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Jaguar XJ S3

Jaguar XJ S3 Published: 8th Feb 2018 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar XJ S3
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Even though the S3 was a stop gap before the XJ40 surfaced it’s the best XJ of all. The Italian Pininfarina-styled S3 – the first time that an outside company had ever laid a finger on a Lyons cat – remains highly affordable – perhaps it’s something to do with its long association with Arthur Daley?


Jaguar has always been picky over tyre choice and Browns Lane went to great pains to re-engineer the chassis to accept Pirellis over the original Dunlops. In today’s terms, the XJ’s steering is short of feel and the handling seems soft, but driven like most classics typically are, it feels special and rewarding. The V12 remains magnificent, the base 3.4 with its 162bhp is sedate, but sweet and ideal for cruising although will be happier with the far brisker 4.2 because it now kicked out an honest 200bhp yet is as frugal as the 3.4, yielding around 20mpg. Jaguar at last offered a five-speed manual as opposed to the old fashioned overdrive on earlier XJs although most came as autos.

The squarer cut body not only looks good but also liberates rear headroom although space in the back is still tight and the boot not overly generous. But who cares?


As all lag behind the Mk2, a good S3 is remarkable value for money. That said, the days of them being bargain bangers is over, says S3 (and XJ-S) expert Chris Knowles of KWE Jaguars because the S3 is back in popularity in a major way – quite simply because it’s the best by far in terms of interior opulence and comfort, plus build quality was vastly better when compared to the SII. While you can buy a respectable S3 for around £5000, the best can cost treble; Knowles sources S3s from Japan where they have been looked after and incredibly strict MoTs ensures they are tip-top.


1979 Essentially, the XJ but simple changes, yet all together they made it look like a brand new car. More power for 4.2 unit and fivespeed manuals optional

1981 Dunlop Supersports became optional on XJ12, which also gained higher efficiency (HE) ‘Fireball’ cylinder heads for better fuel economy

1982 B/W Model 66 auto for XK engine Pepperpot alloys introduced, plus revised rear seats for Daimlers. Jaguar also became a Sovereign featuring Vanden Plas-like appointments as the VP name was dropped

1983 Trim revisions, new paint system is introduced to counter earlier criticisms, better air con for 3.4

1987-92 Last XJ6 made (’87), V12 is converted for lead-free fuel (1989), anti-lock brakes for 1990

Best models


The wisest buy with containable running costs plus reworked head and cams liberated more power; a fair goer in five-speed form


Lasted well into XJ40 production and was at its considerable peak when replaced in 1991. Massively accomplished in top trim forms

Daimler & VDP

This and the Sovereign (also used by Jaguar) trim can match a Rolls for opulence if not craftsmanship. Daimler badge is worth having on the S3

Top five faults


Panel supply not as good as other Jag saloons. New front wings are available though


Initial poor build and paint quality afflicted early S3s so many look better than they really are


S3 used the ‘long stud’ XK 4.2 unit but it wasn’t the sturdiest of XK engines, thanks to broken studs, failing head gaskets and even the block’s liners going wonky as a result


S3s engineered to run on Pirelli rubber of 205 or 215x15 inch size. You can still get the Italian tyre in 205 size, but Michelin is the only other quality company dealing in 215. Cheap secondrate tyres very common and it spoils the car


Bulkheads are a big problem as are bonnet mounts. Watch for headlamp surround rot, and milkiness in the windscreen corners; bonded in, with time, condensation works its way between glass and metal.

The twin petrol tanks are trouble areas; petrol is quite cold and so it produces condensation on the tanks infiltrating the bodywork

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