Five Classic Trials
Jaguar XJ6 Series 3
The XJ6 is probably second only to the XJ- S as far as controversy is concerned. Generally hailed as one of the greatest saloon cars in the world on its launch in 1968, the original XJ6 was a potent combination of luxury and smoothness.
The Series 2, on the other hand, tends to be associated with British Leyland having infested Jaguar’s very core with its poor build quality and awful colours. Which leaves us with the Series 3, a car that Jaguar desperately needed when it was launched in 1979.
Pininfarina cast its magic over what was an already beautiful car, with new body panels, more glass and a revised interior. The ‘new’ car was available in six-cylinder 3.4 and 4.2-litre guise and – oh, glory – as a 5.3-litre V12, but the 4.2 is generally considered to be the pick of the range. We’re are about to test that theory by driving this near-mint 32,000 miler.
The door closes with a reassuring thud, and you settle low down into a deliciously comfortable seat. Sadly this later car lacks the Series 1’s exciting vast array of toggle switches, but the switchgear feels solid enough and the deeply lustrous wood is a work of art. Beyond the chunky steering wheel, with its wood effect rim ( hmm…), are six circular binnacles; the two larger ones contain the rev counter and speedometer, the smaller ones oil pressure, ammeter, fuel and temperature.
Turn the key and the engine cranks over with the sort of noise that characterises all XJ6s – that of several cars all starting at once – before settling to a quiet thrum that gets even quieter when you ease the gear lever into Drive.
Just leave it there and bury the throttle, though, and performance feels a mite disappointing; it may have over 200bhp on tap, but it’s got 1760kg to lug around, too. The trick to wringing the most out of it – as famously revealed in Autocar’s 1979 road-test of an early S3, and apparently sanctioned by Jaguar itself – is to redline it in first gear before dropping it back into Drive. Sounds drastic, but this approach shaved nearly a second off the 0-60mph time Autocar recorded, and a full 1.6 seconds off its 0-110mph time.
All that said, the XJ6 was always more cruiser than bruiser, and the overtaking thrust under kickdown is actually more than adequate in the real world.
The S3 lost none of its predecessors’ B-road barn-storming prowess, either. Less power-assistance than before beefed up the steering and its combination of cossetting ride and cornering agility frankly beggars belief.
Less car, and more motoring experience, then – the S3 is every inch a pukka XJ6.
Revised interior lacks S1’s ultimate charm but none of its comfort and opulence. Not sure about that fake wood steering wheel, though…