- Best model: 4.0 Sovereign
- Worst model: Anything bodged/ratty
- Budget buy: 2.9
- OK for unleaded?: Yes
- Will it fit in the garage? (mm): L4990 x W1800
- Spares situation: Okay, loads at breakers
- DIY ease?: Not bad, electrics can be tricky
- Club support: Good
- Appreciating asset?: Not yet
- Good buy or good-bye?: A good one is a lovely cat
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Jaguar’s XJ40 has endured a poor reputation but 25 years on, it now deserves classic status. Drive one and you’ll soon see our reasoning
Pros & Cons
Incredible as it may seem, Jag’s XJ40 is 25 years old this year, although strictly speaking, it’s an XJ6 as XJ40 was simply Jaguar’s code name. The outstanding XJ6 Series 1,2 & 3 that preceded it was always going to be a tough act to follow but a quarter of a century on the XJ40 is still regarded more as an old smoker than classic cat. It was Jaguar’s first tentative step into a new world – a world of modernity and electronic wizardry and Jaguar wasn’t quite up to it at the time. Oh yes, the XJ is every bit a match for the contemporary BMW or Mercedes – except in quality in quality. Granted Jaguar got on top of the problems and in the later years, produced a very fi ne car indeed. But mud sticks and the XJ40 remains fairly covered in it, not helped by successive owners not looking after this cat properly. But, it’s time to give the XJ40 its due. As cheap as chips, there’s also many nice cars out there and a good XJ40 takes a heck of a lot of beating.
They certainly took their time at Jaguar developing the XJ40 – try 14 years!. That’s right, the project was fi rst started back in 1972 and by the time the XJ40 was unveiled in 1986 the XK engine had been ditched for all new powerplants and the 3.6 litre AJ6 unit, fi rst seen in the XJ-S, was now a well proven, and rapid unit. Looking at the valuable sub-3.0-litre European tax bracket, a single cam 2.9 litre unit was also listed and at an attractive £16,400, too. Interestingly, it was a conscious decision by the designers to make very doubly sure that any veeengine would not fi t in the bay. In those pre-independent days, the fear was that the Rover based V8 would be forced on the company. As a result it took a considerable amount of re-engineering to accept the superb V12 engine, so much so that it would not be until 1993 that the job was fi nally done! In the meantime, the proven Series 3 had to soldier on as XJ12, with solid sales, despite the older shape and design. Technologically XJ40 was a far superior car to the ageing XK-engined series. Both 3.6 and 2.9-litre engines were smooth and oil tight (a plus for Jaguar) and were coupled to equally effi - cient four-speed automatic or fi ve-speed manual gearboxes. Even the fi nal drive was new, and although Browns Lane’s incredibly competent IRS (independent suspension) carried on in XJS and even Aston Martin DB7, a simplifi ed and more effi cient system was used.
The usual Sovereign and Daimler trims were offered, the entry car being a 2.9 manual with cloth trim and four headlamps – not particularly popular. As a nod to Jaguar’s phenomenal success on the racetrack in the eighties, the XJR, with its handling package and body kit, wasdeveloped in conjunction with the recently deceased Tom Walkinshaw, who had masterminded Jaguar’s competition assault. Available from 1988 to 1989, there was a hefty price to pay – some £8000 on top of the standard car. The model itself though, never raced. In 1989, the 3.6 engine was enlarged to 4.0-litre, while the head gasket blowing 2.9 was abandoned in favour of 3.2, now topped by twin cams. There was even a Majestic long wheel base model for 1992. Various specifi cations were offered, and being Jaguar, even the basic level was good. At the bottom of the ladder was a 2.9 with cloth trim, no air-conditioning and probably manual transmission. Power steering, electric windows and a decent sound system all came as standard though. Leather and air were options. These and more beside were loaded into the Sovereign spec cars, which of course, become more desirable on the used market. More reliable analogue instruments were installed for 1990 cars. Jaguar was keen to rid itself of an ‘old mans’ car and so launched a Sport model and in its last year of production the XJ40 was available as the top spec badged Gold. By 1994, it was all over for the XJ40 and the more curvaceous X300 took over. In total some 208,000 were produced, XJ’s best year for sales was in 1989 when almost 33,000 were sold. In contrast only 3600 Sports found buyers, meaning that the Jaguar never captured the imagination of a younger buying base like BMW did at the time.
