50 years and eight generations of Jaguar XJ

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50 years of XJ lights off Jaguar

It was 1968 when Ian Callum first saw Jaguar’s newest sedan, the XJ6. It was the last Jaguar to be designed by the brand’s founder, Sir William Lyons, and it left an imprint on the 14-year-old.

“At the time the XJ6 came out, it wasn’t considered a proper Jag, and yet it became the quintessential design for years,” Callum says. “When it came out, people my father’s age said, ‘That’s not a Jaguar.’ And as a teenager, I thought, ‘Well, that’s a Jag, and I love it, so you can all go to hell.’ ”

These days, Callum is Jaguar’s director of design, and the XJ6 remains an important car to him, influencing the appearance of Jaguar’s current sedans, which lack the retro influence that had calcified Jaguar design for two decades prior to his arrival in 1999.

“Ironically, Lyons had no respect for the past. He was quite frivolous about it,” Callum says, explaining that Lyons disregarded consistency in styling, model lineup, or product names. That’s how Jaguar made such great leaps in design, from the 1948 XK-120 to the 1961 E-Type, or from the 1959 Mark II, arguably the world’s first sports sedan, to the 1968 XJ6.

Perhaps that’s why Callum’s XJ, introduced for 2010, was a dramatic departure from the XJ6 that had come before, or when viewed alongside its conservatively styled competition from Audi, BMW, Lexus Infiniti, or Mercedes-Benz. “That’s our raison d’etre, and it always has been in the past,” he says.

This year, the model celebrates its 50th anniversary with a special XJ50 model. There’s much worth celebrating. Let’s take a drive through the XJ hall of fame.

1968 XJ6 Series I 4.2-Liter

1968 Jaguar XJ6 gold front 3/4
1968 Jaguar XJ6 Jaguar

Lyons replaced Jaguar’s sedan line-up with a single series, the XJ6. Powered by the XK-E‘s double-overhead-cam 4.2-liter inline six, it developed 246 horsepower through a four-speed manual transmission. Power rack and pinion steering, four-wheel independent suspension, and four-wheel disc brakes were standard. So equipped, the XJ6 would reach 60 mph in less than nine seconds; its top speed was 124 mph. A three-speed automatic transmission, power windows, and rear defroster were among the options, although the automatic would become standard in the U.S. in 1970, when the car finally reached America. It arrived just as British Motor Holdings, which had bought Jaguar two years earlier, merged with Leyland Motors to form British Leyland, a move that Lyons thought “ruinous.”  

Price when new: $6270 ($45,013 adjusted for inflation).

Hagerty valuation: From $7400 for #4 (Fair) condition to $34,100 for #1 (Concours) condition.

1973 XJ6 Series II 4.2-Liter

1973 Jaguar XJ6 red city street
1973 Jaguar XJ6 Jaguar

Introduced in 1972, the year Lyons retired from Jaguar, the XJ Series II’s changes were minimal, with the exception of a redesigned front bumper to meet new U.S. safety regulations, and a lower wider grille. The 4.2-liter six-cylinder returned, but was now rated at 150 hp with the resulting degradation in 0–60 mph time to 10.8 seconds. A Borg-Warner three-speed automatic transmission, air-conditioning, power locks, power windows, tinted glass, rear defroster, and whitewall tires were standard. Uniquely, this model was first Jaguar to use fiber-optic dashboard lighting, illuminating a revised instrument panel. A longer wheelbase XJ6 L model appeared for the first time the following year. Daimler versions were sold in Europe, but were never exported to the U.S.

Price when new: $9500 ($56,862 adjusted for inflation).

Hagerty valuation: $5600 for #4 (Fair) condition to $20,700 for #1 (Concours) condition.

1973 Series II XJ12

1977 Jaguar Series II XJ12
Jaguar Series II XJ12 Jaguar

When introduced, the XJ12 became the world’s only mass-produced 12-cylinder sedan and, with a top speed of 140 mph, the fastest four-door of its time. Originally meant for racing, the 5.3-liter double-overhead-cam V-12 was first used in the 1971 XK-E at a time when only Ferrari and Lamborghini offered 12-cylinder engines. When the XJ12 reached America in 1973, it’s compression ratio was lowered to 7.8:1 from the European V-12’s 9.0:1, with horsepower dropping to 241 from 265. Leather seats, larger wheels, a rear defroster, and a three-speed automatic transmission were standard. An AM/FM radio was optional. The XJ12’s performance matched that of earlier XJ6s, with a 0–60 mph time of 8.5 seconds. Like the XJ6, a longer wheelbase XJ12 L model appeared in 1974.

