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Jaguar XJC vs Mercedes-Benz SLC

England takes on Germany in a classic shootout to find out who makes the… Published: 3rd Jul 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar XJC vs Mercedes-Benz SLC

What The Experts Say...

Mark Taylor runs MTSV (Mark Taylor Specialist Vehicles), a West Yorks-based independent Mercedes agent dealing in ‘non SLs’ of which he says prices are getting a bit silly. Of the other 2+2s in the Benz brochure, Mark says they are still good value for money while their legendary build quality means they are one of the rare breed of classics that can be used as a daily driver with impunity. Ten thousand is ample to buy a good (C123 or W124) CE, the only coupé that appears to be cutting free from the rest is the S-Class-based SEC where the top 560 can achieve double the price of lesser versions. The problem isn’t selling this range of Mercs (and you can throw in the 190 saloon which are becoming increasingly wanted), but finding good replacements to retail. CEs are either in superb condition or just an MoT away from the scrapper, he told us however.

Jaguar XJC vs Mercedes-Benz SLC
Jaguar XJC vs Mercedes-Benz SLC
Jaguar XJC vs Mercedes-Benz SLC
Jaguar XJC vs Mercedes-Benz SLC
Jaguar XJC vs Mercedes-Benz SLC
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Generally coupés mean that you pay more to getting less – by that we mean less practicality and space but, usually more style over the saloon they’re based upon as questionable compensation. Jaguar’s XJC is a case in point. Little more than a two-door XJ saloon that, until quite recently, was priced much the same as that brilliant four-door, but values have rocketed of late to the point where XJC prices can command three times as much and overtaking, the XJ-S which essentially is the same car but in different rather than better clothes.

A question of vanity over value then? This brings us to the Mercedes SLC, a 2+2 coupé that joined the excellent SL range offering not merely a fixedroof but, importantly, more space for acceptable four-seater accommodation. Yet prices, when compared to the fast-appreciating SL scene, look ludicrously cheap, perhaps due to its strangely elongated styling?
Let’s look under the skin of what Jaguar and Mercedes have to offer

Which model to buy?

No shortage of choice

The SLC (C107) has a range that’s as select as the Jags, with the greater choice coming from its longer production run (1971-80). Mercedes took an SL, added 14 inches to the wheelbase, a roof and proper 2+2 seating and hey presto, the SLC was born, initially as a 3.5-litre V8 and then a 4.5-litre which quickly became the more popular pick by two-to-one.

The XJC was only based upon the S2 XJ6 and while first shown in late 1973, didn’t hit the showrooms until two years later due to numerous production difficulties and lasted just two years on the price lists. Two models were offered, a 4.2 (XK) and the V12 5.3, of which 1873 were made as opposed to 6505 4.2s. A good looking coupé that blended the original XJ styling with a flatter roofline well, but the vinyl roof isn’t merely a cosmetic thing as it hides consequent body blemishes while the doors are simply extended XJ items. A Daimler version was also made and an amazing 1600 were built – but when did you ever last see one even when new?

SLC looks much like a roofed SL until you look down the flanks Functional rather than flashy but that’s the appeal, as is the trim’s stamina The XJ-S led a troubled life right from its September 1975 introduction. From the outset it was slated as not being the E-type replacement buyers really wanted, and then there’s that dubious styling – it was the first Jaguar not penned by WIlliam Lyons whereas the XJC was his last – and the difference is for all to see.

Add poor build and reliability, and it’s only now that the XJ-S is shaking off its poor reputation although it enjoyed the longest production run of any Jaguar ever and was certainly a great car by the time it bowed out in 1995.

With apologies to Lord Prescott, as we’ve included two Jags, let’s balance the books by adding which can be loosely described as the Mercedes ‘XJC’ but badged the CE based upon the unbreakable W123 range and the larger S-Class derived SEC. Unlike the SLs these other Mercs can be as cheap as chips; around £9000 for a good SEC, a bit less for a very nice 230/280CE and £5000 or less for the rare E-Classderived 300CE which was made from 1987-93.

The XJ-S is still a bargain with good buys around the £10K mark but the really good ones have found their footing further up the price ladder by as much as four times this, particularly last-of-the-line Celebration convertibles.

On the other hand, rarity like the bodykitted TWR models or the Lister and even the quirky XJ SC cabrio don’t command any notable price premiums. XJCs have really gone into orbit and 50 grand plus for a top V12 model isn’t unknown and their values were cemented late last year when the car that starred in the New Avengers sold for in excess of £60,000 – and it was a wreck! More realistic values can be had for the 4.2 at, normally half the price of the V12 with the Daimler somewhere in between.

