Jaguar XJ (1986-1994)

In my first post I would like to talk about one of my all-time favourite cars: the Jaguar XJ. A British icon renowned for its luxury and grace. Only to be matched by another ambassador of British motoring: Rolls-Royce.
Starting from 1968 on many XJ-models were introduced. Today I would like to shed some light on the XJ built from 1986 until 1994, codename XJ40. Not the most popular XJ, but surely an intriguing member of the Jaguar-family.

During my youth it was the pinnacle in automotive luxury and many times I have stared at passing XJs. With total admiration for the gracefulness at which it glided over the road while a the same time breathing animal-like power (which Rolls-Royce lacked imo). Something the V12-versions (XJ12) were prime examples of.

Over the years many car makers have made fast and luxurious cars, but to me Jaguar was (and still is) one of the few brands that built cars which combined sleek design, great luxury and power into an elegant package that hardly seemed to age. This was especially true for the XJ.
The basic body shape, as introduced in 1968 continued to be the synonym for Jaguar (in good and bad times) up until 2009 when Ian Callum conceived the next generation XJ (X351), which spearheaded the current revival of the brand. This was supported by TATA which took ownership of Jaguar Land Rover in 2008. Offering financial support to the ambitious growth of Jaguar and Land Rover.

Nowadays the XJ40 can be found at bargain prices. Unfortunately many have fallen victim to rust. The XJ40 featured better build quality and is therefore not that susceptible to rust as the earlier models, but prudence is strongly advised when searching for a healthy one.
Also maintenance is often overlooked. Better to have one with a well-documented service history and slightly more miles than one with less miles but lacking in regular maintenance.

XJ40s are special cars, especially in Daimler- & Vanden Plas-trim levels, but the limited editions (Insignia and Majestic) are the ones that really stand out.

“Project XJ40” was an all-new car to replace the ageing XJ Series III. Due to the oil crisis and financial problems of the parent company British Leyland the development suffered many delays. At the 1986 British International Motor Show the XJ40 was finally revealed.

With the XJ40 Jaguar focused heavily on quality improvement. Both build- and assembly techniques were refined resulting in a lighter and more rigid structure. Better fuel economy and less wind noise were the most noticeable gains.

From the launch the XJ40 was available with a 2.9-litre (165 bhp) or a 3.6-litre (221 bhp) version of the new AJ6 6 cylinder inline. In 1990 these were upgraded to 3.2-litre (200 bhp) and 4.0-litre (223 bhp).

During development British Leyland considered the Rover V8 engine to power the XJ40, which would eliminate the need for Jaguar engines. This made the engineers at Jaguar design the engine-bay in such a way V-shaped engines in general and the Rover-engine in particular wouldn’t fit. Only the 6-cylinder inline AJ6 could.

Drawback was that the Jaguar V12-engine couldn’t be fit without serious modifications. Therefore the XJ Series III XJ12 remained in production until 1992 to cope with V12-demand. In 1993 the 12 cylinder-version (also named XJ12) of the XJ40 was introduced, 1 year before production of the XJ40 would come to an end. The V12 boasted a 6 litre-engine delivering 318 bhp.
Both automatic (four-speed) and manual (five-speed) gearboxes were available. But the majority of the XJ40s feature were sold with an automatic gearbox which is more in line with the luxury of the model.

The new production process made the body panels less prone to rust, a much feared flaw amongst earlier XJ models.
The curvaceous styling of the previous XJ was replaced with a more angular shaped body.
The headlamps were pairs of round headlights or rectangular single units. Although the rectangular lights were fitted to the higher-spec versions, the round headlights are a much sought after conversion these days. US-delivered cars all feature the rectangular headlights.


The lower spec cars offered a cloth interior. But most XJ40s featured the luxurious combination of wood (walnut or rosewood) and leather which became a synonym for Jaguar.

Until 1990 a digital instrument binnacle (with analogue speed and rpm gauges) offered a futuristic dashboard with the advanced VCM (Vehicle Condition Monitor). This matrix-screen could indicate 34 (error) conditions. An all-analogue dashboard was introduced in 1990 when Ford took over ownership from British Leyland.

The base level trim which featured the double circular headlamps. Leather upholstery was optional and window frames were standard black power-coated.

A more luxurious model with the characteristic rectangular headlamps and several features standard fitted like air conditioning and headlamp washers. The window frames were chrome-plated.

Daimler / Vanden Plas
Daimler (Vanden Plas in the USA) represented the highest trim level. Featuring the characteristic fluted radiator grille and boot-lid grip amongst other unique detail finishes. Like the Sovereign they featured rectangular headlamps. The V12 version of the Daimler was called “Daimler Double-Six”.

The Sport (3.2 from 1993 and 4.0 from 1994) featured rosewood interior inlays while the door mirrors and grill vanes were finished in the body color. A stiffer suspension and specific alloys were standard.

Compared to the Sport-model the XJR featured a more elaborate conversion. It was based upon the Sovereign, suspension was uprated and the power steering was 40% heavier. Throughout the years the engine (especially the 4.0 L) was tuned to deliver more power. The XJR also featured a specific bodykit and special alloy wheels.

A special long-wheelbase version only made in 1993-1994. The wheelbase was stretched with 12 cm and the model featured many luxury options as standard. Earlier on in 1990 a “Majestic Vanden Plas” was produced exclusively for the US.

318 Insignias were produced by the ex-DS420 Limo shop. These cars where real “bespoke” models where the client had a wide range of paint colours (including Insignia-exclusive colours), wood, options and wheels to choose from.

The Gold model was a launched in 1994 (last production year of the XJ40) and featured a set of options for a discounted price. A gold plated badge on the boot and gold growler badge on the grille make it easy recognisable. The standard alloys featured the “kiwi”-design.