Why The Jaguar XJS Is A Great First Classic Car

Why The Jaguar XJS Is A Great First Classic Car

The Jaguar XJS is one of the last enjoyable classic cars that is still affordable to buy

Front and side profile shot of a red 1989 Jaguar XJS

In this day and age, there aren’t many affordable classic cars that are worth having left to buy at a reasonable price. Everything from the 1970s up until the early 90s that is actually bearable and exciting to drive has gone through the roof. With the rush of the new era of vehicles (electric, self-driving, full of technology and electronics) people are longing for an old-school experience. An experience that is raw and noisy. The smell of petrol at the stop lights, the vibrations, and all the minor imperfections make every specific car different and a pleasure to drive. This old-school experience is one that is getting less and less accessible to the middle class. However, all hope isn’t dead, the Jaguar XJS may be the last relatively affordable classic that can achieve such standard ­– with a small caveat.


The Jaguar XJS Looks Slick And Elegant

Jaguar XJS V12 front three-quarter shot
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The length of the Jaguar XJS V12 can be percieved in this side shot of the vehicle 

The Jaguar XJS is the direct successor to the legendary E-type Jaguar – a car that is considered by many as one of the prettiest and most well-behaved vehicles of its era. Yes, in some instances its looks and performance may be overhyped, but there is no denying that it was a special vehicle. When the time came to replace the e-type, Jaguar engineers had their work cut out as they needed to continue the legacy. According to many, the XJS was a failure in that regard as it didn’t have the classic looks nor the performance of the e-type. But we believe this isn’t the case. The XJS was never meant to be a sports car. It was a GT-Cruiser instead and a pretty good one. Looks-wise it didn’t have the classic appeal of the e-type, but the shape remained slick and elegant. With a few tasteful modifications, this is a car that can look rather nice – especially in person where you get to appreciate the sheer length and width of the thing.

Related: 10 Things That Make The Jaguar E-Type A True Automotive Icon

The XJS Boasted A 295-Horsepower V-12!

Jaguar XJS V12 engine bay
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The cluttered engine bay of the Jaguar XJS V12

While the XJS V-12 was no supercar, it certainly was no slouch either. Its 5.3 liter V-12 engine pumped out roughly 295 horsepower which was plenty enough to move the big Jag at speeds far exceeding the speed limit. The ride is soft and comfortable which leads to a relaxing experience. It must be said that fast cornering isn’t this car’s strong point as the steering isn’t communicative while the tall and narrow tires tend to roll through the corners. As mentioned above, this is a GT cruiser and not a sports car and even to this date it can comfortably cruise with modern vehicles on the motorway. The biggest drawback of the XJS was the three-speed automatic transmission which robbed the engine of all its character and power. It really wasn’t suited for this car. However, since some XJS Jags were sold as manuals, converting one isn’t that big of a job as there are transmissions out there that are easy to swap in. This makes the driving experience of this vehicle far more pleasing. So, the XJS Jag is a great classic to buy and do some conversion work if you wish to.

Related: The Jaguar F-Pace: The Forgotten Performance SUV

The Jaguar XJS Reeked Of Class And Luxury

Jaguar XJS V12 interior
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The luxurious interior of the Jaguar XJS V12

By the 1990s the XJS was really starting to become a luxurious machine. The interior featured amenities like cruise control, heated seats, and even electric lumbar support. As you would expect from a Jag, the materials inside were mostly leather, wood, and chrome. The dash and dials were periods correct and to this date look appealing. The front seating space was plentiful, and the seats were comfortable. Being a coupe, the rear was left lacking but was adequate for young kids. Most impressively, the trunk was huge as it run deep into the floor of the vehicle. This further solidified the point that this was a GT cruiser and not a sports car.

Related: The Jaguar XKR Is A V-8 Grand Tourer That Still Looks Stunning Today

The XJS Would’ve Commanded Big Bucks If Not For The Reliability Issues

Jaguar XJS V12 front end shot
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The huge front end of the Jaguar XJS 

By now, you should be wondering why a car that is so appealing can be had for such a low price. Firstly, we shall mention that like all cars, prices have gone up but are still in the affordable range. An XJS can now be had for anywhere between $10,000 to $30,000 depending on age, mileage, spec, and condition. Keep in mind that there was also a 3.6-liter six-cylinder available, but those vehicles aren’t as desirable. But back to our point, the XJS is affordable because it can be unreliable. Back in the 1970s when the XJS was firstborn, technology was not as advanced as in later years. This meant that complicated V-12 engines could deem themselves unreliable mostly because of electrical issues. That being said, there are mechanics out there that know these vehicles well and can get them to work reliably. This is especially true if you opt to install some modern-day upgrades that get rid of many old-school weak points. Don’t expect trouble-free ownership though, even when sorted these engines can develop issues, but they will be fewer and farther apart. Also, you should keep in mind that even if your specific XJS is reliable, ownership is still expensive. The huge V-12 gets roughly 8 mpg and labor costs won’t be cheap as it is a complicated vehicle. So, this is a car you can get into for a relatively low amount of money, but you will need to factor in some spare cash for maintenance and road costs.

Related: This Jaguar E-Type Is A True British (And Television) Star

The Jaguar XJS Is A Forgotten Classic, But Is Worth Your Time

Jaguar XJS V12 rear end shot
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The classic rear end of the Jaguar XJS V12

So, as you may have gathered by now, the XJS V-12 is the perfect platform to get into for a relatively low amount of money as it will give you old-school thrills. If you would like to elevate the driving experience, you can take on the project of converting the vehicle into a manual transmission. When buying the car, make sure that all the electronics are in good condition and there is no water, or mice damage as one single faulty wire can turn into a nightmare in the XJS. With that in mind and with the addition of modern-day upgrades, the XJS will be a lovely experience and one of the most appealing first classic cars with proper power and comfort.