Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
A Work of Art
In the years since the release of the XJ Jaguar, there has been plenty of criticism, and a fair amount was justified. As we have said on many other articles on the Unique Cars and Parts
site, any older Jag you buy today will have been well sorted. But in the interest of reporting accurate history, we cannot deny that the Jaguar was suffering quality control issues that, in turn, had a delaterious effect on resale value.
But even a Jaguar straight from the factory had plenty of good points. One was noise, or more to the point, a complete lack of it. Silence of operation was always one of the Jaguar strong points, along with a smoothness which few other makes were able to duplicate. Based on this criteria alone, the Jaguar (including the Daimler range) was on a par with Mercedes-Benz
in producing sophisticated well engineered luxury automobiles.
However the Jaguar differed from both its German counterparts in its total philosophy. Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi reflected teutonic efficiency – but Jaguar was more a work of art. And perhaps the ownership experience required a degree of pain, the owner suffering for the sake of art a notion that Salvador Dali
, and his obsession with the Cadillac
, well understood.
The Technological Equal of the Germans
At the time of the XJ it was very much the technological equal of the germans, which went some way to explaining the high prices asked. And there was the heritage of the marque, and the badge. You kind of only understood if you were behind the wheel. A Jaguar was like no other. Individual. Special. Iconic. And sometimes unreliable. So be it. Owners knew that Jaguar
was first with a mass produced double overhead camshaft six cylinder engine, and first again with a very modern, lightweight OHC 12 cylinder engine.
The Coventry firm pioneered disc brakes
and many other technical advances, always moving ahead a little at a time and consolidating as it went. The XJ6 was launched in 1968
with a design that boasted ride comfort, quietness and great road-handling. It was a front-engined, rear-wheel drive, coil-sprung saloon and had a ride that was softer and quieter than a Rolls-Royce
. In the beginning it was powered with the familiar XK 6-cylinder engine with the V-12 arriving in 1972
. Most of the XJ6's were auto, all had power steering
and a few had a short-stroke 2.8 litre engine.
Like its predecessors this car was comparatively cheap to buy, being half the price of its nearest competitor, the Mercedes
. The original XJ 4.2 sold in Australia for $32,-500, but this rose to $38,500 for the Series III. The Daimler Sovereign, again 4.2 litre six cylinder engined, rises from $33,480 to $39,500, while the Double six with its V12 engine of 5.3 litres went from $34,540 to $44,500 with even more extras fitted as standard. Dearest of the lot, as always, was the Vanden Plas which went from $42,940 to $52,500. But by the time of the the Series III quality was being questioned. Consumers lost confidence and sales plummeted.
John Egan arrested flagging sales with a huge drive to improve quality. In the Series III 4.2
Jaguar fitted halogen type headlights rather than the sealed beam tungsten fitted before. They revised the seats, which had wider section pleats and 38mm added to the seat squab height, as well as revised headrests. Lumbar support adjustment was standard on the front seats while, on the V12 engined Daimlers it was possible to obtain electric height adjustment for the driver and front passenger seats. Rear seat room was improved to provide an extra 38mm in height for the taller passenger. There was a new thicker tufted cut-pile carpeting, together with revised noise deadening underneath. Catching up with the germans, Jaguar fitted an intermittent control for the windshield wipers in addition to all the other speeds available and the "flick" single wipe mode.
There were also larger rear view mirrors to improve safety, and the XJ Series III
was one of the first cars to have an interior light delay to allow passengers to settle in before it went out. Even the car's locking system was updated, using a three key system. Personally we hated them, but we need to judge them on the time, and they were considered very innovative. A master key would lock all four doors and the boot with one movement. A "service" key was necessary to open the doors but would leave the boot locked. A third key was for the ignition alone. Probably a good idea if you were having your car serviced by dodgy brothers, but seriously, three keys?
The new features on the Series III included door handles, steering wheel and trim parts, although it was strange that radio/cassette player was still not fitted as standard across the range, given the price of entry. If you optioned the factory model, rather than fit an after market version, you got the excellent Pioneer KEX-20 model – and if you can find a good XJ6 fitted with such a unit, please, do not be tempted into turfing it into the bin. The Pioneer KEX-20 featured its own separate amplifier which was hidden away inside the console mounting. There was also Dolby noise reduction and a chrome tape switch. If you are under 40 that will probably result in a WTF? But seriously, Dolby AND Chrome on a car stereo in 1979
One Sweet Engine
Although the Jaguar six cylinder twin overhead camshaft engine was developed in 1948, it underwent continual development. Those driving around in the then latest 1.6 litre rice burners from Japan may have scoffed at what they perceived to be an antiquated engine, but once again you had to look past those with a simple mind. The engine in the XJ had very little in common with the original, there was a different spacing for the bores among other things. The addition of fuel injection increased power output by around 30 kW, making it mildly performance oriented, but perhaps more importantly the fuel economy was improved, especially on the three speed auto which was a little more economical even than the manual.
