Could buying an XJ40 be the cheapest route into Jaguar ownership today? Check out our buyers guide...
Driving a good XJ40 today is still an experience. If you can find a decent one it should provide the legendary Jaguar mix of a smooth and cosseting ride, with excellent progressive handling when pressed into action. The XJ40 is a real Jaguar – smooth,
powerful, comfortable and made to cruise effortlessly with speed and comfort. The ‘40 is obviously not a sports or performance car as such – it’s a large and heavy barge, so there are certain limits to the acceleration and handling capabilities.
It is however a surprisingly powerful, large engined car with much better handling than you might expect. In many ways it’s a more refined British equivalent of an American muscle car. But there’s a great deal more to the XJ40 than comfort. The steering is tight and delivers plenty of feel and the manual gearchange is chunky and precise. When the driver starts to crack on, its low-roll handling and sublimely controllable rear end make this a surprisingly capable driver’s car for one so large.
1986 Jaguar XJ40 3.6
Power (bhp@rpm) 221bhp@5000rpm
Torque (lb ft@rpm) 248lb ft@4000rpm
Top speed 136mph
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
It is vital to check a prospective purchase over properly as the build quality often left a lot to be desired. However, quality control did improve in later cars. Check all the lower extremities – door skins will happily corrode away from their frames, so examine the door bottoms for damage. Bonnets corrode along their leading edge. Bootlids and wheelarches are other rot spots, along with the sills. Watch out for seized boot locks. Check the exterior button works! Rear window pillars can fill with water and rust from the inside out, so check the crude joint – covered by trim – at the base of the rear window pillars.
With all XJs it’s important to have a good look at the structure underneath. The XJ40 can rot its front subframe, and, being foam-filled, cannot be simply welded for repair. Front wings are bolt-on, but unlike earlier Series XJs, they give few rot problems. Boot seals often give way causing structural problems at the rear, and the front inner wings can also succumb to rust. If you find one with badly rotted inner wings, it’s time to walk away.
The entry-level engine option was the 2.9-litre version, later replaced by the 3.2-litre. The bigger 3.6-litre originally offered was also superseded by a 4.0-litre version. The 6.0-litre V12 variant finally arrived in 1993. Head gasket problems aren’t uncommon, especially if the car has been neglected, so check for white residue in the oil filler cap and coolant. Both warn of potential problems, but can also be signs that a car may have done lots of short journeys and rarely been fully warmed up, itself not a good sign. Excessive steam from the exhaust even when fully warmed through is another tell tale. Timing chains can suffer with broken tensioners, and a poorly maintained example can easily cost hundreds of pounds to get right again. These cars carry a lot of sound-deadening in the engine bay, so fire up the engine with the bonnet up to listen for any nasty knocks or bangs. As long as regular service intervals have been maintained and a good quality oil used, then the units tend to last well.
XJ40s were available with both manual and automatic boxes and both survive well if looked after, as long as the transmission fluid is replaced regularly. The fluid is cooled by a heat exchanger on the nearside of the radiator. This has been known to crack, causing fluid to leak into the coolant, so check for this. Reconditioned boxes are available should the worst happen.
Front and rear suspension rely on the compliance of a great number of rubber bushes – these start to break up after 50,000 miles or so and need to be replaced. This can be done at home if you’re handy with the spanners. Some models, such as the Sport and XJR come with firmer suspension and tyre/wheel combinations, so any failing components will be further highlighted. Check speed rating of tyres, particularly on XJR models. Alloy wheels can succumb to corrosion quite easily and let down the appearance of an otherwise presentable car – reconditioning is possible, but keeping an eye out for a replacement set could be a cheaper option.
Exterior trim lasts reasonably well, although bumpers and other stainless parts can be costly to replace if damaged. Door handles on early cars have been known to break under heavy use. Some bargain basement XJ40s were ordered with cloth trim, but this is not a popular option today and you’re better off holding out for leather versions. Leather seats last well, but driver’s side bolsters can wear badly. If electrically operated, check they still function properly fore and aft. Check wood for any signs of delamination of the lacquer and ensure all the electrics and remote control fobs work.
The XJ40 was Jaguar’s first tentative step into a new world of modernity and electronics. The result was a car every bit a match for the contemporary BMW or Mercedes-Benz. The six-cylinder XJ40 was a mixture of old-school styling and cutting edge dynamics. Though the early 3.6-litre cars were riddled with electrical niggles that ended up frustrating their owners, as the model aged, Jaguar got on top of the problems and in the later years produced a very fine car indeed. Following Ford’s takeover, the improved 4.0-litre cars appeared in 1990, conventional instrumentation, uprated electrics and a much torquier engine making them easier to drive. But mud sticks and although most difficulties have been retrospectively sorted, values are seriously affected. The end result is that you can find XJ40s surprisingly cheaply today. What’s not to love about a bargain Jag?