For all this Jag’s faults, to drive a well-sorted XJ40 today remains an uplifting experience. They are absolutely planted on the road. Drive a bad example and its still pretty good. And that is a problem when looking at one used, especially if you’re coming from a more mundane sector of the market. Just how can the inexperienced judge between good and not so good? Simple – drive as many as you can as they do vary. All engines are as smooth any XK and with the exception of the 2.9, offer a level of performance way above most sportier rivals. It is a big car and those not used to this kind of bulk, may fi nd it intimidating at fi rst, but this Jaguar can be hurled around like a GTi and thanks to bucket loads of torque, the bigger engines fairly catapult the cat out of bends. The brakes are well up to the job, unlike earlier Jags. Make no mistake, in top 4-litre and XJR guises, the Jag XJ40is a seriously quick car and yet, when the mood strikes, is like a pussy cat, trickling along at more sedate speeds. In this respect, it’s streets ahead of the earlier Xjs. And unlike many other older Jags, the XJ40 can prove to be quite economical. Many a driver has seen 30mpg on a gentle tour. Even driven hard, the fi gures rarely drop below 20 mpg unless the driver is in the mood. These are fi gures that any MGB owner would be glad of, as they equally would a near 140mph maximum speed and a zero to sixty dash in seven seconds! Typically Jaguar the interior space is nothing special for its size and, yes, that includes to boot, but a good XJ40 rides beautifully.
XJ 40 values remain rock bottom. In fact we’ve heard cases were cars have actually been given away! It is unlikely that any in the range will fetch more than £4000 – and that would be the ultrarare XJR 3.6 (or top V12 models). Realistically, it is quite feasible to buy a perfectly good, low spec car below a grand. For this amount, expect to get a very decent 2.9 and if performance is not your thing, then why spend more? However, spend another £500 and you’re into decent 3.6 territory. A little more gets the glorious four litre. Interestingly, manual transmission holds no price premium. In fact, in certain circles, they are considered less desirable. This is one car that is specifi cation sensitive. Air conditioning and leather trim are all important, while the Sovereign badge is valuable currency. In many ways though, the today’s price is almost irrelevant. At the end of production, top models were carried price tags in excess of £40,000. Consider that you can now buy the same car at ten per cent of that fi gure, or even considerably less, is impressive. But remember it is still a £40K car, requiring 40 grand car maintenance care and this is the area far too many XJ40s fall down on. That’s why it’s worth paying over the odds to buy the best you can from the start.
What To Look For
- Before you even start to vet a car, check out the V5 document. A long list of past owners usually means that this cat is really a dog and should be avoided. And check out the owner too. If they look impoverished then chances are that the car has been neglected. Ideally you want to buy from some mature bloke who has had owned it since new and loving cared for his cat.
- Despite the XJ40’s advancing years, it’s not unreasonable to expect some form of service history, from a dealer and a Jag specialist. Certainly a fully stamped ‘passport’ is worth it’s weight in gold and tells you a lot.
- Alas the XJ40 rotted just like many other old Jags and its lowly values meant that neglect was rife – as were cheapskate bodges. Find a good one and have it rust treated immediately and avoid remotely dodgy cars as they are not worth restoring (but okay for spares).
- Go straight to the bootlid and look at the lower edge by the slam panel – it is most likely bubbling, as will the front of the bonnet. Parts are available, expensive at the factory but relatively cheap second-hand. Source from later models if possible. Corrosion attacks everywhere on this car but at least externally it will be self-evident (unless bodged). Take a magnet and check the bottom of the doors and wings. Look out for the ‘A’ post as these can corrode and are diffi cult to repair correctly.
- Water in the boot is a real problem and easily fi xed. Water gets past the cover plate on the slam panel. Just drill out the rivets, apply sealer and rivet back. Complete boots have corroded right out due to this.
- How about underneath? Pop the bonnet and check the inner wings, as they can corrode with vigour. Diffi cult to bodge, it is hard to disguise, thankfully. Look around the brake master cylinder too; fl uid leaks will lift the paint allowing rust to take hold. Check the fl oor pan and bulkheads.
- With so many cars around and an overlap with the X300, parts supply is not an issue. Breakers too hold a large number of parts as repair can be expensive, good cars are consigned to the scrapheap way ahead of time.
- Engines are pretty well bomb-proof. Obviously there are exceptions but in the main, 200,000 miles is not uncommon with this unit. In fact many breakers end up selling their units as scrap due to limited demand. Problems so far encountered are head gasket failure and some piston breakage, particularly on the unloved 2.9. Most of this can be put down to poor servicing and low-grade fuel used.
- So far, overheating has not been the old Jag issue. Should the engine run hot then it is likely to be a blocked radiator or even debris between the radiator and air-conditioning condenser.
- Astonishingly the transmissions are equally tough. In fact a thriving industry has sprung up retrofi tting both automatic and manuals to Mk2s and E-types. Clutches too are long lived and if a change is needed, it can be done with the engine in situ. A workshop can do the job in half a day.