Obviously, their future values are another matter but a normal saloon gives you more for a lot less!

What’s the best to drive?

Emotional or efficiency?

If character means a lot to you and your classic to differentiate a simple drive from, a sense of occasion then it should be a Jaguar. The XJ6 (of which boththe XJC and XJ-S are derived) was regarded as one of the the best cars in the world in its heyday and even now, almost 50 years on, its standards of refinement, handling and comfort still hugely impress, as does the sheer might of that magnificent V12 that was fuel injected for the XJC and XJ-S. Fuel economy will put many off that choice (although there’s actually little difference between either XJCs), but the later AJ6 units found on post 1983 XJSs are in complete contrast with owners claiming almost 30mpg on a run plus the 4.0 is almost as fast as any V12.

Their failings are the over-light feelless (in modern terms) power steering, only adequate transmissions (only few 4.2s were manual overdrive and all autos are just three-speeders and with a poor gear selector arrangement) and, on the XJC, frustratingly high wind noise care of those ill-fitting frameless windows that Jaguar never got right.

What you get with the German alternatives is owner, rather than driver, satisfaction through good old school Mercedes build quality giving that feeling you’re always going to get there and back without major incident!

That’s not to say that they are stodgy – the S Class SECs were the best of their ilk in the world – but certainly the SLC (and the CEs) are more for touring than tearing around in. While not as fast as the Jag’s V12, the German’s pair of V8s are no slouches either, even when allied to automatic transmission as the vast majority are.

The Jags provide the best handling and ride so long as that brilliant suspension is in good order (many XJ-Ss aren’t). By nature the Mercs feel firmer, more solid and their large steering wheels together with an old fashioned steering box all conspire to give a slightly ponderous feel that telegraphs a wrong impression about how good their handling really is. As we said, it depends what you want from your classic coupé.

If you intend to carry passengers regularly then the XJC is the better choice than an XJ-S by a long chalk. Similarly, SLC is strictly a compact 2+2 so if you need more space then look to a larger CE or SEC.

Owning and running

Germans - on penalties

Owning an old Merc is so easy thanks to strong trade support that even includes main dealers, so there’s no excuse for neglect due to parts supply.

Mainstream suppliers such as GSF and Euro Car Parts can help with the more modern models and there’s an ever growing army of good value factory-trained specialists ready to take over from pricey main agents, too. This expansive independent base includes specialists who deal in used cars from the late 80s and 90s providing warranties and so on – meaning many models are as easy as buying a normal second-hand car.

The XJ has never been a blue chip classic like the Mk2 and, while parts and panel supply is good, it shows. Those unique rear end panels and trim on the XJC are getting harder to find and only the centre console dash and headlining are common to the saloon, for example. The special door skins are available however, from specialists SNG Barrett, at £140 and, mechanically, things are much better.

The XJC was based upon what’s regarded as the worst XJ, the S2 and suffered from poor build and a lack of stamina (falling headlining, tired trim, electric woes etc). And those big doors with frame-less windows always gave trouble and something Jaguar never got around to sorting out.

The XJ-S was introduced slap in the middle of S2 production and one of BL’s darkest hours and why durability was so bad that the car was almost killed off in 1980. Build quality was never an XJ-S strength but generally, face-lifted cars of the 1990s are the best, although some specialists believe that, between 1991-93 the worst cars were churned out, due to cheaper steel being used. And thanks to the historically lowly values of the XJ-S and, to a lesser extent the XJC, past repair work may well have been little more than cheap bodges to keep them mobile.

Rust will always be the main concern on any Jaguar of this era but this is not to say the German’s don’t rampantly – rot because they do – so forget their reputation and carry out the normal checks, and specifically bulkheads on the SLC. Mechanically, they are great, SEC electrics less so…

And The Winner Is...

With so many models included in this comparison test, we can only generalise but logically speaking, a Mercedes is the right buy. There’s a great choice from a wide range of ages, some still at remarkably reasonable prices and there’s plenty around, especially if you look abroad for a LHD example (although Germany is becoming scarce of good ones). Plus, independent and dealer back up is simply superb.

However, their peerless engineering can almost be their downfall with many enthusiasts, because the cars come over too clinical and even soul-less. It’s a personal view, of course, but rarely one you can level about any old Jaguar despite their many flaws and concerns.

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