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Jaguar XJS

Jaguar XJS Published: 7th Feb 2017 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar XJS
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● Great touring qualities ● Quick, frugal AJ6 engines ● Still excellent value

In brief

This misunderstood E-type replacement, is more of a GT than sports car but one with fine road manners that surpass the E-type, twinned with typical Jag ambience. Ignore the critics – Jaguar’s XJS is now a true classic Coventry cat!


Few deny XJ-S go better than they look, and it’s easy to forget that, in its prime, the Jag was regarded as one of the world’s greatest cars. Performance isn’t an issue and the six-pots can perform as well as the V12, yet are a lot more economical, if not so smooth. The 4.0-litre in later 240bhp form is the best, thanks to added torque over the original 225bhp version, and some owners report almost 30mpg on a run.

The XJ-S drives like the XJ6 that it’s based upon, meaning that typical Jaguar blend of handling and ride that rivals rarely match. However, for some, the suspension is a tad too soft and the power steering over-light and lacks feel unlike a 928.

Best models

After a troubled birth the XJS mellowed with age and generally the later the car the better the buy although specialists warn that pre ’82 cars will be rust-ridden while early 90’s cars were made from poor quality steel! That said, condition is everything irrespective of year and model. For the majority, a good late 4.0 provides the best blend of power and containable running costs although that wonderful V12 is worth considering if you don’t cover big mileages.

Most collectible are run out Celebration convertibles but the rare early 80’s SC cabrios seem to fall in and out of favour. XJS specialists Dave Clarke adds that scalded cats like the JaguarSport and TWRs models don’t yet attract that much interest despite their added prowess.


You can pick up a runner for around a grand, and wrecks for a lot less, but you’re chancing it as there’s too much dross out there that will be a veritable money pit. The better-than-average cars sell for around five figures and it’s money well spent in the long run. XJSs are going up in value. At the top end of the scale, there’s the last of the line Celebration model at £35,000 + while early pre-1980 models are attracting strong money if really good, and preferably a rare V12 manual. Convertibles are worth handsomely more over the coupés but the odd cabrio SC is usually hard to value.

Buying advice

Build quality was never an XJ-S strength, and most pre-82 cars will be rotten. Generally, face-lifted cars of the 1990s are the best, although some people say that, between 1991-93 were the worst years, due to cheaper steel being used. MoT trouble spots include the sills (inner and outer and can be bad), front footwells (ditto) and corrosion around those big hollow C-pillars, rotting from the inside out.

The rear is another rot-prone area. Vet the under-pan, rear valance and boot floor, especially round the battery box vicinity. More serious is danger of the suspension’s trailing arms parting company with the chassis, and rot at base of the windscreen, is usually much worse than it looks.

The V12 is so unstressed that re-bores are unheard of. Oil pressure should be 60lb but like all Jag units, drinks and leaks oil. The AJ engine is generally reliable, although cams can clatter, due to worn lobes or the tensioner assembly. Early 3.6-litre units were more prone to head gasket failure.

GM auto can knock if mounts need replacing, but clonks from the back end when moving into Drive or Reverse suggest the diff is loose. The electronic-controlled autos should be test driven in all modes, as electronic glitches are not unknown and can be costly to put right.

E-type style inboard disc brakes were fitted up to ’93; watch for poor handbrakes as a result! Diff leaks a perennial weakness of all Jags, spewing lube all over the brakes.

A multitude of bushes, which age, can ruin the driving experience. Shot springs and shocks are not uncommon, either. Wonky handling can also be due to knackered rear radius arms, or shot subframe bushes, leading to a fish-tailing rear end. It’s best to drive a few examples to set a mean average.

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