The Grace, Space and Pace of the Jaguar XJ6

Jaguar XJ6
Photo: Jaguar archive

Most people think that the Germans were the ones who were the first to mass-produce fast, full-size sedans. There is truth to that, since the 1968 Mercedes-Benz 300SEL with a 6.3-litre engine was a true super-sedan for a super price. However, at the same time, the Brits introduced something that was a bit more affordable.

Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons had been contemplating a car like this since 1964. “Mr. Jaguar” wanted to produce a car that was completely in line with what was then the Jaguar slogan: “Grace, Space and Pace”. It was supposed to be a large sedan which could keep up with Jaguar E-Type, but that was also on par with a Rolls Royce in terms of comfort. And the gentleman who bought the car should feel equally at ease, whether behind the wheel or on the back seat.

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Sir William Lyons already had one of the more important elements needed for this car – the engine. Jaguar XK120 that debuted in 1949 was the first Jaguar with the new 3.4-litre inline-six engine. This XK6 engine later became one of the more notable engines in automotive history, being used in various models for almost 40 years, right up until 1987. The “120" in the XK model was not by chance: with its 160 hp engine, the 1949 XK120 could break 120 mph, which was no joke at the time. So they already had an engine, and Jaguar also knew how to produce fast sedans – the medium-size Mark 2 S-Types were even notorious among criminals as excellent getaway cars. All Sir William Lyons had to do was put all of this know-how into the last and most important car project of his life – the Jaguar XJ.

The Jaguar XJ6 came out in September 1968 and completely met his expectations. “The finest Jaguar ever” looked graceful and was a quiet and comfortable drive, as befits a large sedan, but most importantly, it handled as well as a sports coupé in terms of dynamics and precision. And although it might be hard to imagine now, in those days everyone used to describe Jaguars as being reasonably priced. They weren’t cheap, but they gave you more bang for the buck than was usual back then. This was also the mark of the E-Type coupé, which was just as good as an Aston Martin or a Ferrari but cost 2–3 times less. The press also raved about the new Jaguar XJ6 four-door sedan: “if they doubled the price it would still be a great buy” (Road Test, December 1969); “If you do not intend to buy a XJ6, don’t try one, for ordinary cars will be spoilt for you thereafter. This is a very special kind of motoring” (Autosport, 6 August 1970).

Jaguar XJ6

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