Breathtaking big cat grand tourer
Produced by Jaguar from 1976 to 1996, the XJS was a prime example of what the British manufacturer could achieve moving into a new age
IN the early 1970s the design bosses at Jaguar were looking to new horizons to provide a replacement for the ageing E-Type.
What actually came out of a protracted gestation period in 1975 was certainly not an outand-out sports car in the E-Type mould but a glitzy grand tourer christened the XJS.
What the XJS did was to develop the path that the later E-Types took with longlegged V12 power and a rather comfortable outlook on performance driving.
It was an early example of platform engineering, taking the foundations of the short wheelbase XJ12 with stylists moving the rear bulkhead and creating a sleek and very sexy fixed-head coupe body.
A massive amount of soundproofing work went on the make the XJS a silent but very agile performer.
Even the coiled petrol feed pipe was encased in foam so that the occupants would not hear the gushing of prodigious amounts of petrol hurling through like a draining bath to feed the 5,343cc V12 which could easily whisk the car to 150mph, but only return 10-21mpg.
I remember driving one of these cars under heavy acceleration when the mpg figure was heading into single figures and I am sure I saw the fuel gauge needle actually move.
But keeping an eye on the fuel was not what you did with this car which was a prime example of what could be achieved as Jaguar moved into a new age.
The XJS was built under British Leyland ownership and was not without its problems, but certainly not as bad as the products turned out by some other BL companies.
It was also slated as not being a fitting successor to the E-Type, but it was a different animal and it was only when it was well into its production run that it was given the praise that it truly deserved.
Development had begun in the late 1960s and its timing was not good as it was unveiled in the wake of a fuel crisis.
It s styling was controversial with buttresses rising from the top of the rear wing to the roof, a feature that caused worries in Germany that rear visibility was affected.
The potential of the XJS was seized upon by the TV industry, the car becoming a star in The New Avengers and Return of the Saint.
It was later developed into a convertible and customers were also offered a straight-six 3.6- litre version which gave a lower top speed but also better fuel consumption of 17.6mpg which did help sales.
But I was an addict of the V12 which I have always viewed as one of the truly great cars of its day. Experiencing the muscular, slinky and totally impressive way this car went out being a true grand tourer was one of the high points of my career - a sad day when it drove into the history books in 1996.
GRAN TURISMO The 1991 Jaguar XJS V12
Vogue 1976 Model, sitting on the hood of a Jaguar XJ-S
THE RETURN OF THE SAINT actor Ian Ogilvy with his Jaguar XJS