Price when new: $11,025 ($65,990 adjusted for inflation).

Hagerty valuation: $6400 for #4 (Fair) condition to $24,500 for #1 (Concours) condition.

1975 Series II XJ6C coupe

1975 Jaguar XJ6C Advertisement
1975 Jaguar XJ6C Jaguar

Advertised as “the corporate sports car” in the U.S., the XJ6C coupe was a two-door pillarless sedan based on the XJ6 Series I short-wheelbase sedan chassis but wearing two doors, a shorter roof, and a vinyl top. (Well, it was 1975.) Like its siblings, it was powered by the 4.2-liter six or 5.3-liter V-12. Its pillarless body reduced structural rigidity compared to the sedan, forcing engineers to devise an intricate cable-and-pulley system to prevent wind leaks around the frameless door glass. Predictably, the XJ6C’s short wheelbase limited back seat space. It was built until 1978, by which point XJ-S sales syphoned demand. Although Daimler versions were sold in Europe, they never made it to the U.S.

Price when new: $13,750 ($63,459 adjusted for inflation)

Hagerty valuation: $6100 for #4 (Fair) condition to $29,300 for #1 (Concours) condition.

1980 Series III XJ6 4.2-Liter

1980 Jaguar XJ6 advertisement silver
1980 Jaguar XJ6 Jaguar

Although resembling its predecessors, the Series III was styled by Pininfarina. Sporting a taller roofline, larger windshield and rear window, the new XJ had slimmer rear roof pillars and updated tail lamps. A redesigned grille and flush door handles completed the car’s more contemporary feel. Jaguar’s familiar 176-hp twin-cam six and three-speed automatic transmission were standard. The XJ6 was lavishly equipped with an AM/FM stereo with cassette deck, power windows, power mirrors, rear defroster, automatic conditioning, telescoping steering wheel, power sunroof, leather upholstery, and cruise control. Not returning was the XJ12, although it was sold overseas. An upscale Vanden Plas model reappeared for a four year run starting in 1982, wearing metallic paint and boasting a more opulent interior.

Price when new: $25,000 ($115,380 adjusted for inflation).

Hagerty valuation: $6400 for #4 (Fair) condition to $22,300 for #1 (Concours) condition.

1988 XJ6 3.6-Liter

1989 Jaguar XJ6 (XJ40)
Jaguar XJ6 (XJ40) Jaguar

Internally known as the XJ40, the fourth generation XJ6 debuted just as Ford Motor Co. bought Jaguar for $2.5 billion. The new XJ was more angular the previous version, while retaining a familiar look. It also used single rectangular headlights, rather than four round headlights, and was the first Jaguar to use the J gate gear shifter. A new all-aluminum 181-hp 3.6-liter DOHC inline six-cylinder engine with four-valves per cylinder was mated to a ZF four-speed automatic transmission. Horsepower jumped to 195 the following year and 223 by 1990, thanks to a new 4.0-liter DOHC inline six. Its fully independent suspension and four-wheel disc brakes returned, augmented with a Bosch anti-lock braking system. The standard equipment list grew longer. By 1994, the XJ12 would reappear, rated at 313 horsepower, and capable of reaching 60 mph in 7.5 seconds.

Price when new: $40,500 ($85,188 adjusted for inflation).

Hagerty valuation: N/A.

1995 XJ6/XJR/XJ12

1995 Jaguar XJ6 blue 3/4 front
1995 Jaguar XJ6 Mecum

A restyle resurrected some of the XJ6’s classic styling cues such as its iconic four round headlights. The 4.0-liter DOHC inline-six returned, rated at 245 horsepower, alongside a supercharged version that pumped out 322 hp on the new high-performance XJR model. And the XJ12 returned with 313 hp, all mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. As you might expect, the XJR was the fastest cat this year, able to reach 60 mph in 6.6 seconds, according to Motor Trend magazine. The long-wheelbase models returned for 1996, with length added behind the B-pillars, as did the elegant Vanden Plas, although it would be the last year for the XJ12.

