1985 Jaguar XJS H.E. 5.3L SOHC V12


Pretty car, but you better have two while the other is in the shop


The car dripped oil constantly. I knew I was out of 5W/20 oil when the dripping stopped. My local dealer tried everything to fix it; new oil pan, new seals etc. Nothing worked.

The car blew fuses constantly. The antenna would not work and the power windows also were not working, so I had to pull out the electrical diagram (which came with the owner's manual) in order to figure out which fuse had blown and where (there were two fuse boxes, one on the left side of the engine compartment and underneath the driver's side dash). Essentially, one had to keep a variety of different fuses in the trunk in case of trouble.

The distributor exploded, leaving chunks of shattered blue plastic throughout the engine bay ($1100 to fix).

After a year or so, the enamel started to develop small, spider cracks in the Rhodium Silver paint. Although most of the spider webbing occurred on the trunk, hood and roof, there was spider webbing elsewhere.

The leather upholstery started to peel within a year and a half of taking delivery. Also, part of the seat back kept popping out of place. My local dealer referred me to a local auto leather repair establishment, which returned the car to me with a sloppily sewn seat cushion made from leather, which obviously was not Jaguar's. After a visit from Jaguar's Regional Rep in my area and a very tense phone call with the President of Jaguar U.S.A, a brand new seat was ordered from England (medium grey by the way). The chrome on the passenger side ashtray pealed and was replaced under warranty, as were all the other aforementioned repairs with the exception of the distributor cap. The car was 3 months out of warranty after all.

The plasti-chrome bezels around the headlamps started to crack and peel. Both were replaced under warranty.

The sound system, an Audio Systems 8500, slowly developed dimming lights and finally stopped working at all. The tape deck jammed and was replaced by a slightly different head unit under warranty.

At my 30,000 mile checkup, my service writer cheekily informed me that the would have to break, yes break the exhaust system in order to service the transmission (which also had developed a leak). The cost of repairing the exhausts would be $1080 + tax. After another tense conversation with the Service Director, the mechanics came up with a plan to loosen the muffler components so that the transmission could be serviced rather than break the transmission.

After the service, the mechanics never bothered to tighten the leads that controlled the throttle, so the cable popped out of its track and bound itself around the round throttle component, so the car raced home with me power braking the car to avoid an accident. Fortunately, my mechanically skilled son, put the cable back in its track and tightened the throttle linkage with common tools.

Corrosion appeared at the bottom of wheel wells. The wheel well steel was sloppily finished at the factory with air bubbles and brush marks. By year two, rust was apparent on the sheet metal at the bottom of the rear fenders. Additionally, paint applied without primer had pealed badly from two drain holes at the bottom of the rear fender.

The driver's side windshield wiper never returned to the bottom of the windshield, leaving the wiper in the driver's line of sight, so I had to roll down the window and push the wiper to its correct position.

The wiper was roughly an inch to long, so the end of the wiper overlapped the chrome windshield trim.

During the second year of ownership, the car was recalled due to a defective fuel delivery system. The repair took nine hours to complete and my observed highway fuel economy dropped from nearly 20 MPG to 15.

Unless the car was driven daily, an unknown electrical drain left the battery dead. The factory provided Lucas battery survived one year before going dead, and was replaced by a far more reliable A/C Delco battery

General Comments:

Too many poor quality parts from Jaguar's British Leyland days. Instead of wood applique around the gearshift, a cheap piece of black plastic was used with trim that never fit around the plastic, as were the turning stalks, and the flimsy seat design. The rolling drum secondary gauges were also poor.

The car handled reasonably well, but was overweight. The lack of a rear stabilizer bar did not help. More troubling was the lack of ABS, or a 4 speed automatic. The firm's limited resources prevented them from keeping up with Mercedes Benz, Porsche or BMW.

With a larger budget, the XJS could have been a better car, with greater attention toward fit and finish, and better technology.

Insofar as performance is concerned, the XJS was merely adequate in terms of acceleration. Any Camaro Z28 could out accelerate it and out handle it. A Car & Driver review of that era put the Jaguar's XJ-S' 0-60 time at 8.2 seconds and a skid pad figure of 0.73g. For a V12 GT, the numbers were underwhelming. The design was 10 years old when I purchased mine, and it showed.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 31st August, 2013

3rd Jan 2014, 23:44

Sounds eerily like the 1985 XJ6 that I leased new. Beautiful car in claret paint with the biscuit leather. Like the XJS, it leaked oil until the day my lease terminated and I wisely leased a 1988 BMW 735i. The BMW was engineered like the Starship Enterprise compared to the XJ6 Series III.

