The fastest Jaguar ever had a very troubled birth. The XJ220 was originally conceived as a 230mph V12 supercar with four wheel drive and rear wheel steering, but the actual production versions were only rear wheel drive with a twin turbo 3,498cc V6 lifted out of the Metro 6R4. 1500 potential buyers who had given Jaguar £50,000 deposits when they heard about the original concept were miffed over the downgraded specification and a much higher list price of £450,000. An order book that had been four-times over subscribed when the 220 was originally revealed turned into a gigantic shambles when it all went horribly wrong because of a global recession and hundreds of buyers wanting their money back. Speculators had steamed into the idea of buying a 220 to make a profit on but ran like scalded cats when the market for supercars collapsed in the early 90s. Jaguar took buyers who wanted to cancel their orders to court – and won – but it was too late to save the 220’s reputation. Only 275 were built and prices crashed almost instantly they left the showroom. The last car officially sold by Jaguar in 1997 made just £127,550 + VAT – almost a quarter of that heady original price.
And for years there was a shadow over the 220. Virtually unused delivery mileage examples could be easily bought for £90,000 and it’s only recently that collectors have begun to reassess the 220 as one of Jaguar’s boldest production cars ever and prices have risen to over £250,000 and climbing (some sellers are asking as much as £600,000). But that original botched launch apart what’s the XJ220 really like? Well it’s actually much better than its difficult reputation suggests. Production versions were good for 213 mph and 0-60 in 3.5 seconds. Road testers loved its truly savage acceleration and surprisingly supple ride and ironically it was more economical that Jaguar’s contemporary saloons returning an amazing (for a supercar) 32 mpg thanks to its wide cheating shape and light alloy construction. The interior could have been a bit more theatrical and special, speed bumps were always an issue and limited rear visibility made reversing a very expensive challenge. But until McLaren’s legendary F1 appeared the 220 held the title as the world’s fastest production car and is now rightly seen as an important part of the Jaguar legend. I think prices are going to carry on rising as this is one of the rarest road-going Jags and that contentious early history gives them a fascinating back-story. There may still be some owners who still have their cars cocooned in heated garages and haven’t heard that their 220s are now rapidly appreciating – but it’s unlikely. If you can find an XJ220 for less than £150k – you should pounce because it’ll be the best investment you’ll ever make.