JAGUAR XJS BUYING SECRETS
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
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.