Five Clas­sic Tri­als

Jaguar XJ6 Se­ries 3

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week -

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…

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