The Jaguar XJ12/Daimler Double Six is available in four variants: long and short wheelbase and badged either as a Jaguar or a Daimler. The Daimler being a slightly higher specification, but the main difference is the addition of beautiful walnut "picnic tables" in the rear. This is no longer available and was replaced by a Daimler variant of the new Jaguar XJ8, several years ago, but it still makes a very interesting second-hand purchase, with good examples of this luxurious super-car available for just a few thousand pounds, despite it remarkable specification and original price of over £55,000 for the Jaguar version. I used one of these as my "company car" for three years and drove 60,000 very comfortable, relaxing miles in it.
What is it?
This is a very rare beast. A big four-door Jaguar Saloon with a six-litre V12 engine. In other words, the sort of engine only found in £120,000+ Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Aston Martins (mere £100K Ferraris etc just have a V8) It has the same body as an XJ6 and similar to the later XJ8 that replaced it. The similarly powered, supercharged XJR was cheaper and handled better, but just wasn't as smooth. The enormous old-fashioned engine, with lineage back to the late E-types of the 1970s purrs quietly as it effortlessly glides the two-tonne car along the road. Despite it's girth the Jag has performance similar to that of a standard Porsche Boxster, if not the handling nor the excitement, but of course is designed to be driven sedately and anonymously (It would make a great get-away car though - one driver, three bank-robbers, four doors and very fast) The XJ12 was allegedly, when it first came out, entered into a racing series up against powerful sporty coupes and lead every race, briefly, before breaking down in a cloud of steam.
Is it any good?
The ride is fantastic, extremely comfortable and the weight of the car just seems to flatten out any bumps in the road. Handling is surprisingly good for a car of its size, although is compromised a bit by the enormous weight hanging over the front wheels. The road noise seems fairly loud, because everything else is so quiet, and the big fat tyres rumble a little. The engine sounds wonderful and smooth because of the 12 cylinders although gets drowned out by the enormous cooling fan when it is getting hot (then it sounds like a very expensive Hoover) The over-all effect is similar to, and in many ways, better than an old Bentley. Unfortunately there is a massive downside. The fuel efficiency is terrible at an average of 16 mpg, barely capable of managing 20mpg on a long journey and easily into single figures in traffic. Reliability was appalling. In my last year with the car I doubt if I had a single week when it didn't break down or at least have a fluid leak of some sort. On the plus-side however, it did mean that the return leg of my daily 150 mile commute was often completed on the back of a recovery vehicle, which saved me a lot in petrol and I did get to know all of the RAC employees on the M3.
This car is easy to drive, if you have enough space. Motorways and wide, winding roads are enjoyable places to be, but at more than six feet wide it is wise to be careful in country lanes and parking is difficult. There are no parking sensors and the huge long bonnet and boot don't make life easier. The very low seating position also reduces visibility. The power-steering is wonderful (except when it springs a leak and squirts fluid every where) and makes maneuvering effortless. The brakes are very powerful and smoothly bring the car to a halt and ABS is fitted for safety, as is rudimentary traction control.
The interior is old-fashioned with the feel of a gentleman's club. Lots of leather and walnut veneer on the dashboard and each door. There is however some plastic above the dashboard, which spoils the effect a little. Two airbags at the front are hidden behind the walnut and in the steering wheel. Extremely powerful air-conditioning and a good quality stereo make it a very pleasant place to while away a few hours in a traffic jam. The seats are extremely comfortable, better than any I have experienced elsewhere. The three buttons in the door move the seats to his, hers and the butler's memorized positions, adjusting the headrest height and lumbar-support as well. Legroom in the back however is not good in the short-wheelbase car, due the thickness of the sumptuous padding in the seat, but very good in the long-wheelbase version. The boot is a good size, large enough for two large suitcases and a couple of smaller bags, compromised a little by the big fat spare-wheel and large fuel tank, which still only gives the car a 300 mile range at most due to the horrendous fuel consumption.
Other running costs:
Servicing was not too expensive, despite the regular attention required. A 10,000 mile service interval at a friendly specialist (i.e. not the Jaguar main dealer) was usually between £200 and £350, and most of the extra intermediate attention was just to replace various burst hoses, of which there were many. Tyres are huge, but not too expensive, at just over £100 each, because they are the same as those fitted to most ordinary XJs and Daimlers and therefore quite popular. Nothing major or expensive went wrong in the three years I had this car and it had over 150,000 miles on the odometer when I sold it. All of the break-downs were caused by minor inexpensive, but annoying things. The engines are reckoned to be good for 250,000 miles due to their low stress lives, but if a major engine or gearbox overhaul were required this would be extremely expensive and probably uneconomical unless you could do it yourself. Even a new radiator or rear-axle could break the bank.
Conclusion. Should you buy one?
I miss my old Jag. (I have to make do with a more modern V8 one now) but in these times of rising fuel costs and increased environmental awareness it is difficult to recommend this car for regular use. At 16 mpg the average fuel consumption is terrible and the reliability is appalling, but if you want to help the environment, buy one and use it only on special occasions, that way preventing someone else from driving it and ruining the planet.