under warranty.
However, the X306 has no such problems as Nikasil was never used in their engine construction, although owners are now discovering that even well-maintained cars are prone to wheelarch corrosion.
You can have an X306 (the correct model designation for supercharged X300s) in some lairy paint schemes (metallic turquoise, anyone?) and rolling on monster wheels, but the star of our feature is as subdued as they come.
Don’t be fooled, though, because the way this machine responds to a determined prod on the throttle is anything but subtle. Fully 322bhp and 378lb ft of torque from the 4.0-litre straight six engine combine to overwhelm the car’s considerable 1875kg kerbweight (these were the days before big Jags used lightweight all-aluminium bodies, remember) and catapult it from rest to 60mph in six seconds flat before eventually hitting the electronic buffers at a governed 155mph.
The secret of this seriously prodigious get-up-and-go, of course, is the Roots-type supercharger – specifically an intercooled Eaton M90 closely related to the bulletproof blower used on i6 Aston Martin DB7s, among others. Later XJRs relied on a V8 configuration, but the AJ16 six-cylinder engine (itself a development of the AJ6 engines used in the outgoing XJ40) is arguably the sweeter of the two and turbine-smooth when wound up. Handling, as you might expect, errs on the firm side, but not at the expense of Jaguar’s legendary ride quality.
The XJR’s interior is typical of the marque, with plenty of wood, leather and chrome in evidence, and a snug, low-slung driving position that affords a clear view of the sextet of main dials. And for once, the 160mph speedometer doesn’t flatter to deceive.
Only the minor controls for the speed control (Jag-speak for cruise control), which are hidden behind the wiper stalk, feel anything other than intuitive in use. However, as a handsome – in an endearingly low-key sort of a way – and potent executive saloon, few other cars from the period offer so much for so little outlay.

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