It was a traditional long stroke engine which ran on an 8.1:1 compression ratio, producing 152.9 kW DIN at 5000 rpm. There was also 314 Nm of torque at 1500 rpm. The cast iron block was fitted with interference fit dry iron liners. The crank ran in seven main bearings and was a molybdenum steel forging with three plane configuration. Aluminium was used for the cylinder head
with its twin cams, this being the first mass produced twin cam six cylinder at its introduction in 1948. The facia layout was similar to previous models, the slim rimmed leather covered steering wheel was still there, albeit with a revised centre boss and spoke. The seats were adjustable fore and aft, but there was no height adjustment. Oddly enough the indicator stalk was located on the left of the steering column, which was obviously a concession for the target US market, but it was strange that Jaguar did not have a system to switch these around dependent on which country, and which side the steering wheel was to be located.
On the Inside
With the indicator stalk on the left, that left the right hand one to handle the windscreen wipers and washers, as well as including an intermittent mode for the first time. Well formed Connolly leather
seats featured throughout, those at the rear easily accommodating three adults if the need arose. There was ducting from the air conditioner into the rear passenger area too. Electric windows were fitted all round, there being a centre armrest mounted switch bank under the control of the front seat passengers, with the rear passengers having a duplicate set for their windows, in the centre console ahead of them. Strangely, one of the more common criticism of the XJ was to do with the seat belt inertia mechanism, that was far too temperamental. Perhaps Jaguar were trying to remind you that the cost of ownership included a level of frustration. Whatever the case, many owners claimed it near impossible to extract enough length to enable them to fasten the belt on just one attempt. A common phrase was, apparently, "I'll just let the engine warm up while I put on the belt". You had to become a deft hand to ensure that time did not result in an overheated engine.
The interior carrying space was well sorted, with a useful tray fitted on the facia for odds and ends that might be needed in a hurry. Along with the lockable glove box in the carefully matched walnut dash, at the rear there were pockets in the front seat backrests as well as the wide parcel tray under the rear window. Boot space was not all that generous, but provided you did not need to haul more than one body around in the boot (Terry Clark stuck to just the one) you could fit ample luggage, provided it was uniform in shape. A brilliant tool kit also came as standard, beautifully presented in a case complete with carrying handle.
An Adrenalin Pumping Feeling
Despite all the refinement designed into the car, the Jaguar engineers retained just enough adrenalin pumping feeling to bring the XJ alive. You could feel it through the steering wheel, and you could feel it in the way the tyres
would bite on the road surface. Under brakes
too there was plenty of confidence in the way it came to a stop. Simply crusing at 100 km/h wasn't what the XJ was all about. So fine was the ride characteristic, and suppression of noise both from the road and the engine, that the speedo
became a very necessary instrument. It was very easy to find yourself doing well over the speed limit, and need to hit the anchors before you hit the piezo speed strips.
Around town the feeling of calm made driving a pleasure. The steering
response allowed the car to be pointed with a minimum of fuss, and the sure footed braking gave instantaneous response. Interior silence was best up to 130 km/h or so. Only after that with the engine starting to wind out towards the 5000 rpm red line did the engine noise start to percolate through. But at no time did it intrude in an offensive manner. Automatic shifts by the Borg Warner 66 transmission were hardly discernible – nowhere near as good as the Volkswagen
DSG – but by 1979
standards pretty darn good. Because of relatively high gearing, initial acceleration was not in the sparkling category, but as soon as the engine started to rev a little, the speed built up quickly. Zero to 60 km/h was arrived at in 5.1 seconds, and 100 km/h in 10.3 seconds. By todays standards not all that special, but for the time, and with a car weighing over 1800 kilograms powered by 152 kW, it was pretty bloody impressive.
On The Road
In general, acceleration was best left to the automatic gearbox rather than using the T-bar manually. That, if nothing else, proved that the ratios were well chosen. Fuel consumption would clock in at around 16 litres l/100 km. On the highway you could expect around 13 litres /100 kms but if you were a lead foot this could drop away to the 18 litres/100 km mark without too much trouble. It was better than the V12 engine, which was hard pressed to do better than 28 litres/100 kms. We believe the last of the V12 could manage 20 litres /100 kms, and if you disagree there is always the comments section at the bottom of this article.
The handling and road holding were exactly what you would expect from a car with such a heritage. It was not a sports car, but an adventurous driver could do some pretty neat things with it, and there were very few vices. There was a slight touch of understeer, but it was hardly noticeable and the XJ could be cornered at very high speeds without it wanting to take over. Under heavy braking the XJ would pull up straight and true, although some owners reported that either the left or right had wheel could lock, upsetting stability marginally. Reports vary, so it seems this was a result of quality control rather than an inherent fault with the design. But even if there was a slight pull, the brakes
always worked well, and safely.
The Leyland Australia Mastercare Plan
With Jaguars reputation pretty much down the tube, Leyland Australia
introduced a "Mastercare" plan in an attempt to provide sufficient confidence for customers to take the plunge. Each purchaser of a then new Jaguar
range received a Mastercare kit which included a personal identity card to obtain the service. This entitled the owner to a 24 month or 40,000 kilometre (whichever came first) warranty, as well as free maintenance service for up to 40,000 kilometres or three years (whichever came first). The owners only paid for the materials used. Hardly an inducement today, but check the warranty and servicing available on cars from the late 1970s and early 1980s and you will appreciate just how generous the scheme was. Best of all, the Mastercare plan applied to all subsequent owners of the car until the time or distance limit was reached.