This 1990 Jaguar XJS was provided, and is currently for sale, by Gilmour Collection.

There are more types of cars on the market today than ever before. Saloons, SUV’s, Bakkies, MPV’s, Sports Cars, Soft Roaders, off roaders, cross-overs, supercars and any combination of the above! There is one particular genre of car however, that speaks to me personally. Hallmarked by luxury, a powerful engine, a modicum of practicality and the perfect balance of performance vs. comfort. I am talking, of course, about the Grand Tourer or GT. Also known as the Gentleman’s Express – just because it is such a well behaved and understated beast. It exudes the kind of confidence and sophistication one expects from a well rounded gentleman, without having to shout about it.


Today the segment is dominated by marques like Aston Martin, Bentley and of course Ferrari, but back in the late seventies and early 80’s Jaguar already perfected the recipe. The XJS platform was so good, it became Jaguar’s longest running model ever. Remaining in production from 1975 all the way up to 1996! Even then, the platform was not done yet, as it was then used by Aston Martin as the underpinnings for the DB7 all the way up to the end of 2004! The XJS platform supported the most desirable cars in the world for a staggering 29 years – almost unchanged!

proportions of this car are beautifully elegant

This particular example is a 1990 convertible, fitted with the 5.3L V12 engine and an automatic gearbox. The convertible was probably my pick of the XJS range too, as it didn’t have those rear buttresses that dated the design for me slightly. It looked right in the seventies, but by the mid-80’s it was dated and today it just looks a little silly.

The convertible, however, looks just right. Roof up or down, the lines and proportions of this car are beautifully elegant. The long bonnet tells of the large, powerful engine beneath, whilst the thin side profile and sleek appearance communicates the high speed cruising ability. I’m particularly fond of this colour combination too, but then I have always been a sucker for a dark car with a light interior contrast. Dark blue with chrome accents is also a weakness of mine, so this car is really perfect for me.

deliciously period correct


Step inside the car and you are greeted by a wide instrument binnacle containing fairly normal speedo and tach, as well as some rather unconventional vertical gauges in the middle section. The wood work is beautiful and the leather is typically Jaguar. In other words, lovely. Two heavy, chrome ashtrays surround the gear lever and a deliciously period correct trip computer completes the centre console. It is a very nice, and surprisingly spacious place to sit. The heated seats are very comfortable too and even provide reasonable support when going around corners.

There is no rear seat, but there is a large amount of luggage space behind the seats. Not that you would need it as the boot on the XJS is easily big enough to hold 2 sets of golf clubs and a couple of overnight bags. More than enough space than the average Jag owner would need for a naughty weekend away with his mistress.

the XJS engine winds up to speed like a jet turbine


So far you can already tell this is a very special car, but you don’t really know how special until you turn the key and start the engine. Unlike any other car I’ve ever fired up, there’s no thump thump-vroom when the engine fires into life. The big V12 is so smooth, it simply winds up to speed like a jet turbine! Once running, there is just enough of a gentle hum so you can tell it is running, but there is no vibration at all.

On the move, this smoothness continues. The suspension is incredible and irons out every little bump in the road. This car really has the ever-cliched, floating on a cloud ride. But the set-up is not overly soft either. The car doesn’t wallow or pitch and roll uncontrollably. In fact, throw the XJS at some corners and the handling will surprise you. It corners beautifully, and even though it does lean over a little, it really inspires confidence. The brakes are good too, so this truly is a car you can drive.

Power delivery is best described as effortless. I once heard it said that, the ultimate expression of luxury in a car, is having all the power in the world, and then not using it. This is exactly what the XJS feels like. The engine clearly has an abundance of torque available and plenty of power too, but what it does best, is cruising at moderate to high speeds without breaking a sweat. You could drive this car at highway speeds all day, push your way through town and then cruise into the country without ever exceeding 2000 RPM. Given the age of the transmission, the gear changes were also a huge surprise. It is unquestionably seamless and smooth.

XJS was in production for more than 2 decades


The XJS was in production for more than 2 decades. Production ended 26 years ago, but even by today’s standards, this car is just an incredible way to dispatch large mileages. I can’t think of anything better than jumping into this XJS, cruising down to the winelands to pick up a few bottles. Then over some mountain passes, further down the coast for a spot of lunch (where the Jag owner forgot his wallet at home). Then back onto the highway to Knysna for the hillclimb and even beyond. I could drive this all day and never get tired. It might be old, but surely this is still one of the ultimate GT cars out there.