De­spite a dif­fi­cult birth in the mid-1970s, this grand tourer earned its spurs as one of Jag’s most iconic mod­els and is now a de­cent used buy, as John Evans ex­plains

Autocar - - THIS WEEK -

For­get the rust, the peel­ing ve­neers and the oc­ca­sion­ally op­ti­mistic ask­ing prices – the XJS’S big­gest prob­lem is, surely, its suc­ces­sor: the bet­ter-made, bet­ter-to-drive and bet­ter-value XK8.

To re­solve the de­bate, let’s con­sider the view of one XJS owner: “The XJS is like lit­tle else on the road. When you are sit­ting in the car, you feel like you are driv­ing a Rolls or a Bent­ley. Its low, wide stance oozes sporti­ness, class and style. Damn, I love my XJS.”

Prob­lem solved: the XJS it is. More specif­i­cally, in terms of this guide, the facelifted coupé and convertible pro­duced from 1991 to 1996, the lat­ter be­ing the year the model’s 21-year reign came to an end. Of course, be­gin­ning in 1991 is to ig­nore 16 years of XJS pro­duc­tion, be­cause the model was launched in 1975. The first 2+2 coupé was pow­ered by a 5.3-litre V12 driv­ing the rear wheels through a man­ual or au­to­matic gear­box. In 1981, the en­gine be­came the 5.3 HE, fea­tur­ing com­bus­tion cham­bers that swirled the fuel around be­fore ig­ni­tion for greater ef­fi­ciency.

And then, in 1983, the seeds of the next-gen­er­a­tion XJS were sown with the in­tro­duc­tion of the 3.6-litre AJ6 straight-six en­gine mated to a man­ual gear­box (an au­to­matic fol­lowed in 1987). Also in 1983, the XJ-SC cabriolet was launched, to be re­placed by the convertible in 1988.

To­day, late-1980s 3.6s and 5.3s rub shoul­ders with post-1991 cars, the most ex­pen­sive com­mand­ing prices well into five fig­ures. Buy one if you must but, re­ally, your money is bet­ter lav­ished on a cher­ished, post-1991 facelifted XJS and, in par­tic­u­lar, a 4.0 Cel­e­bra­tion convertible.

Post-1991 XJSS are de­sir­able, not least be­cause they use gal­vanised steel body parts. How­ever, only the ma­jor body parts that rusted to dust on the old model, such as the wings, sills and floor­pan, were gal­vanised. At the same time, Jaguar sim­pli­fied the body’s con­struc­tion, so re­duc­ing the op­por­tu­nity for cor­ro­sion to break out. All that said, even with th­ese bet­ter-pro­tected cars, you should still check for cor­ro­sion in the cabin and boot floors, the bot­toms of the wheel arches and the sus­pen­sion mounts.

An­other thing that sets the facelifted cars apart is a sleeker ap­pear­ance, which fea­tures taste­ful wrap­around rear lights and fewer chrome and plas­tic adorn­ments. Also, the model ac­quired an en­larged, 4.0-litre ver­sion of the AJ6 en­gine that pow­ered first the coupé and then the convertible. It’s a de­tail, but the rear disc brakes be­came out­board types in­stead of in­board, greatly sim­pli­fy­ing their main­te­nance.

In 1994, the AJ6 en­gine gained coil-on-plug ig­ni­tion to be­come the AJ16. It’s per­haps the most rounded and sat­is­fy­ing en­gine of all. With the end in sight, the XJS Cel­e­bra­tion 4.0 was launched the fol­low­ing year with di­a­mond-turned wheels, Jaguar mono­grammed seats and a tra­di­tional wooden steering wheel. Prices start at around £9500 for high­mil­ers with a full ser­vice his­tory. Buy be­fore they get any more ex­pen­sive.

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