Does all of this make the XJ220 a flop and undeserving of acclaim and celebration 25 years on? Absolutely not. Though the turbo V6 replaced lusty with industrial, its 542bhp output was still nothing if not impressive. Not to mention that the 220, in our humblest of opinions, has always been one of the best looking supercars of its era. From concept to production, in spite of the rocky road it faced, the 220’s lines barely changed at all. Thank heavens for it. Those muscular yet clean haunches, svelte yet menacing eyes and a slippery shape that could disappear into the night are uniquely elegant in the segment and quintessentially Jaguar. In spite of the developmental speed bumps, it’s allegedly an endearing if not precise steer, too.
In 1993, the 220 found itself lightened, boosted and being driven in anger on a track. Incongruous though the pairing of a circuit and the weighty old brute may seem, it was a heavy hitter from the off, winning a round of the BRDC National Sports GT Challenge here at Silverstone. In the inaugural GT class at Le Mans in 1993, it would have won if not for the sly omission of catalytic converters rendering it noncompliant post-victory.
All told, then, is the XJ220 deserving of the hard time it has so often received these past 25 years? Not at all. Nor was it ever. Somehow, out of the hodgepodge (see Rover 200 taillights), that was the conception of this car, a great icon of the supercar world was born. It’s a portrait of what a stickler for stereotypes might imagine as a British supercar effor –t born out of the crumbling ashes of Leyland. Read into that what you will. It encapsulates the oft-celebrated and laughable notion that most top-level supercars are a bit of a mess in some way shape or form.
If it had come out a perfect picture of the original vision, somehow, the XJ220’s story would be far less interesting. The world already has the McLaren F1. The fact that we remember the comparative mess that is the ‘220 next to the F1 is a massive credit to its character, its performance, its story and unquestionably, its beauty. At the very least, it stimulates conversation. Better to be talked about and all that. A car fully deserving of the recognition it’s received at 2017’s Silverstone Classic, we’d hazard to suggest.
Photography by Tom Shaxson.