The Jaguar XJ: History, Generations, Specifications

Jaguar XJ Essential History

Series 1 Jaguar XJs represent the cleanest, most basic approach to the model with svelte chrome bumpers, a large front grille and other classic styling elements. Launched with Jaguar’s straight-six XK engine, as used in the Jaguar E-type, the XJ was initially available in 2.8- and 4.2-liter capacities. In 1972, a 5.3-liter V-12 engine was offered for the first time, along with a long-wheelbase variant that provided more legroom for rear-seat passengers. Automatic three-speed transmissions from Borg-Warner were employed.

In 1973 the Series 2 Jaguar XJ arrived, updated just slightly for new U.S. bumper requirements. Bumpers were made larger with rubber inserts and the front grille was reduced in size to compensate. Additionally, a new 3.4-liter straight-six became available and starting in 1974, the XJ sedan was only available in the long-wheelbase configuration. The short-wheelbase chassis became a basis for the XJ two-door coupe for the 1974 model year. 1975 also brought fuel injection to the V-12 engine, while it would take until 1978 for six-cylinder variants to gain the same technology. In 1977, the V-12’s Borg-Warner automatic transmission was replaced with a three-speed GM Turbo-Hyrdromatic unit for greater reliability with the more powerful engine.

A Series III Jaguar XJ arrived for 1979 with a refreshed body design by Italian coachbuilder Pininfarina. The 3.4-liter and 4.2-liter I-6 engines and the 5.3-liter V-12 remained in production and for the 1983 model year, the XJ’s interior was updated and modernized somewhat, though copious amounts of Connolly Leather and burlwood dash trim remained. An upscale Sovereign trim level was added in 1984.

For the 1987 model year, Jaguar launched the all-new Jaguar XJ40, a fourth-generation model which would last through 1994. This generation of XJ brought the most significant exterior restyle yet, with squared off lines and few of the curves that earlier models wore. A new straight-six engine dubbed AJ6 was also employed with a new dual-overhead cam design that increased power and efficiency. The V-12 remained with various updates for drivability and fuel economy.

A fifth-generation Jaguar XJ launched for 1994 and this is the first model that was designed fully under Ford ownership. Called the X300 internally, this new XJ made a return to the curved rear fenders and dual-cowl headlights that defined early XJ models and was built in large part with modern robotic construction methods. Again, the straight-six engine was refined into the AJ16 variant and both a new ZF four-speed automatic and Getrag five-speed manual transmission were available. A new supercharged, 4.0-liter variant found a home in the new, sporty XJR model which was most often equipped with a four-speed GM automatic, though some British and European spec models came with a Getrag five-speed manual. A further updated V-12 engine remained available with a new crankshaft and distributorless ignition system, while the option returned for both short- and long-wheelbase chassis.

From 1997 through 2003, X308 Jaguar XJ was sold with minor body updates, but significantly different powertrain options. Gone were the six- and 12-cylinder models of old, replaced with 3.2- and 4.0-liter variants of a new AJ-V8 eight-cylinder engine. Standard XJ models got naturally aspirated versions of this powerplant, while a supercharged 4.0-liter V-8 XJR made a return. The XJR also received an optional R1 package with a stiffer suspension, bigger brakes by Brembo, and new 18-inch BBS wheels with a  classic Panasport-type appearance. Transmissions were five-speed automatics produced by Mercedes.

Perhaps the last of the more traditional Jaguar XJ models, the X350 variant was produced from 2003 to 2009. With new aluminum-intensive construction this XJ saved some weight and added rigidity over its predecessor, but the styling wasn’t to everyone’s taste after the high-water mark of the previous two generations. A 3.0-liter I-6 engine returned to the lineup, along with a 2.7-liter diesel V-6, while various eight-cylinder engines (including a supercharged XJR mill) made up the bulk of volume. New multi-link suspension replaced the old A-arm design and self-leveling air suspension appealed to those who might otherwise choose a Mercedes.

