Looking back on our journey to Ireland in the Jaguar XJ40, the one thing that struck me the most was the overall driving experience. I said it in the film but I will say it again… the ride really is sublime. Even my Dad couldn’t get over how smooth it was. And that is what struck me the most about the Jaguar XJ40. I wasn’t surprised as I expected the Jaguar to be a nice car. I just didn’t expect it to be so complete. And it was the little touches, which I didn’t have time to mention in the film, that added to whole package.
Take for example the position of the armrest and the gear level. Jaguar designed this specifically to allow the driver to rest their arm within easy reach of the gear lever. That means you don’t have to lift your hand/arm to change gear. It might seem trivial but that detail really impressed me. It showed that Jaguar’s designers were really thinking about the cabin design when they were putting the interior together.
Jaguar also thought about the exterior when they designed the XJ40. Despite its size, coming in at 196.4 inches long (just over 16ft long), it doesn’t feel like a big long car. And that was helped by the tapering of the bonnet. Looking through the windscreen and over the steering wheel, the nose slopes away nicely giving you a clear view ahead. For me that made the car feel a lot shorter than it actually is. Which helped a great deal driving around London.
Other little touches which also impressed was the pop up vanity mirror in the glove box. Not much use to the driver of course. But for the intended lady passenger who wanted to touch up their makeup on route to that prestigious restaurant, it was a nice feature. I was actually told a story that the mirror was intended for the XJS and not the XJ40, but due to costs, it was cheaper for Jaguar to use it rather than design a new piece for the XJ40 glove box. I also liked how the centre ceiling light could be pivoted left or right and how the sunroof has a half open switch option. Again a small detail but a nice one.
Another detail that seems to be missed in a lot of reviews of the XJ40 is the mono wiper. As a kid growing up in the 1980s, I remember seeing mono wipers for the first time on Mercedes W124 saloons. It was the coolest feature ever! So I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered the XJ40 had one as well. And from a maintenance point of view, its one less wiper blade to have to buy. That’s a little extra cash set aside for something else to fix on the big cat!
The seats in the XJ40 also deserve a special mention as they are so comfortable. The leather is nice and soft and the cushion support just lovely. And there is just the right about of side bolster as well. I actually can’t stress enough how superb the seats are. They are a real “oooh that’s nice” feeling and made the trip to and from Ireland much more relaxing.
Lots of positives like those doesn’t mean that all is perfect with the Sovereign’s interior. I did find the heater controls a little confusing and some of the dash controls were a bit of a stretch from the drivers seat. The heater itself is brilliant however, just to add. Plus I found the position of the drivers side electric windows button a bit fiddly. The switch for me is tucked to close to the top of the arm rest and I found I was opening/closing the passenger window more than the drivers. Not the end of the world but a little annoying.
While the interior of the Sovereign is very nice and a pleasant place to sit, I did feel that the plastics used for the VCM module let the side down a little. Obviously the XJ40’s final development phase was in the 1980s, an era when plastics were replacing most trim pieces in cars. The VCM system itself was brilliant for its time and very advanced. It was like have a having one of those Texas Instruments/Casio scientific calculators in your car. It was that cool. But the plastic used to make the moulding feels cheap and scratchy and is at odds with the leather and wood trim.
Despite that the VCM itself was excellent and I loved how it provided information on MPG, range left on the fuel and the distance covered. It even had a switch to convert the speedo to KM, for those drives on the continent. And of course the cruise control was the icing on the cake for me.
Mechanically, the 3.6ltr AJ6 engine is superb. With around 230BHP, the straight six feels very strong and has a lot of torque. Weighing in at around 1.8 tonnes, the Jaguar XJ40 is a heavy car. All that power and torque is needed to move it down the road. The Sovereign is no supercharged XJR, but I found the performance to be excellent. It is very rapid when you need it to be, the kick down working very well when overtaking on the motorway.
As mentioned in the film, when you floor it, there is a slight pause before it takes off. It is actually pretty cool when it does that and the roar from the AJ6 lump is pretty sweet as well. It’s no V8 but there is a growl there that sounds really good. And when you are in the mood, you can slide the gear lever over in the famous Jaguar J Gate transmission and enable manual mode. I didn’t have time to demonstrate this in the film and I have only tested it a few times. But being able to manually change gear in an automatic like the XJ40 is a lot of fun. If you’ve never tried it before, give it a go.
So is the Jaguar XJ40 the perfect big cat saloon? Not it’s not. Anyone who has owned an XJ40 will know they have their flaws. The electrics can play up, the central locking can be twitchy, the boot lock sticks, water can get into the boot itself, the head lining sags and the door handles can get stiff and snap off. I could go on but if you check out any Jaguar/XJ40 forum, you will see the niggles they can throw up. But they are not perfect by any means.
As the series grew older lots of these niggles started to appear over time, which unfortunately tarnished its image. And for me looking back over some reviews of the XJ40, the media seemed a bit lukewarm about it when it was launched. Plus some Jaguar purists didn’t like the square headlights. Yes the round headlights came back with the X300, but for me the square lights suit the XJ40. As do the quad headlight conversions. Both work well in my opinion. Looking back over the XJ40’s production run, over 208,000 were built between 1986 and 1994. They even sold over 50,000 in 1988, a first for Jaguar. So despite all the issues, the sales figures speak for themselves.
Despite its flaws, the Jaguar XJ40 is a great car. It is also an attractive car and is by no means square. It has an elegant and tapering side profile and the chrome detailing enhances its looks. Yes it is a big car but its styling makes it feel a little restrained and understated. Which I like. Despite the restrained feel, it is a head turner and you just don’t see many on the road now. The more I have driven my XJ40 and the longer I have owned it, the more I have fallen in love with it.
In a way it has surprised me as five months ago, I would have never considered having a Jaguar XJ40 on my list of “must own” cars. So there you go, the big saloon has left a big impression on me. Is it a lot of car for the money? Yes it is. A hell of a lot of car for the money. And did it fulfill its task for my trip? It did and it passed with flying colours. The big question is then, has the Jaguar XJ40’s time finally come? Yes it has. Does it deserve a 30th Anniversary celebration this year? It most certainly does. And would William Lyons be proud of it? Yes I think he would.
Watch Part 1 of the XJ40 Journey to Ireland
If you have missed Part 1 of our Jaguar XJ40 adventure you can watch it here.
Interested in a all things Jaguar XJ40? Check out the XJ40.com community website.