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The History and Evolution of the Jaguar XJ


The Jaguar XJ series automobile made its firsts appearance in the Fall of 1968 with the first of what would become six total generations, reaching a production number of more than 800,000 examples. This figure is over half of all Jaguars ever built and gives you an idea of its popularity. The original intent of the automaker was to create a single model that would replace four of its predecessors. They had no way of knowing how well the model would catch on with loyal Jaguar enthusiasts. As the Jaguar legend goes, the

XJ was the inspiration of Sir William Lyons, the founder of the company, who had a vision of the future as he saw it in the 1960s era. The original XJ was a conglomeration of the hot selling Mark II, taking compact sport features and adding to it, elements of the 420 and the S type. This imported the prestige of a limousine like vehicle with a sporty compact version. With several Jaguar models in existence, keeping track of them all with appropriate upgrades as needed became complicated. The automaker boasted a total of seven Jaguar models and two Daimlers with a variety of six cylinder engines. Lyons had the notion of replacing four ranges of the S type and 420 with a single model, offering a decent range of choices including engines of both Daimler and Jaguar types. The car was envisioned as a medium size S-type combined with the 420. Lyons saw this configuration as the ideal size to suit the tastes and preferences in the international market.

The Experimental Jaguar - The First Generation

The first example of the XJ model was known as the project number XJ4 internally, which emerged as the 1968 Jaguar XJ Series I. Lyons oversaw the bodywork and styling of the new vehicle with the idea of replacing the E-type with a GT 4 seat model for the American market, following the popular trends for the region. Both front and rear ends were inspired by the E-type with a 2 door version. As the work progressed on the new model, it was decided that the addition of rear doors was necessary, along with a shortening o the front and rear ends with enhancements to the grille and the inclusion of four headlights. To make the front end a conversation piece, the grille was styled with both vertical and horizontal bars. The interior remained typically Jaguar with a full range o instruments, wood trim and leather upholstery. Engineering was directed by Bob Knight, the genius behind Jaguar's independent rear suspension. For the new model, he modified the design which was used to achieve both ride comfort and top notch handling on the road.

The XJ Series I featured suspension sub frames using rubber mountings to hold down road noise and vibration for a smooth driving and riding experience, with an anti-dive geometry as an addition to the front suspension. This would be a maiden expression of rack and pinion steering for Jaguar, with a 4.2 liter engine with power assist. Disc brakes featuring dual circuits and a newly developed set of Dunlop tires of the wide and low profile radial persuasion suitable for achieving high speeds.

The 1968 Jaguar XJ Series I made its debut just prior to the London Motor Show on September 26 of 1968. It was advertised as Jag's best saloon car that embodied sportiness, comfort, performance and style. The final version presented to the world featured a base model with a 2.8 liter engine with a lower price that was minus the leather trim. The 4.2 engine as a straight six with twin carbs, was moderately priced for its class and generated 245 horse power, accelerating from zero to sixty in 9 seconds with a top speed of 124 miles per hour. It was available with a four speed manual gearbox or an automatic. It won "Car of the Year" in Britain, but was not considered for the European distinction overall. These models cleared production lines and didn't spend much time on showroom floors as their popularity soared.

In 1969, the Daimler models with the Sovereign model name featuring the memorable fluted radiator grille sporting vertical bars, trim of a more luxurious nature and overdrive as a standard feature on the manual editions.

The 1971 Series III Jaguar XJ6

1972 Jaguar XJ12

In July of 1971 a new 5.3 liter V12 engine that Lyons had previously envisioned became available in the E-type series III, and by July of 1972, it was offered in the XJ with the XJ12 which made its run from 1972 through 1993. The Daimler variant assumed the engine name the Double Six, inspired by the Daimler 1930s V12 example. These editions were offered in an automatic gearbox only, but air conditioning became a standard feature for all of the examples produced. These cars were the only ones in the world to feature a V12 engine in a high volume production. An increase of the top speed reaching 147 miles per hour bringing them into the position of the second fastest saloon cars on the planet. The only complaint about the original XJ was a lack of leg room. By the Fall of 1972, a longer wheelbase model delivered an additional four inches to address the issue.

Revised Series 2 Range

The new revision in the Series 2 made its appearance and thee 1973 Motor Show. By this time, the automaker had done away with the 2.8 liter engine variants. A change in styling became necessary to comply with new regulations pertaining to the American market. The bumper height was raised in compliance. While they were at it, Jaguar also gave the interior a face lift with improvements in the ergonomics with a new instrument panel and dashboard that placed controls more central for driver convenience. A two door coupe was added to the family, the radiator grille became more shallow and the XJ-C model emerged, but was not yet ready for production. Issues with the design not meeting Jaguar standards called or minor revisions in thee design which halted production until 1975.

