Test Drive Tuesday reviews #31: 1992 Jaguar XJ220
If you asked any respectable petrolhead to name three supercars produced between 1985 and 1995, you’ll probably end up with the Ferrari F40, the Porsche 959 and the McLaren F1. It seems that most people forgot about Jaguar’s 1992 effort. Why is that?
The first XJ220 concept car was made public in 1988, but it was a different beast from what would become (to date) Jaguar’s last supercar. Originally intended as an expression of Jaguar’s rich motorsport heritage and designed around Group B regulations, it was moved by a racing V12 (from the Le Mans winner XJR-9) and sported a complicated four-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-steering system. But following the public’s enthusiastic reaction and, more importantly, a serious number of £50,000 deposits, Jaguar decided to put the XJ220 into production. It teamed up with racing partner TWR and proceeded to work out how to make the concept car production-ready.
As a result, most of the XJ220 concept’s ambition was ditched to comply with regulations and allow a more direct competition with the flourishing supercar market. The V12, too heavy, thirsty and unreliable, was replaced by a twin-turbo 3.5 V6 from the MG Metro 6R4 group B. The complex 4WD system was deemed unnecessary and the rear-wheel-steering overly complicated. Not wanting to endanger its reputation as a luxury manufacturer, Jaguar fitted the XJ220 with a luxurious interior which increased the weight to 3,250 lbs.
All these modifications, coupled with a vast recession in the collectible car market, explain why the XJ220 was a commercial failure. Only 281 were sold, out of 1,500 deposits. And if it’s recently gaining a following, it will never be as iconic as an F40.
But the car in itself isn’t without its merits.
In fact, the XJ220’s major problem is being a road car. Because it is a road car, it’s heavy, has poor tires and brakes, and not much downforce. That’s why I find most fast road cars difficult to enjoy on a race track.
But in this case, you need to make abstraction of all that. You need drive the car well under your limits to help this big car comply with the rules of physic. If you do that, if you show enough self discipline to not drive it like a maniac, you will find a lot of good stuff buried beneath the heavy and very 1990’s dashboard.
The car is well balanced, and it’s pretty easy to drive. If you’re careful about it, you won’t encounter that much understeer and you’ll be able to gently take the nose to the apex. Exiting the corner, the XJ220 might even reward you with a pretty enjoyable wiggle, generated by the torque of the twin turbo V6.
It’s no racecar, but it at least the car is pretty transparent about its reactions, and won’t ever try to kill you all of a sudden. Loosing grip is very progressive, as well as regaining it. All in all, it’s nothing extraordinary but much better that what you’d expect from such a car, and in the end this Jaguar can be a fun thing to drive.
If you take some time to dig deep under the XJ220’s weight, there are some undeniable qualities to it. You won’t want to buy it simply for its driving dynamics though, because there is better and cheaper elsewhere. But if you’re a Jaguar aficionado or simply nostalgic of the 1990’s, you will not be disappointed by the XJ220. But remember, its true beauty is well hidden, and it will take you some time to find it.
To find out how it did against all the other TDT cars, follow this link to the updated TDT Leaderboards: https://goo.gl/ATr6mF