Vintage R&T Review: Jaguar XJ-S – The Brougham-Era Replacement for the E-Type

(first posted 5/1/2018)      The XJ-S was something of a shock for those Jaguar fans expecting a more direct successor to the legendary XK-E. Instead, the XJ-S was a plush coupe built on the XJ sedan’s platform, and emphasized comfort and luxury. Well, it was the Great Brougham Era, and the only thing missing were opera windows. And this Jag certainly wasn’t the doing of Sir William Lyons.


That’s a bit harsh, but the styling of the XJ-S was polarizing (at best), and a colossal let-down for the rest. Fussy, inconsistent, and lacking an organic theme. Uninspired is another way to put it. But it had its fans, and it had its charms.

In terms of its drive train, rarely has a brilliant V12 engine ever been so hamstrung by a clumsy automatic. The British-built BW Model 12 had no part-throttle kick-down, which is almost unthinkable from a modern perspective. And it upshifted well below the V12’s 6500 rpm redline. With manual shifting, one could glean the benefits of the V12’s 244 horses, but what’s the point of an automatic if it has to be shifted? R&T rightfully wonders how much more pleasant a modern Detroit automatic would be in its place.

R&T rightfully points out that this was the first new Jaguar designed and built after the retirement of Sir William Lyons. Jaguar was now in the ownership of BL, as well as the government. And if ever a car reflected committee-think, the XJ-S certainly did. The review ends with the plaintive “Sir William, where are you when we need a replacement for the E-Type?”