The car began to stall occasionally at low rpm. Before undertaking repairs, our mechanic suggested disconnecting the idle speed control valve, as a test. This has completely resolved the issue for the past 8 months, with the nuisance of an illuminated Check Engine light.
The cup holder was broken when we bought the car, and we replaced it for $100. The design is flimsy and care is needed to prevent breakage.
The headliner is starting to sag, a typical issue for many cars after 10 years.
Other than these very minor problems, the car has been astonishingly solid and trouble free for the 10,000 miles we've owned it. The car looks and feels like a new vehicle. Every system works perfectly and the car is exceptionally comfortable.
The 1996 Vanden Plas is a superb car. We had previously owned a 1986 XJ6 Series III, and while it was extremely beautiful and basically solid, the technology and build quality were out of another era, with pervasive rusting and mechanical systems showing the telltale signs of Jaguar's financial troubles- systems cobbled together rather than being properly designed and built.
Our 1996 replacement, while slightly less elegant in certain details (Pininfarina's gorgeously tapered trunk of the Series III was compromised in the interest of greater capacity), is light years improved in construction quality, with Ford's billions of dollars in investments paying dramatic dividends. Our 1996 VDP is rock solid, without one speck of rust anywhere, after 12 years in New England. The drive train is silky smooth and powerful, at 114,000 miles. Every system works as it should. The AC blows ice cold. The car is an absolute gem.
Long road trips have been a delight in all weather conditions, with the miles just floating silently by. You have to watch your speed, as the car easily glides to 90 mph or beyond without a hint of effort, feeling like 50. Highway mileage, at 75 mph, averages about 22 mpg; urban driving can be half that. The length of the car takes some getting used to in the city, but is perfectly manageable.
Handling, with Pirelli P4000 Super Touring tires, is excellent, even in torrential rain. Snow is another story.
The car has been so good that we're looking for another '96 or '97, while low mileage examples are still available. Jaguar really hit the ball out of the park with these model years.