Jaguar XJR X308: Shadow Cat
The 1990s is renowned to be one of the golden ages of car culture, most prominently in Europe and Japan (there were certainly some sweetheart cars in the USA that time, but for most it was fairly mediocre, sorry). And by the end of the 90s, were some of the most memorable cars to be introduced to the car scene. By the beginning of the second millennium, brushing past the wasted revelers, the strewn confetti, the party hats, the ash and paper from the fireworks, the press was busy with testing the different performance cars introduced, some so good, it could have been seen as a good omen for this next chapter of Earth’s history.
But from among these, were an increasingly popular genre of cars that seem compatible for all kinds of people as long as they got the money; sports sedans. What was better than hauling a car perfectly viable for daily driving while being able to express the swagger and excitement of a sports cars. These were perhaps the best midlife crisis alternative to a Corvette or a 911 Carrera.
While Mercedes Benz and BMW wows the crowd with recent jewels such as the record setting E55 AMG and the crowd favorite E39 M5 respectively, there was one more example that, due to the popularity of the German duo, was largely eclipsed both by stigma and overall quality issues.
The Jaguar XJR.
Back when Audi didn’t come up with the S6 yet, it was the Jaguar that came up as a third competitor to fill the Holy Trinity of super sedans. Most Jaguar purists would want this era of Jaguar cars to be forgotten, since this was during the time Jaguar was backed up by Ford. I know of a magic word that can make said purists gag in the mouth: X-Type.
Yes, this British cat was made during what could be said as the “bleak period” of Euro performance cars, where glorious “German quality” was slowly starting to look like nothing but a bloated myth. Mercedes seemed to have been hit quite hard cough cough Airmatic hack cough, for example.
In any case, let’s get down to what made the Jaguar so special.
Compared to the rather stern and sleepy, normal XJ, the XJR takes it a notch above using a supercharged version of the base 4.0 V8 engine, beefier, sportier suspension, wider wheels and tires to give it a better center of gravity and sharper sense of cornering and high speed. They also used transmission parts for the 5G-Tronic Mercedes Benz. Later, the XJR would be equipped with a “R1” spec that gives it 18” BBS wheels and Brembo brakes, which earlier XJRs did not have. The XJR can hit 0-60 in 5 seconds, and clock a (electronically limited) top speed of 155 mph, like almost all Euro performance cars were limited to.
By this point, you can probably conclude that the XJR is basically a supercharged, sports part modded normal XJ supplied hot off the oven by Jaguar. You’d probably be right. However, that’s not to be taken as a sardonic remark. Its actually a good thing that the XJR is just a direct upgrade of the XJ, with no significant schematic changes from each other other than sportier suspension, drivetrain and engine mods which, in the long run, can prove problematic for used car buyers looking for replacement parts. A top of the line interior is also a given, with sumptuous suede and chrome constituting the insides of the car, notably replacing much of the fancy wood dashboard to give way for more weight reduction to help compliment the sporty profile of the “R”.
The XJR begs to be driven seriously, even more so than it’s more sedate siblings of the time. It promises unwavering ride quality, smooth, exhilarating speeds, cornering abilities that would rival most sport coupes and give you a sense of debonair British air that makes you feel like a proper Sir/Lady of the road.
Despite being an impressive move from the British company, unfortunately, it failed to satisfy the customers of these kinds of sedans compared to it’s other rivals; the Mercedes E55 AMG, wowed the crowd with it’s sonorous supercharged engine helping it be awarded the fastest sedan in the world back in the day, as well as provide an interior superior to that of the Jaguar and the BMW with an expansive passenger compartment and a superb suspension system, while the BMW E39 M5 won hearts with it’s simplicity, amazing, naturally aspirated V8 engine and a more engaging driving character compared to the other two. The big Cat just couldn’t keep up; it couldn’t compete with the interior designing of the Mercedes, and it just wasn’t as keen as the BMW.
Nevertheless, the XJR is a sterling piece of kit that is by no means mediocre. It was one of the best Jaguars to have come out of its lineup during the infamous Jag-Ford era, and has seen some prolific action in various movie films; James Bond has once been associated with a XJ.
The XJR has also been used as a platform for a legacy car, like the XJR 100, that commemorates the 100th birthday of Sir William Lyons, which is given some quality improvements and unique engravings and honorary branding noticeable inside and out. If you are willing to brave the typical painful maintenance and service prices an old Jaguar could bring you, and if you want to brag to your friends and family that you have a fast Jag, then the XJR X308 is probably the right car for you. With limited numbers these days, the XJR can also be considered a rarity, but that’s probably what could give you extra bragging rights.
The Mercedes E55 has a better sounding engine, is faster, and is a lot more passenger friendly? The E39 is the crowd favorite and has the simplest layout? Was it the Ford-Jaguar partnership weighing down reputation? All of that doesn’t matter. Why?
As an ending note, hello again, CarThrottle! I suppose I should wipe off the dust and break the silence of my account because I finally found some motivation and ideas to write posts. I hope I have more opportunities to write for you all.
(Also, any criticisms or corrections are welcome for those who know Jaguar’s cars better.)
Until then, this is Thug Bird, thanks for reading. ‘Til next time!