Jaguar has always bred a special kind of car for its unique clientele. Over the years, the brand’s finest models have combined stunning design with scintillating performance, providing us with some of the most jaw-dropping shapes to ever come out of the car world.
With its snarling inline six-cylinder engine ripping along the Bentley Mulsanne straight at Le Mans, Jaguar’s reputation for performance was forged in the heat of competition. Yet, for many fans, it’s Jaguar’s iconic design that lives far beyond any racing glory.
Less stuffy than a Rolls-Royce or a Bentley, and far more affordable than a Ferrari or Lamborghini, we took a look at the fastest and most memorable Jaguar cars of all time. Starting from after World War II, here are the quickest Jaguars of their respective generations.
Sometimes the best Jaguars don’t quite match the hype surrounding them — but we love them anyway. The XJ220 was originally meant to come with a V12 engine that would be mounted behind the two-passenger cockpit, one of Jaguar’s own creations. When the production model finally arrived in 1992, the 12-cylinder engine had been replaced by a twin-turbocharged V6 engine, which traced its lineage back to the now-defunct Rover brand. Ouch!
To be fair, this engine had been used in rally racing, and with 542 horsepower, the XJ220 was a formidable supercar. It never did live up to its name, however. While 220 miles per hour was supposed to be the car’s official top speed, production models only achieved 213 miles per hour. Somehow the XJ213 doesn’t have the same ring to it.
2. F-Type SVR
A relatively new addition to our ranking of the fastest Jaguars of all-time, the F-Type SVR is officially the quickest serial production model to ever come from the brand. That means it’s not a limited-run exotic like the XJ220 or the ultra-rare XJR-15 from the early 1990s.
The F-Type SVR’s top speed of 200 miles per hour comes courtesy of the supercharged V8 engine under its heavily vented hood. This motor pushes out a total of 575 horsepower, and it makes a sound that is unbelievably loud and addictive. If you don’t have enough points on your license to attempt a top speed run, don’t worry about it. Hit the gas. You’ll need only 3.5 seconds to go from 0 to 60.
We know that adding a pure racing machine is bending the rules, if only for just a little bit. There is a method to our madness, though, just like there certainly was within Jaguar’s ranks when the D-Type race car was deemed a suitable road-going machine (more on that with the next wild car on this list). For now, let’s focus on one of the most beautifully designed race winners of all-time.
The D-Type most famously won the 24 Hours of Le Man endurance race three years in a row, from 1955 to 1957. A snarling inline-six under the long and voluptuous hood helped propel the D-Types to a top speed of approximately 160 miles per hour — in the 1950s. How’s that for impressive?
When Jaguar pulled out of racing as a works team, the company had a whole bunch of unfinished D-Types sitting around collecting dust. What do you do with extra copies of the world’s most effective racing machine? Turn it into the world’s most extreme road car, of course.
By February 1957, Jaguar had only built 16 XKSS coupes in total, before a fire at the company’s Browns Lane factory burned up the remainder. Fitted with a taller windscreen, a minuscule passenger door, and small chrome bumpers, the XKSS was almost laughably identical to the racing machine it was based upon. Imagine taking a Le Mans winner today and using it to commute to work — that’s what you got with the XKSS. A top speed of roughly 149 miles per hour was only marginally slower than the more aerodynamic D-Type.
Here is one you might not even know existed. The XJR-15 owes its presence to the world of endurance racing, particularly to the Jaguar XJR-9 race car that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans back in 1988.
This production car (of which only 53 were produced) was at heart a road-going variation of the title-winning racing machine. To make it suitable for normal roads, the dimensions were slightly increased and the cabin no longer resembled the harsh confines of a NASA space capsule. Top speed was a hair above 190 miles per hour, thanks to the silky-smooth V12 engine. Not as pretty as its successor, the XJ220, this rare Jaguar did have the bragging rights of being a true title-winning masterpiece.
6. XKR-S GT
This was a 550-horsepower last hurrah for the XKR luxury coupe, which had replaced the long-serving XJS as Jaguar’s two-door touring car in the mid-1990s. For most of its almost 20-year working life, the XKR was a sleek and subdued cruiser, the kind of car that would turn heads but never create a scene. There was nothing gentile about the XKR S GT, however. From the car’s gaping front grille to its towering tail spoiler, the XKR-S GT looked like a Jaguar that was far more at home on the racetrack. Less than three dozen made it to the United States, so if you want rarity, this supercharged coupe with its 186 miles per hour top speed is undoubtedly the Jaguar for you.
Even for a company with so many legendary cars to its credit, the E-Type stands as being arguably the ultimate masterpiece of Jaguar design and engineering. The 4.2-liter inline-six under the giant forward-tilting engine cover helped haul this lithe coupe to about 150 miles per hour. Granted, sometimes the official figure is pegged at 149 miles per hour.
The E-Type is one of the most stunning vehicles of all time, even standing still it appears to be slicing through the air, with much of the exterior owing credit to the D-Type race car. Later models got more luxurious, but also heavier — partially thanks to an optional V12 engine. For purists, the early 1960s models are the epitome of Jaguar’s most elegant automobile.
The XK120 can be credited with firmly putting Jaguar on the performance map when it arrived in 1948. Not only did this sleek roadster have some of the prettiest lines to ever grace an automobile, the car’s name provided a not-too-subtle hint regarding its top speed. Granted, hitting 120 miles per hour meant removing the windshield and getting pretty personal with any incoming bugs. But as Jaguar’s first sports car in the post-WWII era, the XK120 was a devastatingly beautiful and fast automobile that cemented the brand’s legend.
Big, bold, and with room for four adults (plus lots of shopping bags!), the XJR is the Jaguar performance sedan for those who appreciate old-school charm and modern refinement. Oh, yes, and you get gobs of horsepower thrown into the mix, too.
The XJR sedan has long been the brand’s standard-bearer among other high-end luxury four doors. While the Germans always get the spotlight for creating insane machinery with AMG or M badges, the XJR lurks more under the radar, despite having 550 horsepower on tap. Press the throttle and get ready to be pushed back into your seat. The XJR sprints from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds, and has a top speed of 174 miles per hour.
10. Honorable mention: C-X75
We couldn’t resist adding a Jaguar supercar that came tantalizingly close to reality, only to be squashed by budget issues and a global economic meltdown. When it appeared at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, the C-X75 Concept looked like a million bucks, thanks to its aggressive exterior and stunning mid-engine shape.
Actually, the C-X75 was even more impressive when you looked beneath the surface: Powered by four electric motors, one located in each wheel, this all-wheel drive machine recharged its batteries via diesel fed micro-turbine engines. It all sounded too good to be true and, in the end, it was. Jaguar axed the program, and the C-X75 remained only a concept. If it had been built, this could easily have been the fastest Jaguar of all time.