A great car... but not for the faint of wallet
Part Failures: Transmission Seal, Oxygen Sensor (3 times), Air Pump, Rear Shocks (2 times), Engine Mount, Front Suspension Subframe Mounts, Front and Rear Shock Bushings, Front Anti-Roll Bar Bushing, Front Balljoints, Window Switch, Low Coolant Warning Sensor, Ignition Coil, Electric Seat Control, Radio/Tuner.
The car's suspension is obviously under-designed for the added weight of the V12 and the poor quality of US roads. The car has required replacement of suspension components that have failed or worn at a rate that is simply disgraceful. (I haven't totaled the suspension repair costs, but it is surely excessive) Particularly awful was replacement of bushings for the front suspension subframe. This is attached at three points, and two bushings were completely destroyed through normal use. This procedure was $2,000+. The heat from the exhaust pipes also appears to damage the rear shock absorbers at regular intervals.
The seal at the rear-most of the transmission was similarly baked by heat, and appears to be the one weak link in an otherwise fantastic and robust transmission.
The oxygen sensors have been replaced often; it seems they are just prone to failure (but they are not cheap).
The engine coil failed completely and without warning, stranding the car.
There are some interior trim noises over washboard surfaces and rough roads; more than expected considering the mileage and initial cost of the car. (The interior of my friend's 911 with 170,000 feels much better bolted together.) Also, the light cream color of the leather is unfortunate: it shows up marks and wears far to easily.
In 1994, JD Power rated Jags 5th in initial quality, which was a factor in my buying decision. I think, however, my car has not given much credence to such a high quality rating. After 160,000 miles, my previous Series 3 XJ6 was far more reliable.
Aside from the heavy repair/maintenance bills and disappointments listed above, the car has been wonderful. The engine is simply incredible, and seems to be as strong as ever, even with the high mileage. In fact, the entire drivetrain has remained flawless. The gears shift with perfect ease, and the sensation is that of a solid link between engine and rear wheels, not the somewhat fluid, mushy feeling of the older V12 with 3-speed automatic.
Most Jaguars have a special feel, and the V12 is certainly among the best of all recent Jags. I even prefer it to the new V8. The firmer ride of the twelve is a great compromise between comfort and performance, and when pressing really hard it resists understeer incredibly well. In Colorado where I live, mountain driving really shows up weaknesses in a car, but the XJ12 is just excellent at high speed and under strenuous conditions. Climbing step hills at over 10,000 ft., where engine performance is severely tested, it will just fly past traffic, even in top gear. It just goes where you point it, and gives an amazing sense of security and comfort. The only sore spot is fuel economy, which definitely suffers when going hard.
Inside, the car is the right size, with excellent visibility. I have read complaints of wind noise on XJ40s, but mine seems to be about as silent as possible.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 16th January, 2003