2002 Jaguar XJR
2002 Jaguar XJR. Click image to enlarge

By Chris Chase

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Jaguar’s XJ sedan is one of the British marques’ most recognizable cars, with styling that hasn’t changed much in almost three decades. That’s a good thing, though, as the XJ is widely considered to be one of the loveliest luxury sedans of modern automotive history.

In 1995, a face-lifted XJ6, known to insiders and Jaguar fanatics as the X300, was introduced sporting a “retro” front end with traditional quad headlights in place of the ungainly square lights first used in 1986. The 12-cylinder XJ12 (known as the X305) got the same styling changes.

But bigger news came in 1998, when the XJ6 and XJ12 designations disappeared to make way for a new engine: a 4.0-litre V8 that was available in naturally-aspirated and supercharged forms. The blown motor made 370 horsepower (in the XKR), while the XJ8’s base V8 was good for 290, both of which were a far cry from the 245 and 313 horsepower the old six- and 12-cylinder cars made; a supercharged six that was available before the V8 came along made 322 horses. The 1998 model year also brought a new interior, though the car still drew criticism for tight rear-seat legroom compared to other high-end sedans.

Even with the extra power the new V8 brought to the XJ line-up, fuel consumption actually dropped slightly. A 1998 XJ8 was rated at 13.5 L/100 km in the city and 9.1 L/100 km on the highway, a few tenths of a litre less than the 1997 XJ6. The new supercharged V8 in the XJR got a 14.4 L/100 km city rating – worlds better than the 17.2 L/100 km the old supercharged six-cylinder used.

2002 Jaguar XJ8
2002 Jaguar XJ8. Click image to enlarge

There were also a number of different model designations applied to the XJ platform. As mentioned, there was the basic XJ6 or 8, then the higher-performance XJR and XJ12 models; the Vanden Plas model was a higher-spec version that rode on a longer wheelbase.

Jaguar – like many British car makers – doesn’t have a great reputation for reliability. That’s borne out by Consumer Reports, which gives the XJ mostly poor overall used vehicle ratings, citing all kinds of trouble spots ranging from major engine problems to transmission trouble and electrical system woes. But here’s the thing about high-end cars like this: many owners are willing to put up with less-than-perfect reliability for a car they consider to be very attractive and pleasing to drive.

For example, cruise over to the forums at TheCarLounge.net and search for threads on the XJ and many posters there who have experience with these cars say that the XJ is actually quite dependable and that the 4.0-litre V8 introduced in 1998 is a tough motor. One poster and former owner of a 1995 XJR believes that the 1999-2001 XJ is as reliable as a Lexus LS400 from the same years. So maybe reliability is all about context and how you view cars: as an A-to-B appliance, or as something more than that; a lifestyle choice, if you will. What’s not in dispute, according to TheCarLounge.net forums, is that parts and labour costs are quite pricey.

2002 Jaguar XJ8
2002 Jaguar XJ8. Click image to enlarge

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has tested an XJ for crashworthiness, but these cars did come with all the safety equipment that was available at the time. From at least 1998, this included side airbags, traction control and anti-lock brakes.

Naturally, luxury cars don’t come cheap even on the used market, but the XJ seems to depreciate much more quickly than its German counterparts. For example, a 2001 Vanden Plas is worth $21,950 according to Canadian Red Book, compared to $27,700 for a 2001 BMW 740i; not bad considering the Jag was more expensive new by about $2,000. Go back in time for a 1999 XJ8 and its Red Book value is $13,775.

2002 Jaguar XJ8
2002 Jaguar XJ8. Click image to enlarge

As with any luxury car, buying one used can be a risky proposition. These are complicated vehicles and as such can be expensive to maintain after the warranty expires. Jaguar’s reliability history is peppered with problems, but no more so than BMW or Audi’s is, so which brand of used prestige car is best to buy is best left to personal preference. One thing’s for sure: the XJ’s looks are hard to resist and there’s an awful lot of history built into the Jaguar name.

My advice if you’re serious about a used XJ is to look for one being sold under Jaguar’s certified pre-owned banner (which, as of this writing, applies to 2001-2006 models). Another tip would be to find a local garage that specializes in Jaguars and see if you can talk to a technician about what to look for in a used XJ; getting a prospective purchase inspected by a knowledgable tech is always a wise move, too.

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