The introduction of the XJ6 in 1968 ushered in a new era for Jaguar. It was the beginning of a time where all of the cars that rolled out of the Browns Lane factory were based on one platform – all the way from the XJ 2.8/3.4 to the glamorous XJ-S V12. Once again, Browns Lane was building the best affordable luxury saloon in the world.
The Series I XJ6 was not an entirely new car, though, as it was powered by the impressive XK twin-cam engine that first saw the light of day in 1948. The XJ was launched with its XK engine available in two sizes – 2.8- and 4.2-litres. The smaller car ended up lacking performance and reliability, so the larger version became the optimum model in the range.
But it was designed to reinvent the Jaguar brand, moving it forwards significantly. The XJ boasted independent suspension all-round, and an opulent new interior to match its expansive (compared with the Mk2-based cars) exterior dimensions. It lacked a little in rear legroom, but that was fixed with the arrival of the later long-wheelbase body.
Unlike the 2.8-litre version, of which few survive, the 4.2-litre XJ in Series I form was popular with buyers and has a good survival rate today. It’s easy to see why, as the ride quality and interior comfort are astounding, while roadholding is tenacious. Rust is a significant issue, though, and few unrestored cars remain.
In 1972, and a year after it was rolled out in the E-type Series 3, the Hassan-designed V12 engine was installed in the XJ saloon body. The turbine-smooth power unit found its true home in the larger XJ bodyshell. With up to 300bhp in the later versions, it offered 150mph performance and effortless high-speed cruising.
The most beautiful of the lot – the XJC – was also the most incomplete model in the range. It didn’t help that it was prematurely announced in the summer of 1973 – two years before it went on sale. And consequently, the XJ 5.3C (and XJ6 Coupe) are still forgotten gems to this day. Circumstance certainly didn’t help – the eventual launch conincided with the fuel crisis and then recession, and sales dried up to almost nothing. But worse of all, the coupe’s arrival coincided with the introduction of the Series 2 model, which saw many downgrades in build and material quality. Also, the frameless windows (which caused much trouble during development) were noisy at speed and often, while the later Lucas fuel injection set-up caused further problems.
Series 2 upgrades
But it wasn’t all bad with the Series 2. The new heating and ventilation system was welcome, as was the improved fuel economy thanks to an updated engine. The interior received a substantial update, but the only visual differences externally were the smaller grille and raised bumpers, to help the XJ meet US safety regulations. The slimline front helped it look more modern. But these were tough years for Jaguar, and its reputation as a quality carmaker was put to the test on the back of failing XJs.
But that was turned around after the arrival of the re-roofed (by Pininfarina) Series 3, which after the arrival of new boss John Egan, started being built to a much higher standard. So much so, that when the XJ6 went out of production in 1986 (the XJ12 hung on until 1992), it was enjoying its strongest ever sales. Not bad for a car that had been in production 18 years at that point.