Images are from the brochure collection of Hemmings Motor News
In an odd bit of marketing, Jaguar Cars North America introduced the XJ-S in 1976 as the “S-type,” which was an about-face from the way that the American marketers had dubbed the E-type, the “XK-E,” the previous decade. Of course, the real S-type was a 1960s saloon, and that nameplate would appear on a four-door once again circa 2000-’09. But what’s in a name?
The XJ-S quickly established itself as a peerless luxury Grand Tourer, with its unique styling and signature smooth V-12 power, and made a real statement about its owner in the look-at-me 1980s.
That all-aluminum, 5.3-liter (326-cu.in.) V-12 was a complex bit of machinery, and quickly developed a thirsty reputation. A Swiss engineer named Michael May designed cylinder heads with revised, two-level “Fireball” combustion chambers that improved both power and economy (that said, it was rated at 14 city/22 highway!) and allowed higher compression and a more complete burn. These heads were incorporated into 1981’s H.E., or High Efficiency, model, which was still the design of choice for 1984, the year this 12-page brochure represents. Also worth noting is that Jaguar didn’t list the power ratings for this engine, although we know they were a nothing-to-sneeze-at 262 hp and 290-lbs.ft. of torque.
The XJ-S’s sumptuous accommodations were lavishly highlighted, with special note made of the new digital trip computer and the stereo that offered 12 (!) station presets, six each of AM and FM.
It was neat to see how Jaguar highlighted its latest V-12-based racing efforts in this brochure by showing the Kevlar-bodied, Group 44-campaigned XJR-5, which ran in the IMSA GTP class. The first example of that racer built would bid up to $475,000 in 2013, but not sell.
The XJ-S would continue to be a part of Jaguar’s lineup for another 12 years. Just 5,813 examples left Browns Lane in 1984, when the car cost $34,700, or, adjusted for inflation, the equivalent of today’s $80,730. A surprising 85,478 (64,904 Coupes, 16,649 Convertibles and 3,925 Cabriolets) were built in total.
Have you ever experienced an XJ-S?
Click on the images below to enlarge.