The XJ6, using 2.8-litre (2,792 cc or 170.4 cu in) and 4.2-litre (4,235 cc or 258.4 cu in) straight-six cylinder versions of Jaguar's renowned XK engine, replaced most of Jaguar's saloons – which, in the 1960s, had expanded to four separate ranges. Apart from the engines, other main assemblies carried over from previous models were the widest version of Jaguar's IRS unit from the Mark X and the subframe mounted independent front suspension first seen in the 1955 2.4-litre with new anti-dive geometry. The XJ12 version was announced in July 1972, featuring simplified grille treatment, and powered by a 5.3 L V12 engine. The car as presented at that time was the world's only mass-produced 12-cylinder four-door car, and, with a top speed "around 140 mph" (225 km/h) as the "fastest full four-seater available in the world today".

Although it had been the manufacturer's intention from launch that the XJ would take the twelve-cylinder engine, its installation was nonetheless a tight fit, and providing adequate cooling had evidently been a challenge for the engineers designing the installation. The fuel system incorporated a relief valve that returned fuel to the tank when the pressure in the leads to the carburetors exceeded 1.5 psi to reduce the risk of vapor locks occurring at the engine's high operating temperature, while the car's battery, unusually, benefited from its own thermostatically controlled cooling fan. 3,235 of these first generation XJ12s were built.

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