Leave it to the British. They have this “refined” thing going on and they really hate to mess with it. Any major change is almost like spitting on The Queen herself and that just isn’t done. So when the engineers and decision-makers at Jaguar headquarters decided in the mid-Seventies to develop an all-new model to replace the venerable XJ6 it took them nearly ten years to offer a working model to the masses and then it really wasn’t much of a change at all. Seems that tradition is a hard thing to toss aside for the folks at Jaguar.
You don’t eat crumpets with hot chocolate in England and you don’t mess with the classic lines of the Jaguar XJ Series. Those are irrefutable truths in the European Import car market. Those in Great Britain who have always loved their stately XJ were not going to take kindly to any drastic changes in her, so the XJ40 was the product of subtle changes at best. A legendary quiet ride was made quieter. A legendary solid car was made more solid. But the classic look remained the same until the truly revolutionary changes of 2011.
Most of the time and effort in designing the Jaguar XJ 40 was spent in engine design. At first only six-cylinder engines were produced in a 2.9-liter and then a 3.6-liter model. The major goal of producing a V-12 was delayed because the engine bay was too narrow to handle that much engine. Towards the end of the XJ40 run this problem was worked out, but until that time the legendary straight-6 was standard. Weight was lessened, drag was decreased, and fuel efficiency was increased but in the end this was still the classic XJ that the British upper-crust had loved for years.
Was the XJ 40 a success? During its run from 1986-1994 sales were steady if not spectacular. The car had always been criticized for being cramped and that was still true. The car had always been the symbol of refinement and that was still true. The car had always been one of the quietest, most serene and solid cars on the market, and that was still true. What the British had always valued was still available in the XJ 40 and later in its successive models by different names. It remains to be seen how the British will react to the truly all-new 2011 XJ, a car that breaks with tradition in a big-time way. If the 2011 model is a success there might be a huge run on hot chocolate in London.