Cheap To Buy, Expensive To Own: Jaguar XJS

Car Culture

Jaguar's V12 E Type replacement is now a bargain, but is it worth it?

The modern day Jaguar F-Type is a worthy successor to the legendary E-Type. Under Tata ownership, Jaguar has not only managed to build gorgeous cars, but reliable ones as well. Jaguar's reliability ratings still aren't perfect, but are miles better than they once were. Long before the F-Type, Jaguar had another go at replacing the E-Type. It was called the XJS, and it managed to stay in production for 21 years from 1975 to 1996. It wasn't the best, but the XJS was still a very pretty grand tourer with a lot to offer.

Over a 21-year run, Jaguar produced 115,413 units of the XJS, before eventually replacing it with the XK8. Having been built for so many years, the XJS was the recipient of several engine options. The original models from 1975 to 1981 were powered by a 5.3-liter V12 producing 242 to 295 horsepower depending on emission controls and compression ratio. You can guess which side of the spectrum the U.S. market models landed on in the power spectrum. By the end of the XJS's production run, the V12 was bored out to 6.0-liters to produce 318 hp. There were also several inline-six models in 3.6- and 4.0-liter configurations, producing anywhere from 201 to 245 hp.

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As with the engines, there were a number of transmissions offered during the XJS's production run. The original V12 cars were fitted with either a manual or automatic transmission, but the manual was soon dropped because it was a leftover from the E-Type. In 1977, Jaguar fitted a three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic 400 transmission from GM. Later V12 models were fitted with a a GM 4L80E four-speed automatic, though a five-speed manual was also offered in certain model years. Cars like the XJS are starting to disappear, as emission regulations turn V12 engines into relics of the past. Thanks to the car's long production lifecycle, used XJS examples are now very affordable.

We found some beat up examples starting for less than $5,000. Of course, this is a luxury V12 GT car built in England, so we'd suggest paying up for a good one. Even a shockingly clean example with low miles can be purchased for around $15,000 and museum quality models can be found between $20,000 to $40,000. Due to the high production numbers, the XJS may never become a collector's item, but the same could have been said of certain Porsche models, and we all know what happened to the prices of those cars. If collectibility is important to you, we even managed to find a rare XJR-S, one of only 100 in the United States, for less than $20,000.

Even though these cars are cheap to buy, they are notoriously expensive to own. Even the youngest XJS is now a 22-year old car, and parts are going to need to be replaced. If you fancy the idea of owning a gorgeous grand touring car with a V12 engine, here are some issues you should watch out for. Fuel hoses in the engine are known to deteriorate over time, causing engine fires. The upper shock bushing are prone to failure resulting in a rattling noise over bumps. If you do decide to own one of these cars, you'd better be very handy and resourceful or know a very good mechanic. The good news is, the XJS is so plentiful, it isn't too difficult to buy a spare one to use as a parts car.

Our recommendation would be to search online forums to find details on the exact year, engine, and transmission of the XJS you want to buy. Jaguar built so many combinations of the XJS, it is hard to sum up all of the issues in one place. Owning an XJS may not be easy, but it can be a very rewarding experience with a big payoff once all of the good ones are gone.

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