Vintage Review: MotorWeek Drives the 1987 Jaguar XJ-S

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Jaguar XJ-S V12 shines in classic MotorWeek road test.

“It’s been three years since our last visit with the sail-planed Jaguar XJ-S HE and, to be honest, it hasn’t changed much.” We don’t blame MotorWeek’s John Davis for making that statement. By 1987, the V12 grand tourer didn’t need to change much. Jaguar had long established the elegant pedigree of both the big cat’s looks and its massively 12-cylinder heart.

However, MotorWeek took it on anyway and absolutely flogged the car. The result: Jaguar’s sports car roots going back to the XK120 shine through even in a massive flagship two-seater that cost $38,000 in 1987 money. That’s high five figures today, but for a car that could out-turn just about any car in its class with that snarling V12, we think that would have been (someone else’s) money well-spent. MotorWeek Jaguar XJ-S V12

Of course, we know how maintenance goes on these cars now. A quick flip through Craigslist will find you more potential headaches from V12 Jags than a migraine clinic next to a jackhammer-testing facility. That isn’t lost on John Davis as he and the MotorWeek cameras peek under the hood of the XJ-S. The 5.3-liter V12 looks shoehorned into the engine bay with an overly complicated throttle linkage whirling away. Given British cars’ reliability records by this time, we understand that reticence.

Still, MotorWeek found an awful lot to be happy about in the XJ-S. Quarter-mile speeds came awfully close to 100 miles per hour, which was quite brutish from a comfortable cruiser like this. We find this video worth watching for the sole section of the big Jag carving around cones. It doesn’t wallow like some big luxury cars and instead looks composed. When a 24 Hours of Lemons team called their XJ-S a “two-ton Miata” many years ago, they weren’t lying.

It’s too bad we’ll have to wait a bit to own our own XJ-S, since there’s no such thing as a “cheap V12 Jaguar.”

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