The XJ-C as a coupe variant was a short venture that didn't continue forward as previously expected. The auto featured distinctive vinyl roofs with optional alloy wheels in an elegant presentation of sport and luxury, but the only lasted for a few years and was discontinued in 1977. If you're the lucky owner of one of these rare cars, there were just over ten thousand of them made with the coupes being the most rare of the lot of XJ models in this time frame. Issues leading to their discontinuation included their excessive weight along with reliability issues.

In 1975 a 3.4 liter engine with fuel injection replacing the carburetors on the V12 models with an automatic garbox became the norm on each model commencing from 1977. Editions with six cylinders and fuel injected V12s became available for the North American market in 1978.

Jaguar XJ Third Generation 1979-1992

It was time for a new generation with the Italian Pininfarina house at the helm of the design enhancements. This is when the side windows, the roof and screens were re-penned to improve headroom, although the car appeared lower. New bumpers, rear lights and door handles were also introduced. At this time, the six cylinder versions were allowed a five speed manual gearbox. All 4.2 liter examples were now fuel injected. The interior also underwent upgrades. The V12 engine was reworked in 1981 with a new cylinder head design, compliments of Michael May, a Swiss engineer, delivering the high compression ration of 12.5:1, a 25 percent reduction in fuel consumption and other improvements.

The Jaguar XJ-S 3.6 cabriolet

The Cabriolet was launched in 1983 as a limited production sports scar with a new, sleek and sexy design. It was a sporty version that maintained high luxury and performance standards. The XJ40 was made available with a 2.9 liter engine with a single overhead camshaft with two valves per cylinder. The design allowed or the placement of a V engine. It wasn't until 1993 that the V12 engine for the XJ40 arrived. It was at this time that thee production off thee series III in a 6 cylinder was discontinued.

What makes the XJ40 so special?

This was the last version of the XJ range that would be inspired by the founder. Sir William Lyons passed away in 1985. It featured an enhanced interior that was modernized with improved ergonomics, sophisticated technology and bar type displays for the instruments from a multi function trip computer. The new four speed featured a J gate shift pattern which was new, and it was also offered in a 5 speed manual gearbox option.

1994 - 1997

A restyling of the XJ model occurred in the middle 1990s with a return to some of the previous exterior design features. The X300 model also known as the XJ6 was styled in accordance with thee chassis of the XJ81 featuring redesigned headlamps with the 95 year getting a new front bumper and numerous changes to the rear fascia.

1997 - 2003

The XJ Sedan underwent a revamp for the 1997 model with upgrades that added new features and creature comforts that set it apart from its older near kinsmen. The engines came in two options with a 32 liter V8 and the 4.0 V8 with respective horse power outputs of 240 and 290. This model in the XJ line became one of the automakers best selling car of all time.

2003 - 2007

The X350, 3rd generation made its formal appearance in 2003. The powertrain had been completely revised and the new model was equipped with a brand new 3.5 liter V8 engine that was only offered to customers in the European market. Aluminum materials were used in the body work, comparable to the Audid R8 of its time. These variants were available in either gasoline or diesel engines.

2007 - 2009

The third generation of Jaguar XJs receive yet another face lift in response to criticism of the outdated look. The front grille was redesigned with a more modern appeal along with new exterior lines beginning with the 2008 model.It also received a restyling of the headlamps, some modifications to the rear section and a new bumper. These models were available in both diesel and gasoline engine options.

2009 - 2012

The Jaguar auto manufacturer revealed its new XJ model in London on July 9 of 2009. The new XJ became the flagship model with an excessive amount of luxury and prestige. It was their ultimate response to years of criticism of the XJ lineup and was delivered with a conservative design and an eccentric yet elegant new aesthetic. The new version became available in two chassis versions featuring long and short wheel base with 4 trim levels in versions including a range of variants offering options for engines that range from 3.0 liter V6, 5.0 liter V8 and several other choices with horse power ranges between 240 at the lowest, maxing out at 510.

2012 - Present

Years of research and development of new technologies accumulated for the creation of the current generation of the Jaguar XJ. Improved efficiency with state of the art technologies for luxury comfort and high performance are the hallmarks of the most current examples of the XJ line. Significant improvements in engine, transmission and dynamic developments have all contributed to a more refined and efficient line that has withstood the test of time and maintained a large international audience of enthusiasts.

The dream of the XJ which began with its founders Sir William Lyons in 1968 has undergone a series of changes to evolve into one of the most prestigious and high performing luxury cars in the world. The dream lives on as the history is retold and the evolution continues to create new versions of the Jaguar XJ history.

Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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