Words & photos - Daniel Bevis
The Jaguar XJ-S was always destined to have a tough time of it. I mean, how do you follow an act like the E-Type? That was pretty much the perfect car (OK, a bit bloated and suspicious in Series III V12 2+2 guise, but hey), so it was as if Jaguar were saying 'Look, we know you like this, but it's the 1970s now. You need more angles and some flying buttresses'. Which, understandably, angered people.
But the inexorable passage of time has allowed those once-controversial lines to mellow, and we can appreciate the XJ-S in its own right: as a beautifully crafted, sumptuously appointed grand tourer. And it really is rather good. Despite appearing in the wake of the '73 oil crisis, the '75 XJ-S belligerently preened itself with a 5.3-litre V12, which is a thoroughly Jaguaresque way to behave. Couple that with an auto 'box, supple leather seats, half a tree's worth of polished wood and a boot you can actually use, and it made for quite a sensible GT.
This particular one is a 1989 HE model - 'HE' standing for 'High Efficiency', the V12 receiving high-swirl heads and a stupendously high compression ratio to keep power levels around the 300bhp mark while improving fuel economy by nearly 50% - which was lent to me by the Classic Car Club. I used it for part of my 'Guide to Britain' series for GoCompare, which you can read here.
Lasting impressions? Well, it's gorgeous, obviously. But it's also a very surprising thing to drive; yes, it's quick, but it belies its fiery horsepower by being bizarrely relaxing. You almost forget that you're driving it at all, until you find yourself accelerating away from traffic lights with the rumbling V12 reminding you that there is actually something going on up there. On the whole, it's like sitting in a comfy armchair and watching the world go by through the window, which is a most civilised state of affairs. Oh, and you can fit a pushchair in the boot too. So it's practical, sort of.