The Jaguar XJ Series I, II and III

Jaguar revealed the XJ6 Series I to the public in 1968. It had the exterior and interior elegance of a Rolls-Royce on a sporting suspension, powered by a LeMans-winning, twin-overhead-cam, inline six. Refinement was everywhere yet the price was a mere fraction of what you’d pay for a Rolls.

To quote England’s Classic and Sports Car magazine, “the XJ’s striking profile set a template for every Jaguar saloon (sedan) that followed.” Nowhere is that more evident than in the new XJ sedan, which owes it all to that Series I, including the sumptuous, relaxing interior.

Jaguar XJ Series I

The Series II XJ suffered from “federalisation,” being modified to meet then-new US regulations for bumper height and crash resistance and with its power stifled by environmental rules. Nevertheless a fine car, still riding and handling superbly; Jag sedans were noted for combining a smooth, silent ride and excellent road holding in a manner that no automaker has yet to match.

Then came the dreaded British disease. British Leyland had taken over the company, along with several other historic makes, and through corporate ineptitude, combined with an ongoing war against stubborn unions, almost destroyed Jaguar’s name. The cars produced during that period suffered from severe quality problems, which gave Jaguar a reputation for inferior automobiles.

Jaguar XJ Series II

To some extent the criticism was undeserved; powertrains were still strong and bodywork solid. Difficulties lay in bothersome details, mostly electronic in origin. All were eventually fixed, meaning that Series II Jaguars are now safe buys for collectors. But it was the Series III that brought the company back to life, with BL out of the way and Jaguar back in good hands.

Management recognized that a redesign was necessary, focusing on build quality while including an increase in interior space to suit the long-legged American market. With Sir William in semi-retirement, Pininfarina was given the job of recreating the XJ without ignoring its genes, and it must be said that the Italian design firm did a superb job. While acknowledging that everyone is entitled to their tastes, we believe the Series III is the most beautiful XJ of all.

(Only the Jaguar Mark 2 of the early 60’s comes close, and many would argue that the older, more compact sedan is the true beauty queen. We’ll vote for the XJ because of its low-to-the-ground sports car stance.)

This was also the Jaguar that put most quality criticisms behind it, for the 1982+ models were relatively problem-free, at least when compared with their immediate predecessors. For collectors a Series III is a safe buy, even though it is too new to be called a classic. On the other hand, a car so close in concept to the original must be a classic in its own right.

When design awards are given, 4-door cars tend to be overlooked by the media and other critics. But in our opinion, the Jaguar XJ, in particular the Series III, rates as the most elegant mass-production sedan ever built.

Jaguar XJ Series III

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