When I first started to drive the XJC I was pleasantly surprised by how smooth and quiet it was for a mid 1970's car. It cruised effortlessly and needed a constant eye on the speedo to keep it within legal speed limits. It was a V12, powerful, smooth, quiet, complex and thirsty.
I hadn't wanted a V12, I was actually looking for a six, but the car was just too good to resist. The 5.3 litre V12 with 285 bhp (212 kw) was very smooth and quiet and as the revs build so does the power. Not the harsh acceleration of a V8, but turbine smooth progressive power. Everything is silent up to 3,500 rpm then you are gently pushed back into the seat and the V12 growl starts and doesn't quit until you hit the 6,500 rpm red line by which time everything is a blur and you are looking for the brakes! Road tests when the XJC was new claimed a top speed of 140 mph (225 kph)! I found it would cruise effortlessly at 100 mph (160 kph) and still accelerate rapidly if you put the pedal to the metal! I wasn't game to test the top speed theory but the way it performed I didn't doubt it. And it was as solid as a rock at those speeds and handled twisty roads with ease. A true European grand tourer.
The down side to all of this performance is fuel consumption. It's rather heavy on fuel and only gives about 12 to 14 miles per gallon. The best I achieved on a long highway trip was 16.5 mpg at a steady 110 kph. The XJC has twin fuel tanks with a capacity of over 90 litres between them. When driving quickly it seems that the fuel gauge is moving faster than the clock! Oh well, I only drove it on weekends and just had to save all my spare cash for fuel.
The more I drove the car the more aware I became of the questionable build quality that Jaguar were notorious for under British Leyland in the seventies. They hadn’t paid the attention to detail that they should have and even though the car was well engineered, very solid and generally well constructed the detail work just wasn't up to standard. During the restoration I paid particular attention to improving panel fit, weather sealing and assembly to improve on the original factory standard.
Long term impressions
After completing the restoration I drove the XJC for nearly 10,000 kilometres over a couple of years, including interstate trips to Sydney (2,000 km) and Canberra. I am pleased to say that the car was very reliable and a real pleasure to own and drive. The smooth power and quiet, supple ride made for effortless cruising and it was just so enjoyable to drive on a long trip. Heavy fuel consumption is something you learn to live with, however it is more than compensated for by the superb ride, handling and the performance of that silky smooth Jaguar V12.
As an active member of the Jaguar Car Club of Victoria (JCCV) I regularly entered the XJC in car shows and the occasional Concours d'Elegance, and often came away with a much appreciated award.