22 June 2023

10 of the best Jaguar models

By Road Runner

Synonymous with luxury, uniqueness, and style, the Jaguar (or Jag) has long been the coolest of cats in the classic car world. Unapologetically British, it has always cut an elegant dash against its global rivals in the luxury market. With a rich history of stand-out models and on-the-road moments, we bring you our top ten Jaguars, from post-war Britain right up until today.

While we can’t cover all of Jaguar’s impressive history and form, this curated selection reflects some of those most sought-after if you’re looking to invest or sell one.

1948 Jaguar XK120

Emerging from the ashes of a bombed-out Britain, the Jaguar XK120 let loose its first roar (the 120 was a direct link to its unparalleled top speed at the time) in 1948, with production ceasing in 1954. Originally launched at the 1948 London Motor Show as a roadster and show car for the new Jaguar XK engine, it was quite the sensation. And it wasn’t long before it went into production. And if the XK120 were an actor, then it would be James Mason; classic good looks, a distinctive purr, and just revving up to the pinnacle of his performance.

Comparisons aside, everything about this model suggested a more daring approach – especially as it was a whole lot faster with the windshield removed.  At first, it came in two convertible versions – one open two-seater and also a drophead coupé, which was more high-end, with both wooden dashboard and interior features. But by 1951 a closed or fixed-head coupe was also an option. It really was the status symbol vehicle of its day.

1954 Jaguar D-Type

The Jaguar D-Type was a whole different beast. With its race car roots firmly in the Coventry-based factory that built it, the D-Type become forever known as the car that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1955. In a race that was also notorious for a deadly crash when a driver killed himself and around 84 spectators in a collision with a stand, taking first place through constant drizzle and a cloud of sadness was no small achievement.

But not all Jaguar D-Types were bound for the racetrack – and after some modifications, the XKSS road car was born. The engine was hardly any different to its predecessor (although, let’s not overlook the increase to a 3.8 litre), but the real point of difference was the monocoque chassis. Which was really the moment where aircraft engineering techniques ramped up aerodynamic efficiency and changed the face of car design.

1959 Jaguar Mark II

We first caught a glimpse of the Jaguar Mark II in 1959, but it went on sale in 1960, colliding with the dawn of a new decade. Bigger cats require bigger engines, and these sedans scored highly with 2.4 litre and 3.4 litre models. That old adage “It’s what’s on the inside that counts” couldn’t have been truer for these cars. Attention to detail was everything – as was smoking!  Improved ventilation and interior heating was a must considering the size, number, and locations of ashtrays. Further down the Mark II production line was the 3.8 litre model, which also had a bit of “cosmetic” work done to the exterior.

But there was a slightly more insidious use for the fast and furious Jaguar. With “Top Trumps” stats of a 3.8 litre engine, 220hp and 0-60 in 8.5 seconds, plus a top speed of 125 mph, the Mark II was often the unwilling participant in a number of bank robberies throughout the decade. Not that we want to list the litany of crimes the car was capable of assisting with but having a rep as the fastest four-door in the UK, did ensure its supporting role as a getaway vehicle.

1968 Jaguar XJ6

The makers of the Jag really got with the secret spy vibe of the late sixties when they were covertly developing the XJ6 sedan under the code name Project XJ4. Yes, the code name looks more transparent than using “password” as your password under today’s scrutiny, especially as “XJ” stood for…  “experimental Jaguar. Finally, in September 1968, the XJ6 emerged from the shadows, combining some classic Jag elements with new features. There was the choice of the XK straight-six engine in the quite large 2.8 litre, or the very large 4.2 litre sizes. Add to that subframe-mounted front suspension, and modular independent rear suspension, and you have the almost unchanged template right up into the new Millennium.

Looks-wise, there was more than a passing nod to the Alfa Romeo of the time, but what set it apart from its Italian rival was the Jaguar XJ6’s twin fuel fillers leading to twin tanks. A little like combining the movie-star, big-draw attractiveness of Sophia Loren with Pele’s almost-godly football prowess, the XJ6 has a timeless power and appeal.

1990 Jaguar XJR-15

We’re only making a brief pitstop here, as there was only 53 XJR-15 models manufactured. The reason for that is fairly obvious. It’s all in the numbers. With a 6.0 litre, 450hp V12 Jaguar engine, in just 3.9 seconds this Jag could go from 0-60mph. Oh yes, the cub had definitely hit its grown-up performance peak. Which was really only useful if you were a racing car driver, as very little about the crazy speed and performance was actually legal on your average UK road.

Made from a combination of composites and carbon fibre, it was lightening in a bottle. The frame was a carbon fibre monocoque chassis in a tubular framework – an innovative way of reducing the vehicle load to a comparatively light 2,314 lbs. There was also some smart thinking around the placement of the engine and transmission, which were positioned as the load bearing for the rear suspensions. Although not exclusively a race car, the double-wishbone with pushrods operating horizontal springs and dampers so often used for competition models was also included.

