The Jaguar XJ220 Buying Guide – The sensational supercar
The Jaguar XJ220 was the perfect car launched at the wrong time, its stunning looks and blistering performance have since elevated it to classic supercar royalty.
The world seems to be awash with supercars these days but back in the ‘80s there were just a handful of competitors out there and Jaguar’s plans to release their own high-powered sports car was revealed to the world at the 1988 British International Motor Show. The stunning XJ220 concept was shown with four-wheel-drive and a V12 engine, designed to be eligible for FIA Group B events and recapture the past racing success of the marque.
The public voted with their wallets and Jaguar claimed that 1,500 deposits at £50,000 apiece were secured with the first deliveries planned for 1992. As it turns out Jaguar’s timing couldn’t have been worse, the economy was just about to take a massive downturn after the heady excesses of the previous decade and another supercar was also being developed in Woking that would completely redefine the segment. Then the issue of having to meet emissions regulations necessitated ditching the V12 and moving to a twin-turbo V6 developed from the MG Metro 6R4 rally car. The AWD layout was ditched during development too and many original backers either wouldn’t or couldn’t make good on the purchase of the finished product. The first customer car retailed for £470,000, unsurprisingly just 275 cars ended up being built and some only ended up being sold well after production ended in 1994.
Despite all of these challenges the XJ220 was, without doubt, one of the quickest production cars ever built, the 540bhp 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 gave it savage acceleration and a top speed of 217.1mph, a figure which made it the fastest production car in 1994. Pretty impressive considering that the bulk of the development had taken place after hours by volunteers headed up by Jim Randle, Jaguar’s ex-engineering head.
Complaints like poor visibility and difficulty manoeuvring around city streets are less of a problem when viewing the XJ220 as a modern classic as most cars spend the majority of their days behind closed doors or being taken out for short weekend blasts. The looks and the explosive performance, however, become the focal points and few cars even today can match the XJ220 in those departments. And when it comes to caring for your XJ220, things have taken a turn for the better over the past decade thanks in big part to Don Law Racing, an outfit that knows more about this supercar than Jaguar themselves.
Jaguar XJ220 Engine and gearbox
The twin-turbo V6 configuration may have been a let down for some new owners expecting a V12 in its place but the XJ220 inadvertently predicted the trend that is in common practice today. Based on a racing design, the V6 is a hardy unit, regular oil changes regardless of how few miles the car travels are essential and the cambelts should be changed every two years or 12,000-miles. There is a fair amount of lag before the turbos get boosting, but it should pull very strongly once on song.
The fuel bags need replacing every five years, a pricey endeavour, so check when they were last done. Gear changes should be smooth and have a meaty weighing, the ‘box doesn’t like to be rushed thanks to twin synchro rings on the gears. The clutch can either last many years or will require replacement as frequently as every 10,000-miles, its lifespan depends a lot on how the car is driven and whether the driver slips the clutch on takeoff or not.
Jaguar XJ220 Suspension and Brakes
The steering is heavy at parking speeds-there was no power assistance on offer-but lightens up as the speeds rise, the car should track straight and while some creaks and groans are considered normal, listen out for loud clonks over bumps. Suspension upgrades are available and some owners have modified the brakes too-a known weak point on these cars.
The tyres used to be impossible to source but suitable replacements are now available-check that the car has fresh rubber as some cars may still be riding on the originals.
Jaguar XJ220 Bodywork and interior
The XJ220 is composed of aluminium panels that are prone to dings and scratches, a very likely occurrence thanks to the poor visibility and size of the car. Parts are either readily available or can be manufactured but its not going to be cheap if you need to sort out poorly repaired accident damage or dinged panels.
The interior is a comfortable place to spend time in, unlike most contemporary rivals, most surfaces are leather clad and air-conditioning as well as electric windows were standard. The BL buttons and switchgear look a bit out of place but at least replacement items are still available.
Model History Of The Jaguar XJ220
1988: XJ220 concept revealed at British International Motor Show. Fitted with 6.2-litre v12, AWD and scissor-style doors
1992: First production car delivered, engine now twin-turbo 3.5-litre V6 sending power to the rear wheels only
1994: Final XJ220 rolls of the production line with just 275 cars built. TWR builds six XJ220C models with 690bhp-based on track-only XJ220S
Which Jaguar XJ220 To Buy
The XJ220 may have arrived five years too late and six-cylinders too short but its charms have come to the fore as it has moved to classic car status and specialists like Don Law Racing offer the servicing, modifications and upgrades that help keep them on the roads and driving better than ever.
Values for these beautiful sports cars remained depressed for ages, yet their rarity and speed has secured their place among the supercar greats and they now command much higher prices. A solid service history is important and originality can bolster values but a professionally modified car with uprated brakes, suspension and even increased luggage space by specialists like Don Law is preferable if you intend to drive your XJ220. There are still a handful of delivery mileage cars out there that will appeal to the speculator but we would opt for a well-cared for example with some miles under its belt and a few choice upgrades.
Jaguar XJ220 Specifications
3.5-litre twin-turbo V6
Top speed: 217.1mph
0-60mph: 3.6sec est.
Economy: 15mpg est.
Text John Tallodi Photos Jaguar, Belrose Classics
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