Jaguar XJ Series 3

Jaguar XJ Series 3

Online Classic World

Few people dare to purchase a Jaguar XJ. However, the Series 3, launched in 1979, is considerably better than its reputation suggests. This is thanks to a considerable number of modifications. The V12 models even lasted until 1992, in parallel with the XJ40.

Jaguar's XJ generation

Jaguar fans have been fans of the XJ generation since 1979, while less enthusiastic about the later XJ40 with its mostly rectangular headlights. Jaguar's iconic XJ design was best showcased in the Series 3, widely regarded as the best XJ of all time.

However, many doubt its quality and admire enthusiasts who dare to purchase an XJ Series 3. But when they take the plunge, they discover that choosing an XJ based on emotions need not be disappointing at all. With proper maintenance by an expert, such a Jaguar protects its owner from problems.

Jaguar XJ Series 3 side

A prototype of the XJ40

If British Leyland - the owner of Jaguar until its dissolution - had had its affairs in order, the XJ Series 3 would never have come about. Prototypes for what later became the XJ40 were well advanced during the Series 2, but internal problems led to the postponement of its introduction.

Meanwhile, the current model was obsolete. Compared to the new Rover 3500, the XJ looked outdated. In addition, Jaguar was behind in offering certain luxury options, such as an electric sunroof, which were available from competitors. Action had to be taken to change the XJ's poor quality image and resolve complaints about the low cabin, which offered little headroom for rear passengers. VIPs had to be very dedicated to be driven around in a Jaguar.

The new look of the XJ Series 3

British Leyland decided to give the XJ a new look, based on the popular lines of Series 1 and 2. For this, the design firm Pininfarina was called in. Miraculously, the Italian master gave the Jaguar a slimmer shape and a raised roofline for extra headroom. The bodywork was new from front to back and could not be interchanged with earlier XJs. A larger glass area enhanced the sense of space in the interior.

Jaguar XJ Series 3 interior

Jaguar added key features, standard or optional, to pamper the owner and passengers, such as cruise control, electrically adjustable seats and adjustable lumbar support. In terms of materials and finish, the car was better built than before.

Choice of three engines

The XJ Series 3 received rave reviews in the press, but there were doubts about its quality after problems in the past. Eventually Jaguar improved and the XJ got better as production progressed. The model was offered with a choice of three engines, including the famous V12 5.3. Daimler versions of the 4.2 and 5.3 offered extra luxury. In 1986, the six-cylinder versions were replaced by the XJ40, while the V12 models continued until 1992.

Maintenance and repairs 

There is no doubt about the XJ's great comfort, high-performance handling, convincing performance and stunning wood and leather interior. But what about its longevity? That is definitely higher than you think! Regular and expert maintenance is an absolute must, but then a Series 3 will rarely let you down either. For advanced mechanics, the Jaguar XJ Series 3 certainly lends itself to self-maintenance.

Jaguar XJ Series 3 motor

A V12 is considered slightly less accessible, but otherwise does not pose any specific problems and, as an HE, does not even consume that much more petrol than a six-in-line. On the motorway it's manageable, but during city driving these Jaguars will drink heavily. LPG can be done, but it's not ideal with the 5.3. With the 3.4 and 4.2, experts recommend overhauling the block before doing this, otherwise the valve seats may collapse.

There are V12 examples driving around with more than six tonnes on the odometer, without an interim overhaul of the block. Virtually every XJ has a sophisticated automatic transmission; only occasionally do you come across a six-cylinder with a five-speed gearbox.