The later ‘X300’ model from 1994 onwards remains relatively plentiful but the XJ40 now seems to be one of those cars where you have the choice between the increasingly tatty examples clinging to an MoT and the few really well preserved examples in the hands of enthusiasts.

This one of course is one of the latter and having covered a mere 22,818 miles. This alone makes it a rarity, but this one is rather more special than the common or garden XJ6, being one of the limited-production JaguarSport XJR models. To add to its rarity even further, most of the XJ40-based XJRs were 3.6-litre models, but this is one of the later 4.0-litre cars that was made for just one year before the XJ40 was itself replaced by the X300.

JaguarSport was established in 1986 as a joint venture between Jaguar and TWR in order to produce more dynamic models of the firm’s regular saloons, which had lost some of their sporting appeal.  The cars were completed at TWR’s Kidlington facility and in true late ’Eighties style were given body styling including a deep chin spoiler, a boot spoiler and distinctive flat-faced 16-inch Speedline alloys with a ‘sport’ logo and wider 225/55 tyres.

The XJR was about more than styling changes though and under the skin boasted impressive suspension and engine upgrades. Running a higher 9.75:1 compression and revised inlet manifold, plus high-lift cams and remapped engine management, the AJ6 motor was boosted to a useful 251bhp with 278lb/ft torque.

Revised JaguarSport dampers and anti-roll bar, plus lowered springs transformed the handling and gave it a firmer feel.

Setting aside its JaguarSport provenance and general rarity, this was also one of the nicest XJ40s I’d seen in a long time… in fact possibly since I last sat in a brand new example back in the early ’Nineties. The low mileage is of course to thank for that but it’s fair to say that these later XJ40s had been developed into a very different animal from the original launch cars.

The interior is just as nicely preserved as the outside and the Magnolia leather with contrasting piping remains clean and taut. I’ve had my fair share of stick for it but I’ll admit to a personal liking for the XJ40’s styling, which comes from a general fondness for all things ’Eighties and the JaguarSport additions give the car a low-slung, square-shouldered stance.

The small leather-covered four-spoke steering wheel is an unusual thing to find in an XJ and sums up the era of the car’s birth perfectly, but allied to the revalved power steering it does change the character of the car completely over the big thin-rimmed standard wheel. I’ve spent a fair while with our own X300 Sovereign recently and it’s interesting to note how familiar the older XJ40 cabin feels, which shows just how much of the late XJ40 Jaguar carried over into the newer car.

The XJ40 was very much on the button and the low-mileage AJ6 motor sounded superb – typical Jaguar but with a hint of something extra.

We only had the opportunity for a very short test drive but the XJR does feel that much more alive than the regular 4.0-litre XJ6 and the revised suspension makes itself felt in a general lack of float and roll. JaguarSport’s own performance figures for the automatic XJR were 146mph and 0-60mph in 7.7 seconds and there’s no doubt that this one feels as if it could still match that. Oh, and to confound the Jaguar critics out there, all the switches and buttons still did exactly what they should.

This is an intriguing slice of Jaguar history and a very usable car too with great performance. At the time of our test drive pricing and other details were yet to be confirmed but it’s certainly one of the last opportunities for a Jaguar fancier to grab a pristine exaple of the XJ40.

Power: 251bhp
Top speed: 146mph
0-62 mph: 7.7 secs
Fuel consumption: 25mpg
Gearbox: 4-sp auto