- Jaguar fi lled the XJ40 with electronic devices, and that’s where the trouble starts. Ultimately most devices work well but many faults were showing up on early models. Replacement modules are frighteningly expensive. The bulb fail modules for example, are around £160. However, as most problems are usually no more than a dry soldered joint, any competent electrician could put it right. A cottage industry has sprung up offering exchange units.
- What you need to be wary of is past owners taking the bulbs and fuses out to stop the dash lights showing what’s wrong. So when starting up, look at the dash and see what comes on – and goes out! Air bags, ABS and engine fault lights are the most tampered with.
- Pulling to one side is almost directly attributed to worn wishbone bushes or ball-joints. Replacement is routine although a special coil spring compressor is needed to attack the inner bushes. The Jaguar Enthusiast Club offers a hire service. At the rear, the fi nal drive frame is mounted on bushes in an ‘A’ frame. Relatively easy to fi x, a press is needed to push the new bushes in.
- Rear axles can be a troublesome area. Two types of differentials were fi tted, Dana and Salisbury. The latter is more reliable and often given by Jaguar on exchange, regardless of what is requested. Output shaft bearings wear and if caught early enough, can be cured by a localised repair. Second-hand units from a known good car is a decent option.
- When a car sits low at the rear without a load on board, then suspect that the self-levelling dampers are past it. Linked to the braking system, green fl uid (Citroen style) is pumped to adjust ride height. It will fail… Later models reverted to conventional dampers and a conversion is available from both Jaguar and Jag specialists.
- The rear suspension geometry was never that accurate when new and may be ‘out’ as cars even left the factory with wonky wheels. Have the car checked on a modern four-wheel laser alignmentsystem. Believe us, the difference after a good fettling is amazing and can make this cat purr!
- With so many XJ40s broken for spares, there’s no problem fi nding replacement interiors. Daimler leather, electrically adjustable seating, it is all available – and cheap to obtain too. Bleached wood and lifting veneer is common and can really spoil the effect. Jaguar still keeps some in stock but again, specialists offer the more economic alternative. Centre console trim splits with ease once aged. Oh by the way, broken door locks are very common on this car and it’s an MOT fail point so don’t take the fault lightly.
- There’s ample chrome to clean and gleam, and many will be in poor state; rear bumpers take a pounding. Don’t be surprised to see some car with wrong bumpers from a later/upmarket car.
- Early models were fi tted with metric wheels and tyres,This is likely to be a problem. There is no doubt that metric rubber is expensive and harder to obtain. One sensible option is to convert to imperial size by sourcing from later cars or certain XJ-S models. There’s a massive choice of wheel trims and alloy wheels depending upon model.
- There’s a lot of rubbish out there but also many good ‘uns so take your time. Condition counts far more than spec: we’d sooner have a perfect 2.9 manual with cloth than a ropey all bells and whistles Sovereign, for example.
Three Of A Kind
Jaguar X-300Jaguar’s replacement for the XJ40 was essentially the same car but with most of the bugs ironed out and topped by a sleeker look that’s more akin to the old XJ6. It’s a much better, more rounded car than the XJ40 plus if you opt for a post ‘96 model you can have Jaguar’s brilliant V6 engine in 3.2 and 4.0 sizes (although some of these units suffered from heavy bore wear). Not really a classic as such unless concours but they make great buys.
Jaguar XJ6 S3Predecessor to the XJ40 was the best ‘old’ XJ of them all, the S3. It still looks great, is seriously soothing while the car feels like a ‘classic’ Jag should. The old XK unit not as quick or frugal as the AJ unit but wonderfully old guard. Sadly far too many S3s are in a ropey state and the Arthur Daley image does the car no favours… But a top car is easily worth more than an equivalent XJ40. XJ12 overlapped XJ40 production as originally the V12 wouldn’t fi t!
Mercedes S ClassAlong with BMW, Mercedes with its E and S Class saloons were the rivals to Jaguar, especially in terms of durability and quality, where the German usually was streets ahead. Comfort however was never in the Jaguar class while the clinical feel of the big Merc may not appeal to those after the sense of occasion a Jag always brings. Spare parts are no problem via specialists while even main dealers still have them on the shelves.
If ever there was a future classic Jaguar in the making, the XJ40 is it and believe us, its time will surely come. We reckon that buying the best possible example today will pay dividends tomorrow. At the other end of the market, even with the running costs of fuel and servicing, it is still probably cheaper to run an average XJ40 for a year, for fun, and throw it away at the end than it would be to suffer the depreciation of a new repmobile… But the XJ40 surely deserves a fate better than this?