Sunday, April 27, 2008
April 2008 Dream Car of the Month - Jaguar XJ220
Jaguar has had a reputation in the past of making some stunning performance cars many of which were simply race cars made street legal. The 1970's and 1980's were a pretty bleak time in that respect for Jaguar but Jim Randle, their chief engineer, along with a small group of like minded people within the company got together to work on an unofficial project to create a car to compete with the Porsche 959 and the Ferrari F40. Randal's idea was a two seat, mid engined, V12 powered sports car capable of in excess of 200mph. His initial idea was also to include an all-wheel-drive system for added traction.
After presenting the idea to Jaguar executives, they were given the green light to build a car for the 1988 British Motor Show. The concept car shown at the show featured a four valve, four cam, 6.2L V12 producing around 500HP. The engine in the concept car was built by Tom Walkinshaw Racing and it was mated to an all-wheel-drive system. The body of the car was low and wide and featured "scissor" type doors like what would be seen on a Lamborghini. The car was named the XJ220 as it's top speed target was 220mph. The production version was announced in 1989 with a price of over $500,000 US. Initial production was to be at least 220 units and not more than 350.
When it finally arrived in 1991, the production XJ220 was much different than the original concept car in many ways. The most obvious and important change was that the production car would be powered by a 3.5L twin turbo V6 mated to a rear wheel drive transaxle instead of the original V12 all-wheel-drive setup in the concept car. The V12 was ditched for a couple of reasons, one of which was changing emissions standards of the day along with fitment issues with the larger powerplant. The original all-wheel-drive system was replaced due to mostly weight and packaging issues. The turbo V6, Jaguar's first V6 and turbo engine, actually produced more power than the originally proposed V12. The production XJ220 with the turbo V6 had 549HP and 473TQ.
Even with the increased performance of the V6, many customer's were not happy with the changes to the XJ220 and some even requested or demanded their deposits back. Some even threatening legal action. It also didn't help that the XJ220's price had increased to about $650,000 US by the time it went to production. That and the fact that Jaguar was also now offering the XJR-15 for sale which was quicker 0-60 and based on their Le Mans race car made for some angry customers. In all 281 cars were produced and some remained unsold by 1997 even at about half the original price.
The XJ220 hit the track at the Nardo Ring in 1992 where it hit a top speed of 212.3mph. After the car's catalytic converters were removed and the rev limiter increased, it went out again and set a mark of 217.1mph, just short of the goal of 220mph. Some contest that since it was a ring circuit that the cars actually would have hit 223mph on a straight track long enough. Either way, this number for a road car was not eclipsed until the production of the McLaren F1.
The XJ220 is an amazing piece of engineering and an automotive work of art. They are quite beautiful cars. They did suffer from some serious turbo-lag but they were still blisteringly fast. Top Gear tested an XJ220 against a much newer Pagani Zonda in a drag race and the Jaguar won. I would absolutely have one in my fantasy garage.