Finally, the X351 Jaguar XJ began production for the 2010 model year with new styling by Ian Callum that reflected the new direction of the XF midsize sedan that had launched three years earlier. The design was a dramatic departure from XJs of old and as such, was somewhat polarizing especially for brand loyalists. In the U.S., a variety of supercharged V-8 engine options were available, with a twin-turbo diesel V-6 also available in other countries, including England. A new six-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel mounted shift paddles and contemporary infotainment package brought the XJ kicking and screaming into the new millennium. This model was produced through 2019 and an all-new XJ is expected to debut in late 2020 or 2021 with a fully electric powertrain.

Jaguar XJ Highlights

Among the more collectible XJ models isn’t a sedan at all: it’s the two-door XJ coupe, dubbed XJ-C, produced for just four years, 1975-’78. Like contemporary Mercedes coupes of the day, the XJ-C featured no B-pillar, allowing both front side windows and rear three-quarter windows to be dropped fully into the body, creating a large side opening. Unfortunately, this also created water intrusion problems that were never fully rectified. Without a B-pillar, structural rigidity was also not as strong as sedan variants. Still, the coupe was gorgeous and came with the more nimble short-wheelbase chassis and a choice of 4.2-liter I-6 or 5.3-liter V-12 engine options. Fewer than 10,000 XJ-C models were built and they command a healthy premium in today’s market versus their four-door counterparts.

Jaguar XJ Buying Tips

Jaguar XJ models of all generations were expensive vehicles when new, with complicated electronic systems and many things to go wrong. Predictably, Jaguar parts and service are not inexpensive and though it’s entirely possible to purchase a used Jaguar XJ for four-digit prices, the likelihood of using such a car as affordable and reliable daily transportation is not strong. That said, if you have the budget and temperament for a classic British luxury car, we would recommend looking at Series 1 XJ sedans as well as the XJ-C coupe. Don’t dismiss a car that’s had its English I-6 or V-12 engine replaced with a 5.7-liter Chevy V-8, especially if you’re on a budget. These engines can provide more reliability and performance than the Jaguar factory mills if your purist tendencies don’t interfere.

Jaguar XJ Articles on Automobile

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300 limited-edition Alexandra Daddario models before hiatus.

Behind the wheel of Jag’s first all-wheel-drive XJ.

Jaguar XJ Recent Auctions

Jaguar XJ Quick Facts

  • First year of production: 1968
  • Last year of production: 2019 (new electric variant forthcoming)
  • Total sold: More than 500,000 (approx. )
  • Original price (base): $6,465 (in 1968)
  • Characteristic feature: Britain’s quintessential luxury sedan, the XJ has always been as quiet and composed as it is sporty and fun to drive.

Jaguar XJ FAQ

What does XJ stand for in Jaguar?

‘XJ’ was originally an internal code name that stood for “experimental Jaguar.”

Is the Jaguar XJ a good car?

The Jaguar XJ for many years was consistently voted one of the finest vehicles built by members of the automotive press and it has won many comparison tests and awards through the years. Jaguars do tend to be somewhat temperamental vehicles to own, despite their positive luxury and performance attributes.

When did Jaguar XJ change body style?

The Jaguar XJ went through a couple major body style changes, one in 1987 with the launch of the XJ40, then again in 2010 with the X351 variant.

Is Jaguar discontinuing the XJ?

While the Jaguar XJ is temporarily discontinued, we’re rumored to see the all-new electric-powered Jaguar XJ flagship sedan soon.

2002 Jaguar XJR Specifications
ENGINE 4.0L supercharged DOHC 32-valve V-8/365 hp @ 6,150 rpm, 387 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm
TRANSMISSION 5-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, RWD sedan
L x W x H 197.8 x 70.8 x 51.5 in
WHEELBASE 113.0 in
WEIGHT 3,924 lb
0-60 MPH 5.3 sec
TOP SPEED 155 mph

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