THE FACELIFTED XJ-S BECOMES THE JAGUAR XJS
With the XJ41/42 defunct, Jaguar invested a reported £50 million (about $89 million) in an extensive makeover of the XJ-S. Many of the changes were intended to streamline manufacturing — Bill Hayden had publicly criticized the Browns Lane factory for its almost Soviet primitivism — but the facelifted car also had a restyled grille, rocker panels, and taillights as well as new seats and a new dashboard. Coupes also had frameless door glass and a reshaped backlight and side windows while facelifted U.S. cars traded their sealed beam headlights for the Carello halogen units now used on European models.
Under the hood, European cars exchanged the 3.6-liter (219 cu. in.) AJ6 engine for the bigger 3,980 cc (243 cu. in.) version added to XJ40 sedans in 1990. It was actually a bit less powerful than before, with 223 hp DIN (164 kW), but had significantly more torque, now 277 lb-ft (374 N-m).
The facelifted car, which arrived in May 1991 as an early 1992 model, was now badged simply as “XJS,” losing the previous hyphen. Unfortunately, the revamp was not enough to perk up sales, which had fallen considerably since their 1989 peak — a victim of a general decline in the market for sporty coupes. Despite its higher price, the XJS convertible would outsell the fixed-head model for the remainder of its run.
Recognizing that trend, Jaguar made further changes to the drophead XJS in May 1992, adding additional structural bracing to reduce cowl shake and restoring the six-cylinder model, which had been dropped with the facelift. The six-cylinder XJS was finally introduced in North America for 1993, where it found immediate favor. Thanks to its lighter weight, the six-cylinder car had respectable performance even with the optional four-speed automatic and was more than $10,000 cheaper than the V-12. The six-cylinder convertible was still pricey, with an MSRP of more than $57,000, but its only direct rival, Mercedes’ SL300, started at over $20,000 more. The cheaper Lexus SC didn’t offer a convertible, nor did the vastly more expensive BMW 850i.
The V-12 XJS actually took a holiday for much of the 1993 model year, save for a limited number of JaguarSport XJR-S models, which were officially imported to the U.S. for the first time. Both European and U.S. cars now had a 5,994 cc (366 cu. in.) V-12 fitted with a bespoke Zytek engine management system. Despite the now rather dated three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic, the European XJR-S, with 338 hp DIN (248 kW) and 365 lb-ft (493 lb-ft) of torque, was capable of 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) in about 6 seconds and a top speed of more than 160 mph (257 km/h). Federalized cars, with 313 hp SAE (233 kW) and 339 lb-ft (458 N-m) of torque, lagged by about a second to 60 mph (97 km/h), but had similar performance at higher speeds. Including four early press cars, only 104 U.S.-spec cars were imported, split equally between coupes and convertibles.
The standard V-12 returned in May 1993. Shared with the new XJ81 (XJ40-based) XJ12 sedan, it now had the same 5,994 cc (366 cu. in.) displacement as the JaguarSport engines, but a lower compression ratio, Lucas 36CU injection, and Marelli digital engine management rather than the Zytek system. Output was 308 hp DIN (301 hp SAE, 226 kW) and 355 lb-ft (479 N-m) of torque. For the first time, the V-12 was paired with a four-speed automatic, GM’s heavy-duty 4L80E.
The six-cylinder engine, meanwhile, was replaced by the extensively revised AJ16, still displacing 4.0 liters (243 cu. in.), but with a new engine management system and direct ignition, bringing it to 241 hp DIN (237 hp SAE, 177 kW) and 282 lb-ft (381 N-m) of torque. The rear brakes of all models were moved outboard, simplifying maintenance at the cost of some additional unsprung weight. Convertibles also got a revised rear floorpan that allowed the restoration of the back seat, something dealers had been demanding for years. The changes helped boost XJS sales to more than 6,600 units for the calendar year, the highest since 1990.
JAGUAR AFTER THE XJS
Although Jaguar had been working since 1992 on a V8-powered successor to the XJS, code-named X100, the firm continued to tinker with specifications of the XJS almost to the end, adding ventilated rear brake rotors, revised Teves Mk IV ABS, and yet another engine management system for the V-12. Some changes were probably driven by regulatory requirements, others by Ford’s ongoing efforts to improve manufacturing and increase commonality, but we suspect that Jaguar was also trying to keep the XJS current as a hedge against possible delays with the X100. (Given Jaguar’s track record in that area, it would have been a sensible precaution.) As a potential stopgap, Jaguar also proposed an additional makeover of the current car to allow the installation of the new AJ26 V8, but that plan never came to fruition.
By the 1996 model year, sales of the XJS 6.0 had slowed so much that the V-12 was now offered only by special order; the federalized 6.0 disappeared entirely. In North America, the six-cylinder coupe was also dropped, leaving only the 4.0 convertible with automatic. (The manual gearbox had been dropped from U.S. cars the previous year.) For all the changes, the XJS was obviously well past its prime, but the convertible still had little direct competition. Even with widespread reports of its imminent replacement, the XJS retained enough charm to sell more than 3,300 units for 1996, far from its worst year.
The X100, badged XK8, made its debut at the Geneva show in March 1996, about a month before the end of XJS production. Like the Aston Martin DB7, it retained portions of the XJS floorpan, but it traded both the AJ16 and the V-12 for an all-new 3,996 cc (244 cu. in.) DOHC V8 with 290 horsepower (216 kW). Sole transmission was a Ford-built five-speed automatic. The XK was still not the long-promised F-type, although its styling, courtesy of Jaguar design director Geoff Lawson, had some overtones of the XJ41, particularly in front. Weighing some 300 lb (135 kg) less than the XJS, the XK8 had good performance and a fine blend of ride, handling, and refinement. Unlike the XJS, it also had the definite virtue of looking smaller than it was. A supercharged XKR followed three years later with a retuned suspension and a rousing 370 hp (276 kW).
Jaguar flirted with the idea of a new F-type throughout Ford’s ownership, displaying a stylish XK180 show car at the Paris Salon in 1998 and a similar F-type concept at the 2000 Detroit show. The latter was described at the time as a waters-testing exercise, but if Jaguar had any serious plans to build it, they were probably tabled by the development costs of the Mondeo-based X-type sedan and the new aluminum-bodied XJ as well as Jaguar’s latest round of financial problems. Despite substantial investments in production facilities and technology, Ford reportedly never made a profit with Jaguar. In March 2008, they finally sold it — along with Land Rover, which Ford had acquired in 2000 — to India’s Tata Motors.
In July 2010, Tata announced that the F-type, now dubbed XE, would debut at the 2011 Geneva show, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the E-type. Renamed F-type, the new car finally debuted in early 2013, slotting under the current XK in both size and price. The two-seat F-type rides a smaller version of the current XK’s all-aluminum platform and offers a selection of supercharged V6 or V8 engines. A hybrid version has also been discussed, although whether it will make it to production is still unclear.