Dan Trent: The Jaguar XJ is the king of cool

05th December 2017
dan_trent_headshot.jpg Dan Trent

There’s something about Jaguar XJs isn’t there. Whether your cultural references are Arthur Daley or John Prescott, their appearances in popular culture always carry with them associations with characters with a few stories to tell. 


So when I sat down to watch musician Nick Cave’s endearingly eccentric drama-documentary 20,000 Days On Earth I was pleased to see the film’s producers place him in a black XJ for the scenes in which he’s depicted driving reflectively round rain-soaked Brighton, sharing thoughts on creativity, aging and celebrity with a variety of fascinating passengers. These semi-fictional encounters feature former bandmates and artistic collaborators, including Ray Winstone and Kylie Minogue. Winstone looks especially at home cruising in the passenger seat of an XJ, Minogue preferring the rear bench and, given the infamous lack of legroom, probably among the few people who’d find it comfortable back there.

If I had an XJ would I have such engaging company to while away the miles with? Doubtful. Would it make me as cool as Nick Cave? Of course not. Does he even actually own one? I doubt it. But from Morse and his MkII to James Bond and his Aston Martin on-screen pairings of cultural heroes and cool cars can exert a powerful influence.

All XJs have that certain something about them, including the current one. I like the fact Jaguar design boss Ian Callum made a very deliberate and dramatic break with the retro-themed previous generations, the fastback-style shape putting a very Jaguar twist on the big saloon formula. But I also have a soft spot for traditional Jaguar styling and, to my mind, the mid-90s version Cave drives is the one. With or without Kylie.


If you’re brave these can be bought for absolute peanuts too. Two generations were built, the X300s with straight-sixes and the X308 that replaced them in 1997 using V8s, V12s also offered across both versions. All have taken a beating from the depreciation stick and carry with them the usual dangers of cheap purchase prices against expensive servicing costs. Rust and general wear and tear aside reliability seems generally better than you might expect though, the idea of a big XJ for little more than a grand attractive to thrill-seeking tyre kickers everywhere.

Given the looks are so rooted in Jaguar tradition I think I’d like mine to have an equivalently authentic mechanical layout. So my XJ would need to be a straight-six I think. In the way of these things, my classifieds browsing quickly escalated from the temptingly cheap 3.2s to the heady heights of five-grand XJRs. I mean, why not? This car’s 4.0-litre six gained a supercharger and put out 331ps, there being a small number of manuals but most driving through a four-speed automatic with Jaguar’s traditional J-gate layout. While I like the traditional lines I also think the de-chromed window trims on XJRs look a little less chintzy. How I reconcile that with my attraction this somewhat lurid kingfisher metallic example at local bling merchants Kahn Automobiles I’m not sure but it’s certainly not for the shy and retiring. Still cool though.

Amusing as it is I think the novelty of a colour scheme like that might wear off quite quickly, this British Racing Green over cream leather example rather more traditional in its character. And if Ray Winstone ever needs another lift I’ll happily oblige. 

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