IT has been a year of significant anniversaries in the British motor industry, perhaps the most notable the 70 years since the launch of the Jaguar XK120, Land Rover, and Morris Minor at the Amsterdam Motor Show in 1948.
But there is another, overshadowed, landmark date for Jaguar fans this autumn. It’s exactly 50 years since the launch of the XJ6 saloon, the last model into which Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons had significant input. Lyons knew what he liked in a car and, luckily for him, most of those who could afford sheepskin jackets and stringback driving gloves shared his tastes.
Business people who could not achieve Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow ownership recognised that the XJ6, like nothing seen before and anyway much more stylish than the conservative Rolls-Royce, was the answer to their prayers. The cars turned heads everywhere – and also strained knees as well as necks if you were consigned to the cramped rear seats.
Jaguar eventually offered a long wheelbase option, and that’s something that persists in the XJ range to this day. Thankfully, the current short car is better than the original although when you see Theresa May stepping into her armoured XJ on the TV news she gets the long one with its extra five inches inserted into the wheelbase, all of it used to the benefit of rear passengers.
Hopefully the PM’s XJ has more storage options than our short test car although maybe all that armour takes up the space. From looking at armoured cars that have passed by Hardy Towers in the hands of delivery drivers travelling between jobs, the doors are too heavy to want to push open from the inside, which is why having someone else ready to do the job from outside is essential.
These days, early XJs are ascending in value with the best of them probably the Series III cars with a V12 engine, the first XJ we ever tested by hammering up the M6 in the early ’80s to go on a tour of the Lake District. It drank fuel but thankfully when we travelled the same route in the current XJ Portfolio thinks went rather better.
We travelled four times as far, from Hampshire to the tip of the Mull of Galloway rather than Gloucester to Windermere, but only needed to put £45 worth of diesel into the car. We spent virtually the same amount on four star petrol for the V12 back in the early ’80s.
The current XJ managed an average 47 mpg, a result beyond criticism and so close to the official combined figure of 48 mpg to make the difference an irrelevance. It’s a remarkable achievement, as is the 155 g/km of CO2 output.
Bear in mind that this XJ can manage a top speed of 155 mph and 0-62 mph in 6.2 seconds although we rarely went beyond half of the maximum and never beyond the relevant speed limit anywhere on the A75 west of Gretna, where speed traps are rife and they are now experimenting with traffic lights that stop the traffic when they detect speeders. If the lights go red, everyone glares at everyone else trying to work out who is the offender!
The interior is splendid, with the obligatory splinters of wood around the place that look OK but mildly out of place. The tan leather was a bit of an eye blaster after opening the deep grey, almost black, doors and the seat surfaces were a reminder of “Ambla”, perforated plastic imitation leather from the days of the first XJ. Fortunately, the tan hide was not searing on the skin in hot sun and anyway the £70,515 on the road price includes heated and, vitally, cooled seats all round.
Even in short form the XJ is a big car but, just like the original, it has a boot that many would consider small. It’s long but shallow so won’t take a huge amount of luggage for a long trip away.
Where the current car differs from the world-stopping original of 50 years ago is in its styling. Although the first car influenced XJ shapes until the current one, there’s now a distinctive coupe profile to the roofline. It doesn’t stop favourable comments from anyone who views the car so the XJ remains aspirational after all this time.
It even has a six cylinder engine, although entirely unrelated to the XK petrol unit found in the 1968 cars. Instead, it has a V6 layout but is still possessed of the vital, if subdued, growl from the exhaust.
Maurice and Annette Hardy
Car: Jaguar XJ Portfolio SWB 3.0 V6 300 PS
Does it fit your ego…
0-62 mph: 6.2 secs
Top speed: 155 mph
PS: 300 @ 4000 rpm
Torque: 700 Nm @ 2000 rpm
…and your wallet…
Combined: 48.0 mpg
CO2 emissions: 155 g/km
Best bits: luxury at its finest