On the outside, the XJ6 was elegant enough, but was slow, handling was Cadillac typical with Pirelli tires that provided fine ride quality, but anything above sedate driving made the tires squeal like pigs.

Jaguar's days as a division of British Leyland did little to help the interior quality. Vinyl replaced leather everywhere they could get away with it. The turn signal stalks and control buttons were not only outdated, but any Chevy or Ford used better materials. Then there were those two stupid gas tanks and the switch on the dash which allowed you to change gas tanks once one was empty. Just two of many things on the car not to avoid the realization that Jaguar was way behind its competitors from Germany, and did not have the $$$ to update their cars.

I never owned one, but friends have told me that the XJ6's replacement in 1987/88 was an absolute pile of garbage. One colleague told me that the tail lamp on his 1988 (they sort of looked like square boxes, indifferently attached to the corners of the trunk) literally fell off as he pulled out of the dealer lot after purchasing the car.

16th Jan 2014, 02:17

I needed to use a product called Hide Food to keep the leather soft and free of cracking and peeling.

The radio jammed and within two years failed completely.

One morning, the distributor died and it had to be flat bedded to the local dealership, which looked as antiquated as the car.

Within three years, the black paint around the window frames started to fade to the same color as the yellowish inside of the window frames, and was repainted under warranty.

I kept this triumph of English engineering until 1999, when I traded it in on a Mercedes CLK430, which was a spaceship compared to that tired old poseur and all of its problems. Fool me once, shame on them. Fool me twice, it ain't gonna happen.

For all those new Jaguar owners (the firm is now owned by Tata), I wish them better luck than Dick Van Dyke, whose brand new XJ8 nearly burned him to death on a California freeway. The more things change, the more they stay the same!

1985 Jaguar XJS HE 5.3L V12


Auto perfection that only Lucas can destroy


Oh god, here we go. I bought the car, and it was obviously used a bit in its life. Headliner has fallen down, carpets are destroyed. But that's not the bad part. Cooling system failure was constant. There was a leak somewhere, but could not find out where. Head gasket was fine, radiator was fine, hoses were fine. But I drove around with several gallons of water.

Windshield wipers went, which by the way are impossible to find. Tried getting them repaired, but no electric motor shop fixes car parts?

Interior lights were fine when I bought it, but got dimmer by the day until only one or two of them worked in the end.

The radio quit, and the computer on the dash would light up, but claimed I was getting 999 MPG... trust me, she wasn't.

The battery would go dead if you did not drive it daily; never found what was drawing the current away.

Air con was cool not cold. Thankfully the blower motor in the dash went, so I couldn't tell the difference anyway.

Blinker stalk fell out while trying to make a turn one day.

I always got the "brake light failure" light on the dash every time I hit the brakes (brake lights all came on), and I'm sure I'm forgetting some small things that Lucas the dark lord of electrics threw in.

General Comments:

NOW despite all of the things I mentioned above... god I loved this car. I traded it in for a 2005 Jaguar XJR, and I don't know how happy I am about it. Sure, the modern supercharged V8 is more powerful, but it is not more comfortable.

The feel of the steering in the XJS while cornering is like nothing I ever felt. In part because of the inboard rear disk brakes (about $2,000 to change the pads), but the suspension system on this old girl was great. I had mine entirely rebuilt by a local import shop.

Speed, she had plenty to spare, however I think looking at it from the perspective of my XJR, it seemed kind of slow for being such a little sporty car.

That brings us to the design. Pure beauty. I have never, and may never see another car more beautiful in my life. The rear flying buttresses? PERFECTION. The contours of the hood, the interior layout, everything was perfect. My father owned an E-Type Jag, and this, in my opinion, comes close. It is beautiful in a different way. Trust me, you may not want this car for your daily driver like I chose to have it. But you NEED THIS CAR once in your life.

Also, for the price they are now, it's almost a sin how cheap they are. I got mine for $1500, and was able to sell it for $2000. So all in all, this was one of my favorite cars. I'd prefer one in better shape today than my XJR. Cheers!

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 5th January, 2013