The Jaguar XJ models of the 1990s, the X300 generation XJ6 and the X308 generation XJ8, are very similar looking cars. The key different is what’s under the bonnet – the XJ6 has a straight 6 AJ16 engine in 3.2 or 4.0 form while the XJ8 sports an 8-cylinder AJ-V8 engine in the same displacements. But what if you happen to see an XJ drive past you in the street – how can you tell whether it’s an XJ6 or an XJ8 without checking under the bonnet?
Well, there are a few tell-tale signs. This is not supposed to be an exhaustive list of the differences between the XJ6 and XJ8 – rather, a way of telling them apart at a glance.
The easiest way is to look at the badge on the back. Predictably, the XJ6 says XJ6 and the XJ8 says XJ8. But wait! There are exceptions. The Sovereign trim level of either model will just say Sovereign and not give a clue about the model of the car. Technically, it’s just called a Jaguar Sovereign, and not a Jaguar XJ6 Sovereign. Likewise the Sport trim level will be badged XJ Sport for both the XJ6 and XJ8 variants. Likewise the XJR badge will let you know there’s a supercharger on board, but not which generation you have.
So unless you have a base spec XJ6 or XJ8, the boot badge might not be much help to you.
You can also look at the registration plate of the car to try and work out the year. The XJ6 was produced from 1994 to 1997 and the XJ8 from 1997 to 2002. This means, at least for the UK, an XJ6 number plate should start with M, N, P or R, while an XJ8 number plate should start with R, S, T, V, W, X, Y, 51, 02 or 52. This is ambiguous for R (1997) and of course lots of XJs have custom/vanity plates to disguise their age.
If this still didn’t help, there are some physical differences we can check. Working from front to back, the key differences are:
The XJ6 has rectangular indicator/reflector lenses. The XJ8 has oval ones. This is probably the easiest attribute to look for, and it applies to the reflectors and running lights on the side of the car too. The XJ6 also has oval fog lights, while the XJ8 has round.
Slightly more subtle, the XJ6 has Fresnel glass on the main headlamps, while the XJ8 has clear glass.
The XJ6 has a chrome strip along the top of both bumpers. The XJ8 only has an L-shaped chrome strip around the corners. The XJ6 has a squarer front grille, while the XJ8 grille has more rounded corners.
The XJ8 has a V8 badge on the B pillar. Some XJ6s have nothing there, some say 4.0 Litre, some say 4.0 Sport, but none of them say V8! The XJ6 here is a Sovereign, and has a lot more chrome than the base spec XJ8.
The tail lights are subtly different. The XJ6 has a smoked top half, and the lower red half is flat with a matte appearance. The reflector area is square. The XJ8 tail light is not smoked at the top, appearing brighter and slightly rounder, and the reflector area is a smaller rounded square within the lower half, with a more 3D appearance.
Finally, if you get the chance to peep in the window, you can immediately tell the XJ6 and XJ8 apart from their dashboard. The XJ6 has a flat instrument cluster derived from the older XJ40. It has two large dials, four smaller ones and an array of lights and switches. The XJ8 has a simpler dashboard with three recessed binnacles for the dials. Most of the lights have been replaced by a two-line message LCD display within the speedometer.
The centre consoles also differ. The XJ6 has a rectangular bezel around the climate and audio controls, while the XJ8 has changed the bezel to a rounded shape.
The XJ8 is mine. Many thanks to Will Lyon Tupman for sharing photos of his XJ6 Sovereign. I resorted to a library photo for the XJ6 boot badge.