Price when new: $53,450 ($87,917 adjusted for inflation).

Hagerty valuation: N/A.

1998 XJ8/XJR V8 4.0-Liter

1998 Jaguar XJ8 Vanden Plas 3/4 front green plants
1998 Jaguar XJ8 Vanden Plas Mecum

An aluminum V-8 engine was placed under the bonnet in the XJ for the first time, replacing the optional Vl2 that debuted in 1972 for the 1973 model year. The engine had debuted in the XK8 sports car that had been introduced the year before. Performance and refinement were vastly improved, and a derivative of this engine remains available today. Rated at 290 horsepower, it was mated to a five-speed automatic transmission and was standard in the XK8L and Vanden Plas as well. The XJR reappeared, with a supercharged and intercooled version of the same engine producing a healthy 370 horsepower, dispensing with 60 mph in 6.7 seconds. Other changes included new bumpers, a rounded mesh grille and a new instrument panel. By 2000, Jaguar would place the XJR’s supercharged engine in the Vanden Plas.

Price when new: $54,750, or $85,585 adjusted for inflation

Hagerty valuation: N/A.

2004 XJ8/XJR

2004  Jaguar XJ8 Vanden Plas press photo
2004 Jaguar XJ8 Vanden Plas Jaguar

When the XJ8 arrived for 2003, it boasted advanced lightweight aluminum monocoque body; the only other car offered utilizing such technology was from Audi. The body was 60-percent stiffer and 40-percent lighter than the old XJ by rivet bonding and adhesives in its construction, just as in the aerospace industry. But the car’s higher waistline and old-school look was widely criticized. The XJ8 and long-wheelbase XJ8 Vanden Plas came with an aluminum 294-hp 4.2-liter V-8 mated to a new ZF six-speed automatic transmission, that sprinted to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds. The XJR returned as well, with a supercharged 390-hp 4.2-liter V-8, and able to reach 60 mph 1.3 seconds sooner than the standard car. A new air suspension enhanced ride quality. In March 2008, India’s Tata Motors bought Jaguar from Ford Motor Co. for $2.3 billion.

Price when new: $59,990 ($74,495 adjusted for inflation).

Hagerty valuation: N/A.

2011 XJ

2011 Jaguar XJ sedan
2011 Jaguar XJ Jaguar

Adapting the arched roofline of classic Jaguar sports coupes, the radically redesigned XJ and 4.9-inch longer XJL was a significant departure from previous XJ styling. A 385-hp 5.0-liter V-8 or a 470-hp supercharged version of the same engine were offered, as were new Supersport models with a supercharged 510-hp V-8. A six-speed automatic transmission was standard. New interiors established the look of modern Jaguars, eschewing Jaguar’s traditional wood-laden interior for a more modern look, replacing the J-Gate shifter with a rotary knob, and trading traditional gauges for a thin-film-transistor LCD screen. In 2013, the XJ would get a new base engine, a supercharged 340-hp 3.0-liter V-6, while all XJs received a new ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. A new touchscreen infotainment system, dubbed InControl Touch Pro, appeared for 2016.

Price when new: $72,500 ($83,635 adjusted for inflation).

Hagerty valuation: N/A.

2019 XJ

2019 Jaguar XJ50 sedan front 3/4
2019 Jaguar XJ50 Jaguar

Despite its age, the XJ retains its radical look, and comes with a 340-hp supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 in the XJ R-Sport and XJL Portfolio. Next comes the 470-hp supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 in the XJ and XJL Supercharged, with the 575-hp supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 topping the line in the XJR575. Rear-wheel drive and a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission are standard. All-wheel drive is available on the XJ R-Sport and XJL Portfolio. A special-edition long-wheelbase XJ50 powered by a 340-hp 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 or a 470-hp 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 is available, sporting special trim to celebrate the model’s 50th anniversary.

Price: $75,400

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