Jaguar is one of the most iconic and evocative names in the world of automobiles; its reputation for opulence has led to it being adopted by heads of industry as well as heads of state across the world as their transport of choice. And the vehicle to be seen in – and to be driven in – in the late 1990s was the Jaguar XJ.
The XJ (X308) model ran for six years, from 1997 to 2003 and with two generations within that short lifespan. Several engines were available across the range, from the straight-six 3.2-litre petrol to a normally aspirated or supercharged version of the 4.0-litre V8. There were also several model designations, with a base XJ8, the Sport version, the range-topping high-performance XJR featuring the supercharged engine and a model aimed at those yearning for the ultimate in luxury and comfort.
This version, badged just ‘Sovereign’, featured numerous luxury embellishments, including higher-quality leather and walnut burr wood on the interior, softer suspension for a more comfortable ride and smaller wheels with higher-profile tyres, also to improve ride quality. In addition, there was also a long wheelbase model with an extra four inches of length in the rear cabin and corresponding higher roofline for passengers.
The Sovereign was the model typically used by VIPs and indeed, the Prime minister at the time, Tony Blair, used one on regular occasions.
The current owner of this long wheelbase Sovereign model bought it three years ago and is the sixth custodian since it was manufactured and registered on December 31 1998. It is presented with a current MoT until October 2020 and its history shows it has never failed an MoT test. It is clear that this vehicle has been looked after and maintained to the highest standards throughout its life. The MoT history also suggests that it spent periods of time off the road, clearly well cosseted during these periods.
The current owner, a member of the Jaguar Enthusiasts club and a voracious fan of the marque, has owned seven Jaguars prior to this and bought it as he was attracted to the special nature of the long-wheelbase limousine bodywork and the superior levels of materials and specification that come with the Sovereign model.
The car had been kept by one previous owner in a stable and another in a garage while the current owner has meticulously kept it dry and clean. The incredibly low mileage is correct and the car, according to the owner, looks “Like it just came out of a showroom. It looks perfect.”
The current owner is selling the car as he has suffered a series of leg injuries, including a hip replacement and a recent break and can no longer easily get into the car to enjoy the wonderful experience of travelling in a car fit for heads of government.
The car comes with a brace of previous MoT certificates testifying to its condition over the years. There is also a vehicle appraisal sheet from November 2018, presumably for an agreed-valuation insurance policy, which lists the condition of every aspect of the car as A1 – “The vehicle must be in excellent condition with bodywork/chassis free from rust. The vehicle’s components should be free from any but trivial faults and should work efficiently.”
The car also retains its full complement of manuals, ranging from the vehicle handbook to audio system and security manuals as well as the dealer directory. The service book shows the car has been maintained at the correct mileages, with its last service at 25,757 miles in 2011. There is also a receipt for four new tyres fitted in 2019.
The interior of this Sovereign model is graced with even more opulent stitched grey-leather upholstery than the regular XJ range of Jaguars. The sumptuous front seats show no signs of wear or damage and the rear seats, with additional legroom thanks to the extended body, appear to have had virtually no use. The front seat-back pockets are in mint condition with no stretching and there appears to be very little or no wear to the carpets.
The sliding steel sunroof operates smoothly, as do the windows including the tinted rear-door ones. The walnut burr trim shines with a deep lustre and there is no evidence of chips or fading. The door trims appear unmarked but the steering wheel seems to have a slight scratch across its face.
The dashboard features the characteristic three dials for road and engine speed as well as fuel level and coolant temperature set within the beautifully curved walnut panel. The car features the original Radio/Cassette/CD audio system and all features, such as cruise control and climate control, work perfectly.
The Sovereign looks splendid in its bright white paintwork and factory-fitted chrome embellishments, befitting the luxurious nature of the model. At some point in its past, an aftermarket ‘Leaping cat’ ornament has been added to the bonnet – not standard fit since the late 1960s and may not appeal to all but there is no denying it suits the nature of the vehicle.
This car is the second-generation of its model run (indicated by the oval front indicator lenses) and both the paint and the chrome sparkle clearly and cleanly in the sun.
There is no apparent evidence of damage nor repair to the white paintwork, with the exception of several small and light scratches on the face of the rear bumper on the right-hand corner. These appear to be from car-park damage and would be a relatively straightforward repair should the new owner yearn for virtual perfection to the outside of the vehicle. There is also very slight scratching to what appears to be the manual boot lock adjacent to the ‘Sovereign’ badge, caused presumably by inaccurate key insertion.
The exterior of the sunroof is unmarked – this can often become scratched or tainted in use – and the alloy wheels appear in excellent condition, as do the Firestone tyres which were fitted to replace older, cracked examples by the current owner. The wheels do, however, have externally mounted balance weights and replacing these with more modern adhesive weights would help to improve the image, again if near perfection is sought.
According to the owner, as well as various pundits from the media, the four-litre V8 engine in this vehicle is a superb powerplant. Powerful, with plenty of midrange performance, it is mated to the four-speed ZF automatic transmission with Sport mode and manual shift override driving the rear wheels. The owner states it is almost impossible to tell if the engine is running without consulting the tachometer and its performance means that care is needed to not inadvertently exceed the relevant speed limit.
He has driven from the south coast of Dorset to London several times in the car and describes the experience as “A pleasure”. A mixture of fast dual-carriageways and motorway, the Sovereign is the perfect car for the journey, he says, with a “Silky smooth ride and it is a very calm place to be.”
The underside of the car is, according to the owner, in comparable condition to the exterior with no evidence of rust. The current MoT certificate does make mention of corrosion to the front suspension springs though the owner feels this is just surface rust and is listed as an Advisory only.
This is a stunning example of a car that was produced with one goal; luxury. Jaguars have a reputation for both luxury and performance and this Sovereign is a superb example of the former. Its interior is in exceptional condition and the exterior is virtually unmarked.
It is a vehicle that will make every journey an experience, whether you are in the driver’s seat or one of the passengers. It will devour distance like few others and while some come with more technology or at a higher price, none will offer the sense of style and outright ‘Britishness’ that this Sovereign will.
Which is why British Prime Ministers chose to use it. All the new owner needs is a burly driver to open the rear door for them and thoughts of running the country won't be far away.
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