Stories About Cars is a new series for Well Driven where we ask people what their car means to them and what makes it special. This may be Jason’s first experience as a Jaguar owner, but something tells us it won’t be his last!
A few weeks ago I stumbled into Jaguar ownership, my first Jag actually. I got a text from a friend in the trade, it was a photo of a Racing Green XJR 350 series with the optional 20” BBS Wheels. “New car?”, interest peaked I asked for more details, the next photo was of the odometer showing over 206,000 miles. I had to have it.
It’s a mileage that would probably send most sane people running for the hills. But Jaguar owners are different, they keep their cars for a long time and seem to lavish them in a way that’s usually reserved for supercars. My car, for example, has been in the same ownership since 2004, with a full dealer history.
It’ll come to no real shock to anyone that its comfortable and super quiet with very little noise to indicate you’ve actually moving. Every passenger gets a heated seat and an ashtray plus a smug feeling of superiority over all other road users. The seats themselves have some subtle bolstering with an embossed “R” logo hinting you’re in the performance version. But overall, they’re the exact kind of armchair you come to expect in a big Luxo-barge.
The real surprises start to come when you press the throttle a little deeper into the carpets. You’ll be met by a subtle V8 Growl, comfortably drowned out by the ever dominant supercharge whine. The car remains flat and level with the only real clue you’re going faster being the rate at which you sink into the leather. Very quickly you’ll be going way over 3 figures and leaving most things on the road in your dust.
The way this car builds and maintains speed is nothing short of hilarious. Why on earth Jaguar built a XJ that can do 0-60 in 5 seconds, I’ll never know. Perhaps you’re often rushing home to catch Songs of Praise?
The reason for this effortless turn of speed is due, in part, to its advanced lightweight aluminium structure. For good measure, the 4.2 supercharged V8 also puts out near on 400bhp. Keeping all this in check is the air suspension system, ensuring the car keeps its composure no matter what you throw at it.
The package is highly advanced for its era, something they almost seemed embarrassed about judging by the styling. They were very careful not to scare off previous XJ owners, with the car almost identical to its predecessor. This may have gave fuel to the “old man image”, but as we now know this was a stroke of genius. The XJ that followed mine was a completely different beast, Jaguar seemingly trying to tempt buyers from their BMW 7 Series’. The sales figures show this gamble didn’t pay off.
Such is the level of engineering that went into keeping weight down that even today it’s hard to find a modern car to compare. In terms of performance, it’s about the same weight a MK7 Golf R Wagon. The steering is admittedly a bit woolly, but with the traction off And the auto box In sport, you can still have fun. It turns in surprisingly well and even with its open diff its happy to hang the tail out when you want. Something you don’t imagine saying about a big old Jag. Its easy to focus on the old man thing, but let’s not forget Jaguars on screen presence as “the baddies” car of choice. I can at least confirm it would make an excellent getaway car.
Seemingly the used market is starting to turn for the 350 as the last Jaguar to look like a jaguar, it’s become a fan favourite. Values had dwindled over the years, partly due to the reputation for unreliability that the JLR has made for itself over the years. However, as the years roll buy (and in my case, the miles really are mounting!) they’re proving to be shockingly reliable cars. Furthermore, there’s a strong owners following, making keeping them workable and usable as time goes on much easier.
So what we have here is a somewhat reliable, fast and comfortable luxury barge with good looks too. It seems like we can have our cake and eat it too, but it’s not completely perfect. The combination of air suspension and, on my car at least, 20” wheels mean the ride over potholes is quite jarring. Furthermore, it’s sheer size means that most parking spaces are just too small. The elegance and cool factor quickly lost as you’re trying to squeeze out your door, or being moaned at for hanging over two parking spaces. The stereo sounds great, but you’re fairly limited when it comes to upgrades due to their mostly fibre optic system which also encompasses a lot of the HVAC controls.
Overall though, as a thing to live with it’s just sublime. You will never tire of watching it seemingly defy all logic in the way it accelerates, nor the faces on those in hot hatches etc as you blow right past them. It really is one of those cars most people forget exists, or simply didn’t know existed at all. But their loss is my gain.
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