The XJ Story
Learn how the Jaguar XJ has evolved over the years to become what it has today.
1968 - MARK 1, SERIES 1
Back in late 1968, the straight-six engined XJ - designed to replace most of Jaguar's saloon range and the car to begin the XJ lineage - was unveiled to huge acclaim. It certainly impressed one 13-year-old boy as he stood for more than 50 minutes outside a Jaguar showroom in Aberdeen, Scotland. Ian Callum, now Jaguar design director, was transfixed by the new XJ behind the glass. "It's the car that put stance in the automotive dictionary," says Ian. "It was a revelation back in 1968." And it wasn't just Ian who thought so: in its October 5 issue, Motor magazine gave its first impressions of the car. "Such is the standing of Jaguar, both as a status symbol and an example of automotive engineering, that the advent of a new model is almost a social event as well as a matter of great interest to keen motorists the world over," it wrote. "The XJ6 has a body/chassis structure of striking new design and innovation. As usual, the equipment is extensive and luxurious. The interior is well arranged and has front seats that are among the most comfortable we have tried. It's hardly necessary to say that the performance is very brisk indeed. Handling is of a high order. On corners, the XJ6 is most reassuring."
Other titles agreed: "If you do not intend to buy an XJ6, don't try one, for ordinary cars will be spoilt for you thereafter," wrote Autosport, August 6, 1970. "The road holding is astonishing," wrote CAR, March 1969. "Certainly among the best any nation has known in 75 years." CAR went on to name the XJ Car of the Year, 1969.
1972 - THE XJ12 ARRIVES
As well as introducing the first long-wheelbase XJ, Jaguar launched the XJ12, powered by its 5.3-litre V12. The fastest production four-door car in the world, it reached speeds of almost 140mph. Autocar was suitably impressed in its July 13, 1972 edition: "In the upper ranges, the performance moves into the realm of the fabulous, with superb surging acceleration back into the 100s after any hold up or cautionary need to drop down to about 60mph."
1973 - XJ GETS A SECOND SERIES
Five years after the launch of the original XJ, the Series II marked its first major redesign. A long-wheelbase version of the Series I had been made available in 1972, as well as a V12 version, and both were part of the range for the XJ’s second iteration. "Step on the throttle, and it is all big cat, with the seat back giving you a most powerful shove and the speedometer needle sweeping happily round the dial until it passes the 140mph mark," Motor magazine wrote on September 15. "I tried both a 108.8in wheelbase XJ6 and a 112.8in wheelbase XJ12L, and was somewhat relieved to learn that even Jaguar company people who are constantly changing from one wheelbase length to the other cannot tell from the handling which they are driving."
1979 - THIRD TIME IS THE CHARM FOR MARK 1, SERIES III XJ
The third - and final - re-design for the original Mark 1 XJ focused on the exterior, subtly tweaked and made even sleeker. "It did not remain unnoticed at Jaguar that the XJ6 is not just a piece of art, but an object of utility in the first line," wrote German title Auto Motor und Sport that year. "The gear change is light and exact. If engineers talk of a torque engine these days, this classic engine exemplifies what they talk about." The XJ Series 3 ran from 1979 to 1992.
1986 - A NEW LIFE BEGINS FOR XJ
After three iterations of the original XJ, 1986 marked the introduction of the first, truly all-new XJ in almost 20 years. This new XJ had undergone an extensive six-year re-design process. "The all-new XJ6, with its smooth six-cylinder engine and a brilliant handling/ride … [is] arguably the most comfortable car in the world," Autocar wrote in its October 11 issue. "Everything, from the seats to the air-conditioning, has been completely re-designed, proven and tested. The XJ6’s legendary ride is improved with a new, patented suspension. It gives the car superb handling. The result is an elegant, handsome Jaguar that carries on the XJ6 heritage."
1994 – HARDER, STRONGER, TESTED LONGER
In 1994, Jaguar unveiled an XJ re-design that underwent the most comprehensive testing of any Jaguar to date. A total of 62 prototypes were built and tested for three million miles, most notably in Jaguar Cars' Cold Climate Centre in Timmins, North Ontario, Canada, and its US hot-weather desert facility at Cactus Drive, Phoenix, Arizona. Autocar joined Jaguar in Ontario to examine both the new XJ and its testing process: "Every night in Timmins, the XJs are parked outside and left to face the North Ontario winter. The regime could not be more punishing."
1997 – V8 ENGINES MARK A NEW CHANGE
The next revision of the XJ was even more comprehensive, particularly in the engine department – new V8s and a more economical, but equally powerful, supercharged V8 replaced the straight sixes and the V12. "Beneath the tweaked exterior lies a series of changes," Autocar wrote in its September 10 issue. "Inside, the car looks very different with a new facia and better controls. On the road, the difference between the old straight six and the new V8 is dramatic."
2002 – A NEW, ALUMINIUM XJ
In 2002, Jaguar unveiled the latest new XJ, which further developed the classic XJ styling for a new generation, but added the benefit of an aluminium chassis and body structure. "Jaguar's seventh generation of the XJ luxury saloon is the most altered for 35 years," Autocar wrote on September 18. "Now built in aluminium, it's beautiful, but also beautifully light. The new XJ refers unmistakably to the halcyon days of ‘Grace, Space and Pace'. Not that there's anything retro about this new car. Its proportions, packaging, performance and technology are as modern as any rivals, and it incorporates new engine and suspension refinements. Jaguar always planned the new XJ as an aluminium car. The result is a body and chassis structure that is 60 per cent more rigid, which helps cut noise and improves steering and handling, as well as improving the XJ's already impressive ride comfort."