1992 Jaguar XJ220 Concept

With only a short, two-year production window from 1992-1994, the Jaguar XJ220 mid-engine supercar also boasted a record-breaking production car top speed of 217mph – until the McLaren F1 came along and stole the speed crown in 1994.

But let’s put all thoughts of McLaren aside for a minute to reflect on the wonder that is the 6R4 V6 engine. With an output of 542hp, 475 lb-ft of torque, running 0-60 mph in just 3.6 seconds, and that incredible top speed (aided by unrestricted catalytic converters), the sporty, sensual XJ220, may have had its moment in the sun, much like Shakespeare’s Sister, The Big Breakfast, and Gameboy, but it will forever burn bright as a shiny fragment of nostalgia.

2007 Jaguar XJR Portfolio

There’s something about the Jaguar XJ launched in 2007 that calls to mind the first couple of films where Daniel Craig took on the 007 role. Well maybe not Bond in the driving or back seat of this Jag, but perhaps a VIP visitor to the MI6 building, or mysterious baddie? It’s that mix of elegance, authority, and polish that gives this sedan a licence to effortlessly glide beyond any quantum of solace. And contrary to our above statement on what’s on the inside, this model matches an attractive façade with an equally delicious interior of wood, chrome, and a distinct lack of ashtrays.

Collectors are very keen on the special edition XJR Portfolio, of which just a hundred were produced. The heft and intentional gravitas of ivory, Champagne, or charcoal leatherwork within belies the power of the 4.2 litre V8 engine, which whooshes from 0-60mph in five seconds. Mads Mikkelsen, your Jaguar is awaiting.

2009 Jaguar XF

We only have to time travel back then forward a couple more years to meet and greet the 2009 Jaguar XF. One more, the luxe and sophistication was amped up, hailing the dawn of a new age for this beloved brand of classic car. Despite the worldwide shockwaves of the 2008 financial crisis still reverberating, the market was clearly hungry for a car that provided both a thrilling driving experience in harmony with a fresh design.

And only a year later, the 2010 version arrived to overtake the 2009 model, showing clear signs of a dramatic (and worthwhile) makeover. There was not only the naturally aspirated 4.2 litre V8 engine to accompany the base model 2010 XF, but for its even classier sibling – the XFR – there was an all-singing, all-dancing interior of best-in-class leather, and smart wood and aluminium elements. Proving first off the starting blocks doesn’t always have the most staying power, just like in 2010’s X-Factor final, it was runner-up Rebecca Ferguson and third-placed One Direction that really continued to pull focus. Matt Cardle? Who’s that?

2014 Jaguar F-Type

As we entered what we’d expect to be the tumultuous teenage years of the 21st Century, Jaguar (after tying the commercial knot with Land Rover in 2013) actually steered through calm waters with the launch of the F-Type in 2014. Keen to earn its road stripes, this model is all about performance, handling, and that important driver-car relationship. It’s a heavyweight for sure. Tipping the scales at 3,521 pounds for the base model, horsepower comes in at a hefty 340, 380, and 495.

Luckily, those figures are not reflected in the nimble look and feel. The excellent aerodynamics remain, and none of the usual sophistication has been lost along the way. And in order to balance out that jumbo poundage and add even more eye candy, the F-type has a superlight soft top. Here’s a nifty bonus for the engineering squad; when that cover comes down (in around 12 seconds or less), that benefits the low centre of gravity, which in turn makes handling even more of a treat.

2014 Jaguar Lightweight E-Type

2014 turned out to be an interesting year for Jaguar and its committed fanbase. Not content with the release of the F-Type, the Jaguar Heritage team (itself part of the Special Operations division) announced plans to recreate and release six E-Type Lightweights. These handcrafted vehicles, each built to a very specific brief, which was to reimagine and rebuild the best of the 1964 E-Types, with more than a smattering of other well-loved Jaguar features from across the years.

Each of the half-dozen were sold, fit for purpose, as competition cars to be used in historic motorsport racing. And every one of the six was powered by an updated version of the straight-six SK engine, with an average horsepower of over 300, and torque at 280lbs at 4,500 rpm. All of this gives this car the ability to accelerate quickly from low engine revs. Most definitely the perfect alchemy of past, present, and future for a historic racing car designed for current success.

Our whistlestop journey has only scratched the surface of the many, magnificent Jaguars that have been produced. A host of SUVs, the 2018 all-electric i-Pace, and recent XE and XF models are very much part of Jaguar’s most recent line-up, but for purists and classic car enthusiasts, there’s very little that can match the exquisite joy of even just looking at a Jag from days past. And as for actually owning and driving one? We’re finally at a loss for words.

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