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Jaguar XJ-S Vs Porsche 928

GREAT GRAND TOURERS Published: 8th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

What The Experts Say...

The 928 is becoming a bit of a marmite Porsche – even among dealers and specialists, it seems. Porsche Byfl eet (known to many others as Camtune) says that whatever your views, they represent a lot of car for the money although are also a dear one to maintain – certainly beyond the budgets of a typical 944 owner. It’s paramount to buy a good one says David Simpson, who, on a personal level, is rather lukewarm about the car. “It’s okay but I’d sooner have a 944 S2”, he admits!

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How ironic was it back in the mid 1970s that two great sports car makers, drowning in the success and admiration of their previous products, were desperate to change their image and model line ups.

Jaguar and Porsche were two of the most respected brands you could dream of, yet both felt that the time had come to jettison their existing models for something completely different, to appeal to new buyers – wrongly as it turned out.

Jaguar replaced the much loved E-type with the ungainly styled XJ-S, while the German sought to kill off its iconic 911 with an all new GT which couldn’t have been more different.

Yet, during the late 1970s, both the XJ-S and Porsche’s 928 were regarded as the best two Grand Tourers in the world.

More than three decades on, after they both suffered indifferent reputations and sales success (the XJ-S never caught on while it was the 928 not the 911 that was culled by Porsche after 18 years), today this performance pair make superb classic buys, and for relative pennies.

But what’s best for you?

Which one to buy?

England vs. Germany once again

It may be hard to fathom now, but in their day both cars were seen as real advancements for their brands, almost cutting edge. The Porsche was all-new, whereas the XJ-S was essentially a cut down XJ 12, clothed in a controversial new body.

The 928 was always destined to be a coupe (unlike the smaller 944) while Jaguar only relented after a decade of production and made the XJ-S into fi rst an odd-looking cabrio, before the much more acceptable full convertible.

Jaguar also offered a choice of straight six or V12 power plants, whereas the 928 was always a V8. The vast majority of 928s also used the Mercedes-sourced automatic, and most XJ-Ss are also selfshifters, although there was a fi ve-speed manual option for the ’sixes’. In terms of trim, the XJ-S ranks as the most luxurious in that special way only a Jag can be. The 928 appears almost stark by comparison, not helped by the lurid trim designs early models endured. However what you got with the German was always functional, solid and made to last.

In terms of space, neither can be called capacious coupes, with the rear seat just about qualifying as a ‘Plus 2’, but the Porsche scores by being a usable hatchback, just like the old E-type.

The 928 ran from 1978 to the mid 1990s, with well thought out revisions on the way. Apart from the usual S models there’s the GT, GTS and the ultra rare Clubsports. More scalded cats include the TWR models (which may rise in value after the recent death of creator Tom Walkinshaw), the XJR-S and the often overlooked Lister. All are worth seeking out.

What’s the best to drive?

Cruiser fights the bruiser

Drive a 928 and you wonder why the car failed; it can only be down to character.

This Porsche was described in its day as being the most effi cient sports car in the world because it did everything asked of it supremely well – except with emotion.

Whereas the 911 had, and still has, passion to spare, the 928 seemed to lack any personality whatsoever. “Antiseptic” is how one magazine harshly concluded.

But those who know the car well talk about its colossal mile eating abilities and its foolproof handling, the latter due to its rear-mounted transmission and a special Weissach axle to control rear wheel movement.

It’s the complete opposite to the adrenalin-pumping 911 and yet just as fast plus a lot more relaxing.

In contrast, the XJ-S remains the softer option, rolling more and feeling far sloppier. This is not helped by the typical overlight numb power steering which Jaguar insisted on using back then. The XJ-S’s payback remains its cosseting ride and general smoothness. Surprisingly for a GT, the Porsche rides much harder and suffers unusually high levels of road noise, both traits hardly helped by the abnormally high tyre pressure advised… over 40psi!

Both cars pack a powerful punch that even today impresses. The mighty V12 Jaguar engine is well respected after 40 years, but it’s as well to remember that the more modern 4.0 ‘six’ is almost as quick and a lot more economical. The Porsche V8 is an unsung hero. It’s just as satisfying as the Jag V12 and more usable. Available in sizes from 4.7-5.4-litres, with outputs spanning 240 to 350bhp, the most popular S2-S4s kick out 300-320bhp to give a similar performance to the Jag. To sum up, if you want a sports car, take the 928 - if you want a mellow GT for classic cruising then it has to be the Coventry Cat

Owning and running

England but only on penalties!

Jaguar’s network of specialists and clubs is well known and keeping a cat purring is extremely easy and fairly cost effective.

The Porsche is only slightly harder to own; the factory can supply many parts and there’s a strong specialist support base.

No, the main problem with the 928 is that there are far too many dodgy ones around, due to skipped maintenance and tight-fi sted owners. Make no mistake – but many sadly did – the superbly engineered 928 needs a supercar budget to keep sweet. It’s an extremely durable car but only if it’s cared for. Many a 924 owner took a chance and traded up to find that, to their horror, it’s in another league both performance and cost-wise.

In terms of value for money both can be astonishing bets, if you buy a good one.

These Porsches sell for peanuts; a good usable 928S can be had for a as little as a £2000, like the one sold at the recent H&H auction at Race Retro, while even a well cared for mid 1990s GTS is only worth £12,000, tops, but this will change.

The XJ-S is slowly gaining recognition after all those years and prices for the best cars are refl ecting this, although of late the car is coming under increased pressure from the superior, more stylish XK8.

And The Winner Is...

It depends what you want. If it’s a smooth riding GT then the XJ-S is the car to own. It’s always been a grossly underrated Jag that suffered purely because it had to follow in the tracks of the hallowed E-type.

However if it’s a sports car you’re after – and an exceedingly practical and usable one at that – then the Porsche offers more. Given the car’s exceptional credentials, it’s amazing that they sell so cheaply. A good one will be well wor th mothballing we reckon.

Classic Motoring

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