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    Many of the world’s most beautiful cars have been Jaguars. They stir emotions and have style at their very core – and Jaguar XJ is no exception. It’s time to look back on XJ’s heritage to uncover its design history and the technology advances that make it what it is today.

    • Published: 09/11/16

      1968 | Jaguar XJ - The start of a living legend

      1968 Jaguar XJ6 Series 1

      Originally one of many experimental projects, XJ was classified as a 'eXperimental Jaguar'. Sir William Lyons envisaged a saloon with the handling of E-type. Launched at the Paris Motor Show 1968, it appeared the world agreed and it was named ‘Car of the Year’ by Car Magazine.

      The interior of XJ6 offered significant improvements over previous models, including face-level ventilation, foam padding to the instrument panel and flush rocker switches rather than toggles. Lyons insisted that the tops of seats should never be seen above the belt line, hence the rather low seat backs on all Jaguars up to the late 60’s.

      1968 Paris Motor Show

      XJ6’s revolutionary design and forward thinking effects are still being felt today making it Lyons longest living creation. It was XJ6 that inspired Ian Callum, current Director of Design.

      ‘The XJ6 was profound. It had so much visual power,’ stated Ian Callum in a 1999 Auto-car interview. ‘The wheels were enormous. Nobody had seen anything like them before. They filled the whole body. I remember collecting a brochure from the local dealer and going back the next day for another. I still have them both.’

      1972 Jaguar XJ12

      Not only did the car look superb, thanks to chief engineer Bob Knight’s sterling work on development, the XJ also set new standards of ride and refinement. It was a place where premium materials were crafted to deliver pure comfort. XJ6 shone for what it was. A Jaguar.

      1973 | Series 2

      The Series 2 was launched at Frankfurt Motor Show 1973. Although the Series 2 bore a strong resemblance to its predecessor, there was excitement around the elegant two-door pillarless coupé version. The existing range was updated, taking into account the studios’ learnings over the past five years.

      1973 Frankfurt Motorshow with Jaguar XJ Series 2

      The revised range had the addition of a higher front bumper to meet US regulations. However, excitement mounted when it was revealed that the short wheelbase four door saloons were to be discontinued and all saloons were now to be built on a long wheelbase, creating a more luxurious and spacious ride for passengers. It became a destination of bespoke choice and luxury.

      The short wheel bases were to be reserved for the all new XJ Coupé. The XJC was considered to be exceptionally stylish. However, the coupé turned out to be short lived; these elegant cars, with their distinctive standard fit vinyl roofs and optional alloy wheels, were discontinued at the end of 1977. Without realising it Jaguar had created what would become one of the most desirable and rare XJs, with little over 10,000 completing production.

      1973 Jaguar XJ12 Series 2 Coupe


      The XJS arrived in September 1975 and although some considered the appearance controversial, it was hard to argue that its specification was anything but impressive. Malcolm Sayer was the man that took on the challenge of replacing the icon, the E-type. Sayer was bold and thanks to its flying buttress C-pillars the XJS was even more aerodynamic than its predecessor.

      The fuel injected engine used gave the car superb performance. 060 mph was achieved in 6.9 seconds and the maximum speed was 150 mph.


      It was almost time for the third generation of XJ. For the first time Jaguar looked externally for the restyling and entrusted the job to the famous Italian house of Pininfarina. Asking for a classic update of the XJ, they delivered. The Series 3 achieved instant acclaim.

      The 1979 Series 3 was intended to be a stopgap while the XJ40 was in preparation, but it became one of Jaguar’s most successful models. The ‘greenhouse’ of the car above the waistline was completely redesigned with a new roof, side windows, and screens, increasing window area and making the car look even lower, although in fact rear headroom was improved. There were also new door handles, bumpers and rear lights, and improvements to the interior as well as a handsome new vertical bar radiator grille.

      1979 Jaguar XJ6 Series 3

      The new models were launched at the end of March 1979. Featuring elegant styling, they were warmly welcomed as they carried on Jaguar’s traditions of grace, pace and space.

      An elderly Sir William Lyons inspects a Jaguar XJ40


      In February 1985, Sir William Lyons passed quietly away at his home, Wappenbury Hall. Although officially retiring in 1972, Lyons kept a presence in the styling studio for many years to come. The all new XJ6 known as project XJ40 internally was the last production car that Sir William Lyons had any influence on, as an informal consultant and regular visitor to the styling studio. Although it’s important to note that Lyons’ impact is present in today’s design studio.

      The contemporary fashion trends of the 80’s were clear to see in the styling of XJ40 when unveiled in 1986. The overall proportions were unmistakably Jaguar, with an overall more angular feel to it, featuring rectangular headlamps as well as square rear lights. A real innovation for Jaguar was the quarter light in the rear pillar, creating six light style.

      1987 Top Car Awards with Jaguar XJ40

      XJ40 was an instant success, and demand was initially greater than what Jaguar could supply. Under the skin, XJ40 featured a new rear suspension with double wishbones and the brake discs mounted outboard. The manual gearbox was a five speed Getrag transmission first seen on the XJS, while the automatic was a four speed ZF with a new shift called the ‘J’ gate. ‘J’ gate was the brainchild of Jim Randle; it allowed gears to be easily and rapidly selected for more lively motoring.

      1990 | A new generation

      By the early 1990s, the next new generation of the XJ was under development. The result was X300 which redesigned the XJ40 into a 'revolutionary' design; softer shapes and a classic four headlamp front end were more in tune with the rounded shapes coming back in the 1990s.

      They happily recalled the styling heritage of classic Jaguars of the past.

      1994 Jaguar XJR X300

      The revised XJ6 went on sale in October 1994. The Jaguar grille was expanded, and the curved mounds over the four headlights made a welcome return. The grille and bumper facings matched the body colour, and there were new rear lights moulded to follow the sweeping curve of the boot- lid, hollowed-out for a number plate.


      2002 Jaguar XJ's aluminium architecture was a world-first

      Jaguar was bracing itself for a fresh start. The new XJ saloons looked superb, handled splendidly, they were quiet, sumptuously finished and naturally serene.

      Their secret? 2002’s new XJ was a first for the automobile industry. It was a revolution for Jaguar in having most of its body parts made from aluminium.

      Inhaling technology and exhaling emotion the XJ had been reborn. Lighter and stronger, it provided agility and delivered a refreshingly dynamic driving experience.

      Today, XJ’s design draws you in; swooping taillights nicknamed "cat's claws", and black roof panels disguise XJ's width. The sunroof extends the full length of the car with just a single body-coloured roof panel, likened to the bridge of a yacht.

      XJ redefines what a car should be. It’s a dramatic combination of beauty, luxury and power.